De-linking Epistemology: Unlearning to Relearn
Rethinking Contemporaneity: Ushering a Neo-dynamic Society
De-colonizing the Screen: The Margins Act Back
Decolonizing The Screen
The book “De-colonial Thoughts: An Essay-ntial Triumvirate” took birth in my mind when I have three essays which explore three different perspectives of de-coloniality but they connect to each other with the underlying theme. It conceives a major section of my thoughts and ideas associated with the element of de-coloniality and hope it will be of great help for the scholars who are venturing new to this field.
De-linking Epistemology: Unlearning to Relearn
Vidyā Dadāti Vinayaṁ Vinayād Yāti Pātratām|Pātratvāddhanamāpnoti Dhanāddharmaṁ Tataḥ Sukham
(Knowledge gives humility, from humility one attains characterFrom character one acquires wealth, from wealth good deeds,Follows then happiness)
The above mentioned adage has been imbibed from an ancient Indian text which applauds the universal constructive quality of knowledge and its system. Since ages the globe has undergone multi-dimensional geopolitical shifts largely motivated by the exertion and channelizing of power across and over. The world has consistently been invaded by different segments of political thoughts and ideas since the pre-colonial times and has largely been maneuvered through different violent tactics but the epistemological insurgence and influence can never be left ignored. Michel Foucault in his seminal essay Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison philosophizes:
“There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.”
(Focault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison)
Power and Knowledge indeed exists in symbiosis with each other and it has been variously defined by intellectuals across the world. The formats and designs of power execution across ages varies from one place to another in terms of the nomos within which a society or community is confined but the system of knowledge plays functions as the central motivational force towards formulating and executing the multifarious theoretical and philosophical compartmentalization like pre-colonial, colonial, postcolonial, anti-colonial or de-colonial.
There has been endless controversies and debates associated with the execution of these terms which has undergone endless redefinitions and manipulations with respect to individual or collective discourses. I have always felt strongly that the entire grammar of our existence and pursuance is largely influenced by the entangled system of knowledge execution which encapsulates us entirely. The global establishment and the dissemination of knowledge is a highly conflicting premise through which multidimensional thoughts interact, debate and lead to the production of brand new ideologues. But in the current era of high capitalism, where the entire society floats over the endless sea of simulated productions entangled with in its cobweb of confusions it is very difficult to recognize and signify the individual premises of knowledge production system in terms of respective communities, class, religion or the if in the Indian perspective we say then obviously caste is an peculiar quotient in our socio-cultural system. The phrase ‘global knowledge’ is itself manifested with severe controversies because what we today discourse or practice as global is local Eurocentric conceptualization which were appropriated, experimented and quite successfully over and across different corners of the globe.
The appropriation of the Eurocentric epistemology has been globally emancipated through the colonial lines of thoughts which were propelled through seduction and psychological manipulation over the societies and cultures that did not experience the so called enlightenment of modernization. Historical records reveal that during the 14th century, under the supervision of the church, different European nations undertook their respective civilizing mission towards the west (i.e. Americas and Caribbean) to discover and invent a new world which will serve their various industrial and economic needs. After a few centuries the same thing was experienced by the eastern part of the globe.
In fact, the cartographical representation that we are all habituated with is none other than the product of the colonial episteme. Pre-colonial geography was two dimensional – space and time. The scriptural prospect of interpretation was partially absent from their culture and discourse was largely depended on the natural shifts and turnovers rather than the infected human scriptures. If we pervade into the world of Incas and Aztecs who played an integral part towards the formulation of the traditional Latin American Culture we find a different world altogether which are not segmented with nations, states or unions. The world doesn’t appear to so finely segment and the Mayan civilization which persisted across most parts of the present South American continent have represent the entire Americas in a very prominent way. Shifting our focus towards the other part the world, it is quite astonishing that Europe has been awarded a very indistinguishable position which is totally paradoxical in the present scenario. The European continent of the eastern side of the map appears to be in a very confused state and seems to be a pinprick amongst the vast continents.
