SRF promotes advanced research in 15 different areas to explore and critique the readings possible within the emerging field of Liberal Humanities:
Informed by a multi-sited and multi-temporal research, Peace Studies re-formulates the top-down institutionalized approach on the experience of peace and violence. It opens up the narrow binary distinction between the two by facilitating a more integrated and contextualized reading, examining the structural and systemic forms of violence from below. It will provide a wider view of concerns to effect change with the necessary level of commitment towards a new self-critical and broadly human level of thought and consciousness. As an activity it involves reflecting on these issues in a sustained and substantial way to forge collective solidarity.
As a socially assertive discipline, Peace Studies analyses potential ethnographic sites to understand the dynamics of conflict rooted in specific contexts and its avoidance. Since the concepts of peace, violence and conflict are not static but one that is continually being shaped and reshaped through discourse it subverts normative notions of peace, conflict and reconciliation to open up local contextualization and situatedness. This informs and radicalises its critical approach, opening up to plurality, to the margins and to the epistemological contributions of multidisciplinary research.
Translation is a creative act, the study of which has now moved beyond the borders of textual studies, linguistics, comparative literature, history, philosophy, gender studies and culture studies. It forays organically into other branches of knowledge including social sciences, biological sciences, cognitive science, computer science and areas of artificial intelligence. It is therefore absolutely necessary to keep abreast of research in other fields to broaden the horizons of research in Translation Studies and to remain at the cutting edge of knowledge.
It would be our endeavour at Samyukta Research Foundation to draw Translation Studies out of its comfort zones by actively promoting multidisciplinary research which hinges itself on any related branch of knowledge. Samyukta Research Foundation will promote translation and Translation Studies in many ways, which will include the publication of a Translation Studies Journal, treatises on translation theory, and translations of other literatures into English.
The terms ‘gender’ and ‘culture’ do not yield easy definitions. Deep in the etymology of ‘gender’ and ‘culture’, there is a connection that theorists and practitioners alike have begun to acknowledge since the closing decades of the last century. If we go back to the famous words of Victor Shklovsky that the most ancient poetic creation of man was the creation of words, and that we constantly infuse new meanings and new associations to words as we traverse time, we can see the logic that links these two terms.
The conjoining of gender and culture makes room for the creation of new knowledge that addresses power relations and calls for corrective action. Underpinning this is the idea that the formation of cultural identities is a complex phenomenon and that references to the fluidity of gender constantly challenge the certainties it may imply. A fresh look at the history of either gender or culture, or the intersections of both, using the tools of diverse disciplines like language studies or history or anthropology or political science will yield interesting insights into the making of the modern world and its contested identities.
Media, positioned at the interstices of cultural, social, political, and economic contexts, is the bedrock of human communication. Our current understanding of the term is historically located in the 1920s with the birth of mass media in industrial society. But the integral presence of the media as medium that enables communication dates back to the oral traditions. Hence media is a potent tool to excavate the genealogies of human societies, critically examining their (dis)continuities and disruptions. Media Studies offers the critical idiom to enable deconstruction of the assemblage of meanings constructed, disseminated, and received through the medium of communication.
Reading media is a complex and historically contingent process. The multi-layered and multi-dimensional media flows of contemporary times demand a revamping of the traditional approaches. Advent of digital technologies in the network society has resulted in the compression of time, redefinition of the ‘everyday social’, and revolution in the sharing of information, shaped by a political economy controlled by corporate conglomerates. Media, to them, are new-age capital characterized by the foregrounding of use-value, distracting attention from exchange-value. SRF explores these divergent mediated socialities that demand a critical engagement with uncertain boundaries, mixed histories, and infinite possibilities of media.
Cinema, a creative artefact and cultural imaginary is a public and a personal spectacle. Criss-crossing disciplinary boundaries and linking theory to practice informs any comprehensive reading. Reflections on cinema and its culture become vibrant spaces to translate our multi-layered engagements into research explorations. Films as objects of study have always negotiated the borders between entertainment and specialized knowledge, conferring upon film studies an ambivalent disciplinary status in academia. Delving into varied approaches, research has moved from individual films to production ideologies to reception and audiences’ constitution, encompassing wider interconnected spheres in the socio-cultural world.
Cinema’s ‘intermedia’ positioning among arts, popular culture and institutionalized knowledge makes it an open domain relevant across times. In an image–driven world, more real than the real, cinema’s dynamism as a mass art remains incomparable. Samyukta Research Foundation aspires to initiate informed dialogues with the multi-layered world of cinema. The Foundation offers a multidisciplinary space for reading cinema along with its ancillary cultural spheres to continue our vibrant associations.
