Social Sciences in the India Context

It has been quite sometime, I shifted to Business Standard(BS) from Economic Times(ET) and not a day too soon. BS' brand of serious and wider journalism enriches me more than ET's "Always Gung-ho " approach. Now, back to this post:)

"What is the India pre-Modern?" by Sadanand Menon - for some it would seem like the perfect passage to pick up for the reading comprehension exercise in CAT exam. Menon expresses his dismay at the way Indian Social Science is still viewed through the prism of English language and consequently getting straight-jacketed by the limitations imposed by "English" thinking. We need to look at vernacular sources to get more different and more accurate perspectives on our social setup. As Menon aptly says

"Our knowledge systems lack a site of the commons in an environmental sense. Our disciplines need an imagination of the commons, of the 'wide margins', where knowledge appears as open to different uses by different people".

"History as discipline must, therefore, reconfigure its relationship to the archive, given that traces of reality no longer seem available as contained in its 'proper place', like in the records-room. These now exist disintegrated across many moments of the popular media, what would earlier be considered ephemera without ordering and classification. Even more important is to listen to the unspoken stories from the margin."

Menon accepts not everything can be taken into consideration for the sake of 'vernacular' and 'commons'. He gives a nice example. The workers of Kolar Gold Mines protested with him for supporting closure of the mines. Menon's contention was that the highly polluting work environment results in 80 percent of the workers suffering from some respiratory disease while the workers (read the Union) considered the mines their 'mother', their 'anna-data'. Menon counters this belief by asking if this means that urban sewage workers should consider the sewer at their "Ganga" and speak of their work in terms of 'Holy Dip'".

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