With the passage of time this cartographical structure was expropriated by Spanish and the French who physically invaded, interrupted and exploited the geographical structures but epistemologically they colonized the entire continent. I think it is at this moment Europe began to expand its tentacles more ideologically rather than physically, across the globe and it is also the same ‘ideological’ continent with its wide abyss of episteme reins the world. Usually the educational institutes, especially within the ‘Third World Nations’ (which is again a Eurocentric construct!) usually interprets colonialism rather to be apt misinterprets the term within the perspectives of politics. But before embarking on political expansions Europe unleashed its colonial design through its highly manipulative discourse which widely appealed to the ‘uncivilized mass’ who lingered in utter darkness. My paper basically looks forward to identify the possibilities of how in the present global scenario we can look forward to avail the various options through which we can de-link epistemology from the clutches of the ongoing westernization through unlearning and then relearning. It does sound a bit weird but in order to re-think and re-interpret the globe it is crucial for us to reflect back to the roots of the issues rather than swarming objectively.
According to me this very process should enunciate through disrupting the linear mode of interpreting our existence in the most non-linear fashion. In the language of eminent Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana (who used it though in a different context), we have to ‘step out’ of our present matrix of experience, travel back and ‘step in’ within the possible dimensionalities of various de-colonial options that are available for us. I have quite been conscious and in few cases I should rather say over-conscious with my grammatical usage while drafting my paper so that in no ways I am convicted over the charges of self-contradiction. The biggest postmodern debate, besides everything has been to accept or to reject history. But the premise of history is itself highly disputed because it has been tampered, intersected and reinterpreted from time to time. Our primary initiative should be to disentangle history from the garbs of totalitarianism, excavate, identify and preach the individual ‘his-stories’ or ‘her-stories’ that has been deliberately left dormant by and within the faction of the knowledge system that is globally articulated. With respect to this, I would like to inculcate the concept of ‘border thinking’ or ‘border epistemology’ through Arturo Escobar’s essay Worlds and Knowledges Otherwise which he propagated as the crucial juncture which we should all explore in order to embark on our goal. In the very introductory part of his paper, Escobar declares:
“The present paper focuses on a ‘border’ that is gaining salience in recent years, particularly as a result of the work of an increasingly interconnected group of researchers in Latin America and United States with smaller branches elsewhere. I am referring to the concepts of ‘border thinking’ and ‘border epistemologies’ associated with a larger effort that I will call here the ‘modernity/coloniality research program.”
The central motive towards introducing the modernity/coloniality research program is to divulge away from the postmodern dependency theories on common modern narratives based on a few institutional propagandas like Christianity, liberalism or Marxism. In order to re-think the entire episteme of existence it is for us to realize and explore the ‘non-Eurocentric modes’ of thinking. I have always wondered why is it every time necessary that whenever we are referring nay new forms of theoretical or philosophical establishments we have to consider the west. Will it be ever possible for us to disrupt this traditional ideological reference line of moving from west to east and inherit the opposite? These questions continues to haunt my mind and this paper can also be termed as my quest to seek certain possibilities with these questions. Now I would also like to clarify that when I am referring to the terms like ‘de-linking’ or ‘unlearning’ I am not of the view to move outside the colonial or in the present aspect neo-colonial premise to create a new epistemological unity. Our primary task is to unearth the history that has created us in order to de-establish the history that has simply embellished the modern discourse premise. And my journey starts from India.
