Art and academia come together in meeting of minds

Kochi Biennale Foundation will participate in prestigious conference of ideas on metaphysics and politics

Kochi, July 8: In keeping with its mandate to engage with and exchange ideas across disciplines, traditions and schools of thought, the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) will collaborate with the academic community ‘Backwaters Collective on Metaphysics and Politics’ at its upcoming scholars’ conclave.

KBF representatives will figure among a luminary gathering of intellectuals, activists and academicians from India and abroad, grappling with an array of concerns in politics and wider contemporaneity, at the group’s sixth annual conference to be held in the city from July 15-18.

The Backwaters Collective – founded by leading thinkers like Professors Vinay Lal and Roby Rajan and having counted among its members prominent theorists like Ashis Nandy and celebrated litterateurs like U.R. Ananthamurthy – has since 2010 convened yearly to reflect on how best the intellectual, cultural and spiritual resources of Indian civilisation might be deployed to think ethically about contemporary politics and help in seeking solutions to seemingly intractable conflicts. 

The overarching focus of this year’s conference – hosted at Le Meridien Kochi – is to address “the exhaustion evident today in our understanding of politics by renewing the intellectual resources of metaphysics which have largely stagnated because of their cloistering from the vital domain of political life”, a press gathering at the Ernakulam Press Club was told today.

The four-day event will discuss topics as eclectic and thought-provoking as the hypotheses generated on social organisation by ancient Indian literature, to the insights into climate change drawn from the traditions of aboriginal people as also issues connected to phenomenology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethnic strife and its resolution among others.

The Mayor of Kochi Smt. Soumini Jain will be the guest of honour at the conference’s opening on July 15. Besides Nandy, Lal and Rajan, the conference will see participation from such renowned scholars as Prof. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, Prof. J. Devika, Prithvi Chandra Shobhi and Aseem Srivastava among others.

Following the inauguration and introductory statements, a book, India and the Unthinkable, edited by Professors Lal and Rajan, will be launched. 

“The central claim of this book is that India’s metaphysical heritage has an autonomy and dignity of its own not subsumable under any other concept whatsoever; and that furthermore, our national self-understanding and its place in the current system of global knowledge are founded on a wholesale effacing of this heritage,” said Prof. Rajan, speaking at Friday’s press conference.

The book features contributions by Nandy, Ananthamurthy, Anish Damodaran, M.C. Dinakaran and Professors Julius Lipner, N. Manu Chakravarthy, Sundar Sarukkai and D. Venkat Rao.

Riyas Komu, KBF Secretary, will participate in an ‘Open Session’ with Nandy and Prof. Lal following the conference inauguration and book launch on July 15. Amar Kanwar, an award-winning artist, documentarian and filmmaker who sits on the KBF’s Artistic Advisory Board, will be a discussant at the session as well.

The Backwaters Collective is an academic community driven by an “intellectual concern for the ecology of plural knowledge, a normative concern with cultural survival, and a potential concern with the search for humane futures for the victims of history”.  Its annual conferences have used the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Sree Narayana Guru, among several others, as points of inquiry into the relevance and possibilities of the India’s traditions to the present.

“Working in tandem with the prestigious Kochi-Muziris Biennale will add an aesthetic dimension to the conference. Kochi has thus the privilege of hosting, in tandem, a world class art extravaganza and a globally relevant conference investigating deep philosophical truths,” the media gathering was told.

P.P. Sadasivan, Convenor of Mumbai-based socio-cultural organisation Sree Narayana Mandira Samiti (SNMS) – parent body to the Backwaters Collective and sponsors of the annual conference – was present at the press meet.

Also in attendance was Gautam Das, talks and seminars co-ordinator with the KBF. 

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