Performance Studies examines the various facets that go into the making of a performance. But it is not only about analysing the technical, affective, cultural and symbolic significance of staging and viewing performances. Performance studies also takes a close look at the spatial and temporal fundamentals of what constitutes a performance. This makes it multidisciplinary and fluid.
While the core of what comes under performance studies, such as theatre, dance, film and art remain unchanged, the shifting dynamics of the world have necessitated the need to look beyond what is traditionally considered the comfort zone of performance studies. Memes, protests, reality shows, prime time news, trolls, installations, graffiti, black-face, fashion trends have come to be studied as performances of disruptive histories. The study of genders and sexualities as performances have already gained traction. These shifts have also periodically mandated an overhaul of our understanding of what a performance is and who or what a performer can be. Similarly, the idea of an audience is also challenged. The human, non-human subjectivities in performances are also an emerging challenge. This is what makes Performance Studies very exciting. It pushes the boundaries of what we think we know and creates simultaneous performances, performers, audiences across spaces and times.
‘Popular culture’ an umbrella term that evades an apposite definition, brings within its sweep a wide range of mass consumption products for entertainment – music, films, sports, fashion, comics, slang and all forms of media that pander to popular demand and commercial requirements. Unlike the elitist concepts, it represents the ingenious expressions of ordinary people, painting reality more candidly than most forms of “high art”.
There has been a phenomenal boom in the emergence of the quirkiest forms of popular culture. From movies, sitcoms, bands, and the social media, Mass culture has metamorphosed to forms like memes and trolls, continuing its bizarre journey into the digital playground of video gaming, hashtag campaigns, computer hacking, web series, Netflix, YouTube and so on. The trajectory of popular culture has made a huge surge from the days of conventional art forms to the digital revolution consuming minds, both young and old alike, with a vengeance. Technology has even evolved into anti-cultures, dismantling power-relations and effecting socio-cultural changes. These non-canonical creations may not find place among the elitist works of art, but they are here to stay, with their astounding potential to constantly mutate and adapt in response to changing times.
The world as we know it, is constantly breaking up and restructuring itself. It is imperative to reassess the paradigms of what constitutes an identity and the ways these re-readings reflect not just contemporary or anticipated realities, but also the past. And sexuality is a major constitutive component of what identities are constructed out of. There has been a sense of ennui with regard to Sexuality and Gender Studies as they are terms that have been used rather way too generously.
The current time that we occupy demands new ways of talking about selves and sexualities. The legal, ethical, medical, social, ecological, digital and post-human configurations that involve sexualities require intense and informed debates. There is an emergent need for making these discourses participative and public. The rhizomatic networks that govern all aspects of human life necessitate a panoramic view of sexuality related movements, thus fashioning a transnational conversation that influences precarity, policy and polity.
The burgeoning discipline of Health Humanities, previously known as Medical Humanities, evolves out of the convergence of biology and culture. If wellness and healthcare had been an exclusive domain of the Health Services, today the philosophy of medicine has merged with that of humanities to reconfigure their relationship with each other. This cultural turn as pioneers Craig Klugman and others note, is on the premise that “arts and humanities approaches can foster significant interpretative enquiry into illness, disability, suffering and care”.
The attempt here is to rethink what it is to be ‘human’ in the 21st century. The areas of enquiry under this emerging discipline include a collective engagement with health, well beyond the barriers of classicism, ableism or ethnographic discrimination. This untenous encounter scanning pedagogies, intertwining narratives of the physician, the historian, the caregiver and the patient, questioning assumptions of bioethics lays bare normative tales of health hierarchy that leaves us with the hope of a renewed understanding of what is recognized today as health and illness.
Life writing is an ensemble of life-telling practices that endeavours to recognize, record, recount and report human life as event, text and paradigm. Life writing has repeatedly warranted attention to its discursiveness, often demanding a critical concord between the discipline and the concept. Recent scholarly initiatives have demanded a rigorous reconfiguration of the individual as the tell-tale subject of a life narrative. South Asian lives and their renderings have contributed in particular to this reorganization by registering a significant deviance of recognizing life in collectives rather than as individuals.
The conceptual oeuvre of Life writing has ever since expanded to include the mythical, religious and the performative into its schemata, besides auto/biographies, memoirs, diaries, testimonies and digital lives. South Asian life writing engages consciously with the diverse and complex practices of constructing the ‘auto/biographical’ in the cultural polity of South Asia and seeks to explore and understand the ideation of life and its assumed forms of telling.