India has undergone a stringent perigesis from the pre-colonial through the colonial drainage across and into the postcolonial framework. India has always been mapped or rather trafficked to the west under several occidental phrases like the nation of ‘snake charmers’, market for ‘pot bellied money minded brainless seths ’ and women has been presented as ‘innocent seductresses.’ But India is the only nation in the world we all know with such unified yet diversified socio-cultural norms and traditions. The nation ‘India’ is actually a colonial construct and to the ancient world it has always been known as ‘Bharat’ or the ‘Maha-Bharat’ or the Great India. The above mentioned terminology was never in terms of vast geographical or geo-political expanses harnessed by the respective kingdoms within or outside the nation. Bharat or to be more precise the ideological Bharat evolved from a vast galaxy of enriching indigenous ideological premises free from the toxic garb of totalitarianism and hegemony. The occidental-oriental encounter has mostly been characterized by the encounter between science and religion. Yes Indeed, like many other ‘Third-World’ societies Bharat proudly accommodated and practiced Theo-centrism. Infact before the sudden outburst of theories and philosophies in the second half of the 19th century, the global society was largely steered by Theo-centric ideologues.
India’s epistemological contribution towards the evolution of society and culture has always been embroidered with the very unique balance of divine logic which permeated beyond its strict religious performatives towards other distinguished spheres of knowledge. Unlike Europe where religion from its utter sublime aesthetics transformed itself into a socio-political hegemonic institution when propagation of divine knowledge was no more pursued towards eternal transformations of humans but rather for the sake of achieving politico-economic goals. I deliberately switched over from the perspectives of history towards religion across every nation religion and histories are symbiotic towards each other. Though perennially our historical richness has continuously been intervened with communal conflicts especially the age old Hindu-Muslim psycho-war which often takes a bloody makeover is nothing new to us.
In order to look for its roots we often refer to the India-Pakistan or Indo-Bangladesh border dispute that treacherously truncated one large nation into three parts towards the end of the colonial era, but its roots takes us back to 12th century with the Arab Naval Expeditions which gradually got distributed through their successors – Rashidun Caliphate, Umayyads, Ghaznavids, Delhi Sultanate and obviously the Mughal Empire. But before these foreign intrusions Indian history hardly have any records of massive communal conflicts rather it promotes an exclusive plethora of unified progression in field of art, aesthetics, literature, science, mathematics and technology. Indian history and religion has always been very ambivalent. Before I further proceed I would like to bring to your notice that I am not talking of the monarchial or the typical political history that the ancient scriptures or the engravings are adorned with but the multifarious miniscule yet rich perspectives of history which has been left subjugated from the pre-colonial into the colonial as well in the post-colonial chimera.
The Indian Vedas, Puranas, Upanishadas and their multifarious sub-versions are pregnant with endless evidences with well outlined instances about the kaleidoscopic structure of the Indian socio-religious system. The epistemological involvement and transgression of the Indian socio-cultural matrix can be very well defined in terms of Maturana’s concept of ‘Organism and Niche.’ In his book Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding biologist Humberto Maturana speaks about how the functionability of the human body also massively contributes towards establishing and preserving social connectivity. Maturana is of the view that like the human body, the society is a large structure which is interconnected with neural elements which are referred to as niches and they are both interconnected and trans-connected from one point to another but their point of origin remains very distinctive. This is how actually the nervous system functions within us.
But ideologically it has long been disrupted by the intrusion of totalitarian perspectives that have not only simply impressed themselves into our psyche but also have disrupted the usual indigenous ingredients that lies beneath the making of Indian culture and traditions or rather altogether our very existence in and out of the border. Our biggest drawback is that we fail to distinguish between the experience, perception and illusions. Infact, on the broader perspective the Occidents and the Orients have dissected themselves on the basis of illusion and experience but they function within the same trust. It is this trust which also characterizes the colonizer-colonized relationship which our history often ignores. Eminent postcolonial scholar Dr. Homi K. Bhabha in his essay Of Mimicry and Man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse in the book The Location of Culture eludes the high ambivalence that persist not only between the colonizer-colonized relationship but also the process that as undertaken by the colonizers to appropriate their forms of history, cultures and heritage either by distempering or by razing the indigenous ones. Despite of India’s own socio-cultural why do we continue to take pride in the works of James Mills’ History of India or E.M. Forster’s Passage to India which are nothing more than partial observations of Indian manners and morals?
