Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School “Gandhism and Maoism”. By Ashish Rajadhyaksha


Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School “Gandhism and Maoism” – 1.

By Ashish Rajadhyaksha

on July 4th

Ashish Rajadhyaksha is the Director and Senior Fellow at Centre for the Study of Culture & Society, Bangalore. He was involved in the curation of various international film festivals and has published multiple books and produce extensive essays on cinema, technology, and democracy.

In the topic of “Gandhism and Maoism”, Ashish attempted in providing us with critical process of Indian struggle for independence through the lenses of two prominent figures of Indian nationalism and the iconic figures of decolonization; Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.

By tracing off retrospectively of their contradictory legacies in the formation of Indian nationalism, from the American Civil Rights movement in the United States to contemporary political struggle and positioning of the Occupy Central in Hong Kong, Gandhism has provided and presents formidable strategies and praxis in the realm of non-violence struggle worldwide. In this, with the emerging demands of the further democratization process, how do we then juxtapose Gandhism to our contemporary democracy?

By interrogating into paradoxical and complex perspectives of Gandhi on the cultures of cinema to the technological advancement experienced by India prior to the Independence in 1947, Ashish provides us with an illuminating point of views in understanding the development of liberal political practices stems and inherited, amongst others from the progressive tradition from various milieu of the societies.

Unraveling the significant contributions of the symbolic politics of everyday lives; through the banning of “modern” clothing, abandonment of examination, the usage of Charkha spinning wheel in opposing the European-made machinery during the pre-independence India, it serves as a vital signifier and structure in contesting the formation of India nationalism.

The utilization of diverse symbolic political and cultural signifier of India nationalism provides us with a critical projection on how the masses are consolidating itself to partake and involve directly in furthering the democratization cause in achieving the cause of Independence.

Of the conviction on how India’s independence not only will affect India tremendously, both Tagore and Gandhi were extrapolating the significance of the struggle to whole world in the realm of intellectual and ideological by rethinking the complexities of colonialism and its contradictions of cancerous ideology of colonialism of which it does not only confine and affect those who were being colonised but also the coloniser themselves.

By putting what they perceive as the contradiction and the ideological roots of the problems, Tagore situating his argument on the need to furthering the question of the political trajectory to move beyond the concept of nation and Gandhi through its consistent critiques in questioning modernity in its most fundamental way. These particular political positioning by both human of great stature then provide us with the foundation that triggers one of the most important 20th centuries modern-classic debate to the questions of nation and modernity.[1]

In probing and problematizing the concept further, it does provide us with the insights in recognizing the certain structure of practice to the intellectual positioning of both; Tagore through his emphasization of organicism and Gandhi on his instrumentalist approach to the intellectual tradition. With the rigorous contrarian perspectives put forward by both thinker, the emergence process of democratization will no longer be the same in the modern day India.

[1] Gandhi, et al. The Mahatma and the Poet: Letters and Debates between Gandhi and Tagore, 1915-1941. National Book Trust, India, 2005.

Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School- Gandhi and Maoism. By Chih-Ming Wang

Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School – Gandhi and Maoism

Speaker: Chih-Ming Wang

Date: 4th July (Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School)

Chih-Ming Wang addresses two main problematics in his presentation. The first one is the problematic of modernity, and he tries to find the question to how can India experience modernity, especially in its relation to British colonialism, and how after independence a nation can still be interdependent in the realm economy with the former colonial master. Secondly, he focuses on the idea of India. The author went once to India and found out that in order to go do it a foreigner requires a lot of preparation, due to the amount of different languages and different cultures in the country. Only in this way we can study and comprehend the complex situation of India.

The author focus then about the image of Gandhi. There speech turns around the practices of nonviolence and non-cooperation introduced by Gandhi and how they can resonate in current social movements. For Chih-Ming, the value of Gandhi goes beyond India. We think about resisting as acting, but Gandhi emphasizes passive resistance. He asks himself how is that possible and comments into Gandhi’s ideas and actions.

India was once “one nation”, but in 1905 British plans for the partition of Indian changed the statu-quo: it had implications in national sentiments and independence.

Gandhi’s went to make salt to the Ocean side as a form of social demonstration against the oppression. The act of making salt by hand shows the idea of self reliance, survival in “our own terms”. So we can also run the government by ourselves, we do not need to be ruled by the colonials masters. He then discusses with the audience about the image of Gandhi and what it means to them. For him, Gandhi, in a photo that he showed, looks like suffering peacefully, suffering as a weapon.

TThe technology was an important element in Gandhi’s thinking, precisely because technology is equated with modernity. Similarly, the Internet can help us to engage with the social movements in a easier way than the generation of Gandhi could.

During the independence struggle, the younger generation of Indians wanted more revolution, with violence, but for Gandhi, it was a weakness. As a weakness, he also talks about the tendency to demonize the other. Gandhi prevent us from using that other kind of indirect violence.