Urban Studies is a multidisciplinary area where numerous discourses – from geography and architecture to sociology and anthropology – converge to observe and analyse the entity called the city. Though the study of cities can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle, it evolved as a structured and systematic discipline in the late 19th century. It encompasses concerns spread across multitudinal axes radiating from the evolution of cities, urban landscape, governance, administration and urban economics to city culture, ‘way of life’ and urban futurism. These concerns can be mapped under three predominant approaches, locational, network and sociocultural analysis. They engage specific theoretical frameworks to study the spatial-temporal-cultural factors which determine and transform urban experiences.
In the evolution of Urban Studies, the inception of the Chicago School (1920) initiated fresh perspectives on urban life and its several tangible and intangible nuances, veritably converting the city into a “laboratory.” Urban/Human Ecology, a key theory associated with the Chicago School, views the city as a “social organism” and uses concepts from natural sciences to examine the various facets of the “societal pyramid.”
Travel Writing, with its critical landscape marked by shifting contours, ever-expanding generic limits and widening possibilities of potential texts, escapes disciplinary boundaries. From the poetics of scripting travels to the politics of identities that transcends exclusionary structures, travel writing straddles many worlds. Rather than attempting to ‘discipline’ the field which treasures a rich history of ages, we need to explore the ‘mobilities’ between two or more locations that punctuate human lives, the foundational idea in travel writing. It involves a critical engagement with literal and metaphoric journeys through multiple worlds – geographical, imaginary, alternative and virtual.
A cosmopolitan perspective takes us through the subjective, collective, political and cultural viewpoints of those who experience and record the infinite dimensions of travel. In contemporary times, travel writing is evolving into an intellectually exciting multidisciplinary field engaging with the paradigmatic shifts in Humanities. It has attained literal, political and imaginary significations through its engagement with the interactions between cultures, lives and subjectivities. SRF will attempt to redefine this fascinating discourse of linear and non-linear travels that continue to script our individual, collective and social life stories.
Food studies is an emerging multidisciplinary field of enquiry marked by an intersection between academic and popular work. It rethinks, re-discovers and re-evaluates the significance of food in understanding the ways we live and communicate. It critically examines food and its cultural meaning within the contexts of various academic fields and looks beyond consumption, production, and aesthetic appreciation of food. The field also addresses complex questions pertinent to human existence, the boundary between authentic culinary heritage and invented traditions like who chooses what we eat and why, where does food come from and similar questions.
Food Studies analyses different genres and cultural movements and takes into account the myriad ways food illuminates and engages with religion, society, family, gender, environment, urbanization, immigration, colonialism, race and ethnicity. It is therefore essential to address not only the vast space occupied by food in literary narratives, but also its ability to convey cultural messages. This burgeoning field not only expands our fields of expertise but also helps us to understand the sustainability of our food systems, foodways and food culture.
The cultural history of Keralam has a convoluted layout. Unless we come to grips with the complexities of historiography, the methodologies adopted by different schools of thought and the ideological commitments of these schools, it is not possible to make our way in this maze that puzzles, enchants and at the same time keeps us moving on. Kerala Studies is an emerging discipline that traverses this contested field, trying to find its way, at times with sharp eyes, at times, blindfolded.
If there is one idea that captures the mind-set of the typical Malayali, it is the paradox of deification and condemnation. This is a constant that marks the attitude of the people of Keralam, a state in the south-west shores of India. The mythical ruler of Keralam, Mahabali, was driven to the underworld, yet the greatest celebration of Keralam is his yearly visit to the land, showering benediction. After the pageants, festivals and public spectacles that mark this annual ritual are over, Mahabali retreats to the underworld, symbolically re-enacting the original act of proscription. It is possible to read the myth of Mahabali as an instance of exclusion in terms of caste, but the beauty of multidisciplinary studies that we wish to encourage at Samyukta Research Foundation is its openness to accommodate divergent points of view. The myth of Mahabali can therefore be analyzed from alternate or even oppositional perspectives.
Education is changing worldover beyond the boundaries of an academic discipline to a way of thinking. Education Studies foregrounds ‘Knowledge production and use’ as a product and process, subjected to a society’s value system than as an object of cognition. Exploring a range of phenomena, Education Studies emerged as a multi-layered discipline and a programme to bridge the gap in the ‘technical-rational’ approach adopted in the training of trainers (teachers). Focusing on education as an epistemology of change and a lifelong learning process, the field of study facilitates a critical and an analytical reading into education in totality and its related precepts, philosophies and phenomena. It encompasses the social, political, cultural and historical context, critiquing its relationship with the society in which knowledge is produced.
The 21st century education ecosystem necessitates a turn from an information society to a knowledge society. SRF explores education as a social activity, a field of enquiry in its own right and participates in public reasoning through the ‘trialectic’ process of experience, theory and critique. The mandate is to create and disseminate knowledge, the manifest sign of an enlightened citizenry becoming Knowledge Societies.