The colonizer-colonized relationship exist on the yardstick of mutual violence in which the both the natives and the outsiders agree upon inheriting new cults and manners replacing the existing ones. But if we look into our history or rather the history of religion as outlined by the texts and the traditional law books, then we find that we have been the continuous victim of misinterpretation since ages. This obviously doesn’t mean that everything exist in an unusual utopic balance. Infact the class and caste conflicts forms an integral part of our society intercepted with multilayered gender issues as well. The Laws of Manu which is regarded as the traditional book for Indian socio-political and religious system is manifested with such dogmatic pleasures which reject all forms of logic and reason in the garbage bin. But a mere narrow-minded discourse or a few dogmatic practices cannot be used as the metonymy to describe an entire nation in the global episteme. Every culture and traditions encompass an entire living existence comprising of both human and the nature. The largest creative contribution of modernization is bridging the gap between illusion and reality.
While conducting a two week course work at English and Foreign Language University, Shillong in of his class’s Argentine semiotician Dr. Walter Mignolo philosophized, ‘Illusions makes us live in a valid modern world experience of what we see, think, touch, hear and believe. Illusion is the belief.’ The present global epistemological structure within which we are functioning is a product of a world minority of capitalists that has weaved a measureless kingdom of illusion which is continuously been channelized through its massive corpus of tributaries and distributaries to seduce the majority in its gigantic commercial propagandism. It is this numerical minority which forms the current ideological, epistemological majority across and over the globe. Once in the very same course work I was having a chat with Princeton University Professor Simon Gikandi from Kenya and he gave a thought provoking statement against my question, ‘Despite so much of indigenous developments in the premises of theory and philosophy why still India lingers under the massive burden of the western ideologies? He started his reply with rectifying me, ‘India has not been presented but trafficked in the west.’
The Universe was created so that in an interconnectivity and trans-connectivity with each other which was also represented by the ‘Organism and Niche’ model of Maturana. But the distinctive points of origination and transfusion are blurred with the insurgence of global ideological packages. India epitomizes a vast legacy of scientific, technological and several mathematical developments which were and is still being largely practiced by the developed nations of the world. Recently the scientists have discovered that the sun which centers our galaxy produces a consistent sound which almost sounds similar like the ‘Om’ which is the ultimate source of divine power according to the Indian mythology. During the ancient times historical records and independent scriptures note that the ancient priests and sages who have successfully moved beyond the physical shadow line of existence through severe penance have gained ‘Om’ the ultimate power from the sun. Thus, in the present scenario the Indian version of divine origin of the universe or rather the entire galaxy finely merges with the discourse of western science.
Several mathematical concepts which the major technological and scientific discoveries ride upon have its origin in the ancient lands of India. Speaking about the variegated form of history in art and aesthetics especially in performing arts India underwent disastrous transgression when during the pre-colonial times the monarchial conflicts which encouraged the communal riots often attained the worst shape by dissolving several cultural and social norms and architectural wonders which could have existed as the witness of the Indian history. In case of performative art suppose we take the instance of theatre in which India is blessed with such multifarious forms of theatre and theatrical spectacles based on different classes, communities, religions and genders. Indian theatre is majorly divided into urban and rural theatre, but if our exploration stops over these objective discriminations then we are totally caught in the wrong side. We have different versions of rural and urban theatres like the folk theatre, tribal theatre, street theatres, open air theatres, court plays of the ancient times and many more.
Theatre and performtives in India are not exclusively limited within the periphery of stage enactments but also it transcends beyond and into other forms like dance-theatre or musical theatre imbibed with its own uniqueness. The significance in theatrics lies largely towards shaping the Indian epistemological structure which was never in need of the western touch. The eastern part of the world including the regions of Africa oral traditions played a pivotal role towards formulating the indigenous culture and knowledge system. From the grandma folk tales of our childhood, the jabberwocky rhymes of Bengali poet Sukumar Ray (Abol-Tabol), through the Abolkara tradition of Orissa into the fables of Panchatantra. When the world celebrates the western allegories of Jonathan Swift (for Gulliver’s Travels we Indians have our own knowledge platform.
Western Knowledge is onto-theological. Prior to the arrival of Jacques Derrida it was god centered which he transformed it as logo-centric. This theology was hierarchal and this hierarchy is still ensured in the western knowledge system. Indian knowledge system detests any forms of hierarchy during the pre-colonial times and it has always existed on the horizontal plane. Divine knowledge which has pervaded into every perspectives of the Indian epistemic existence has always searched for the self, the knowledge of the self. The domain of Indian knowledge is pluriversal within which every perspectives of expression find a space rather than universalizing a few exploitative versions of pre-notion institutional preaching. Our cultural consciousness has been characterized with two knowledge worlds – scriptural and folk. Folk traditions which were mostly expropriated during the colonial times in order suppress and dislodge the national indigenous quality, deconstructed the whole theses of global divine knowledge propagated through Christianity.
The folk world doesn’t have a god at the center. It has a supreme creator who is a spirit and is a very ambivalent character who persists within the human civilization. The traditional Indian knowledge system never ever distinguished between nature and culture which is very much prominent in the west. This is why the Indian literary field is flooded with moral stories like Rishi Valmiki (Valmiki the Saint) or the stories in Panchatantra where the animals are personified and embossed with human communicative values and are manifested with high and low moral values – an ironic representation of the human society characterized with endless intrigues and diplomacies. In a very similar fashion though in a different context altogether, famous Oriya writer Manoj Das records in his short story AbolKara – Kahani the natural essence of freedom manifested within the folk cults which where disembellished since the colonial saga began in India.
Abola takes the shape of an orphaned character whose orphanage is being celebrated as liberty from the modern social constrains within which the tradition suffers. Since he is an orphan he doesn’t suffer from any versions of genealogical problems and he enjoys his freedom to the fullest. One day he meets a traveler Sanath who is on a pilgrimage along with a helper. He agrees to take Abola along with him on the pilgrimage on the condition that he will continue to tell him stories with a moral until and unless they reach their destination. But in the present social context, in the age of massive technological innovations where the entire globe can be compressed within the mini screens of mobile phones and laptops oral tales or the tales which violate the textual norms are considered as illogical and sabbatical for the society.
Before we analyze the various possibilities and the options which can be implemented and practiced across the nation and in different corners of the world it is very crucial for us to analyze the making India from Bharat. Yes the above sentence might sound a bit awkward when I am differentiating the nation ‘India’ from the nation ‘Bharat’ as semiotically the these are represented as mere language differences but beneath the linguistic hides the ideological and epistemological constructs which has perennially distorted and tarnished the rich traditional image with the western episteme which flowed in unobstructed. Bharat refers to the ancient India the traditional India or what the modern economists term in a much degraded tone as ‘rural’ India.
India as a nation is not a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, beautifully embellished roads and flyovers or may be different institutions strictly taking care that the discourse of modernization remains unchallenged and widely practiced. I am not denying these as anti-modern objects. My problem is not with their persistence but situation becomes coagulated when these forces start establishing their proprietorship over a multifaceted society whose unified coexistence is celebrated through differences. Bharat can be interpreted as a land of the fat bellied, brown skinned, uncivilized snake charmers and seductresses but in reality it has been one of the ancient places in the world with the most unique cultures and traditions that are still being followed in the postmodern context. Development and modernization has never been a natural process rather it has been a continuous process of colonial seduction and imposition in which the natives along the side of their colonizers took strong initiatives to transform the nation. The process of colonization was undertaken as a missionary zeal which was not a mere psychological transformation but ideological hypnotization ensnaring the Indians in their open-minded preaching.
In the essay Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality by Peruvian sociologist and humanist thinker Anibal Quijano, he opines:
“In the beginning colonialism was a method of systematic repression, not only of the specific ideas, images, symbols or knowledge that were not useful to global colonial domination while at the same time the colonizers where expropriating from the colonizers there knowledge specially in mining, agriculture, engineering, as well as their products of work. The repression fell above all over the modes of knowing, over producing knowledge, of producing perspectives, of images or systems of images, symbols, modes of signification, over the resources, patterns, source of formalized and objectivized expression, intellectual or visual…The colonizers also imposed a mystified image of their own patterns, of producing knowledge and meaning… (Initially) the European culture was made seductive, (then) it gave access to power.”
The above mentioned quotation makes it clear how colonialism was wielded across different parts of the world. Though its intensity of imposition varied from one place to another but the process remained unchanged. Though Quijano’s expression and analysis where in reference with the colonial and postcolonial condition of South America but India also underwent this very severe process in the process of transforming itself into the nation India. Bharat was the nation in which every religious groups existed in complete harmony and it is this harmony which was first disrupted by the colonizers through promises and assurance that were unknown to the Indians previously. The Britishers very well understood that the majority of the residents in India are Hindus and the biggest folly that exist within the Hindu socio-cultural system was the silencing the lower class voices by the religious treachery of the upper caste.
Besides these intra-religious tensions the lower class Hindus where also pegged with innumerable limitations about their public interaction, activities and movements. On the other side the gender issues where equally severe with women being enforced to remain behind the curtains, exclusively involve themselves in the household duties and are obedient to their household masters that is their respective husbands and to the other male members. Thus the simplicity of the Christian preaching appeared to be a promising medium through which the women can escape from the suffocating patriarchal idolatry. Gradually the religious teachings along with the introduction of new literary forms and names in well articulated languages grabbed the psyche of the upper class money minded Indians who strongly supported the propagation of English education ahead of teachings in the native language. The new literary imports of the English narratives played a decisive role towards shaping the epistemological structure of modern India where the nation no more takes pride in its indigenous cults and languages rather proudly embrace an alien language and most importantly its languaging techniques towards global establishment and modernization.
Maturana referred that Languaging is indeed a major technique in which the epistemic system functions. It is not only the linguistic characteristics of the language that reins but the mode of execution is what matters. The different fashions, emotions, techniques and stylistics that are involved in its usage plays the central role. In order to delink the episteme it is important submerge the neo-colonial nation India to re-structure the indigenous nation which exists in the most balanced way of blending both the indigenous and the modern techniques so that we are no more stacked in the perverse atrocities of western modernity. Swami Vivekananda rightly said, ‘We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.’ It is time to unlearn our thoughts that have been imposed upon us without questioning and realize and relearn the thoughts which we should imbibe and embrace towards reaching our goal through the option of de-colonial pluriversality.
According to eminent scholar Jaideep A. Prabhu in his seminal essay Theory and Philosophy defines the term ‘nation’ in the following way:
“Indeed, while the meaning of nation has been hotly contested in academic debates on the nature of nationalism, it seems possible to discern three trends. The first is characterized not by a consensus on what constitutes the nation but by the agreement that such a thing exists extra-referentially and whose antecedents can be located in past social and cultural groupings…Scholars of the second trend…define it as a distinctively modern development that could only have emerged as a corollary of industrialization and the emergence of large-scale capitalism. Finally, adherents of the third trend…argue that the nation is not a subject or object but a set of relationships and thus constitutes a dynamic network cluster in which power is created and through which it is channelled.”
(Prabhu, Theory and Philosophy)
- Quote paper
- Sayan Dey (Author), 2016, De-colonial Thoughts. De-linking Epistemology, Rethinking Contemporaneity and De-colonizing the Screen, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/316856