FOURTEENTH NATIONAL WORKSHOP

GLOBALIZATION AND THE PLACE OF LITERATURE

5-7 March 2010

A REPORT

The Fourteenth National Workshop on "Globalization and the Place of Literature" from 5th to 7th of March 2010 was held at the Centre for Contemporary Theory, Baroda. Participation included scholars from different Universities from different parts of the country. This made the workshop evermore relevant considering ‘globalization’ being such an engaging and new avenue of research for all present.

So, what is Globalization? It means many things to many people. For many scholars, ‘Globalization’ is as confusing a concept as ever. From Szeman and O’Brien, to Gikandi and Weber, Globalization is a powerful ever-present force that cannot be ignored, whether one considers it a positive or negative concept movement, for it is ever moving and changing. Within all this confusion, guest speakers like Professor D. Venkat Rao and Alan G. Johnson contextualized and put into perspective our main concern by asking relevant questions like, what is the place of Humanities on Globalization? How relevant is Literature in the Globalized world? How relevant are we as teachers in a world dominated by the internet and instant information? What is the role of educators in gearing students towards a more civil and humane society especially in the face of Globalization and the race for material wealth?

The whole world is well aware of the language of money and focus of all politics on economy. With the blurring of geographical boundaries and concrete walls having been broken down, with the invasion of the internet in both private and public spheres, with ‘googlelization’ of information, the world looks a lot different from its former self. A macro-world that once existed, seemed more orderly and less chaotic than the now micro-world of chaos. But the reality is that a micro world order means that the once muffled voices seem to be speaking in languages that are audible and beautiful. Once over-shadowed literatures like oral narratives, song-cultures and so called ‘literatures of the periphery’ seem to find a space. So what can we learn from such literatures? How can texts represent these cultures? Literature requires a constant re-writing, so what is the role of translations as a new language in the context of globalization?

The workshop thus made scholars ask very tough questions and introspect on many important issues like our role as educators and relevance of universities. Alan G. Johnson offers up a couple of things that educators and universities can do:

Make Literature a saleable profession.

Students in the context of globalization want to know that their opting for the humanities in Higher Education is a good one and that it will serve them a purpose in their futures. In this light, educators can demonstrate the relevance of Humanities in their professional careers and that Literature itself will equip and empower students in their understanding of the world and also make them more humane citizens.

Educator as a ‘critical reader’.

Today, our senses are overloaded, with all the noise and visual movements. As a teacher would know, students of today are far more impatient, not just with the teaching they may receive but also with the information they are given. They want teachers to provide answers immediately, or they themselves rush to get desired information with the simple click of a button. This means that students never take the time to read, forget about reading between the lines. We as educators can train students to introspect, think out of the box, be innovative in ideas, contemplate and re-discover old information in a new way. Students should be taught to think critically and analytically, to use their imagination that will eventually help them in reorganising their very existence.

A preserver of texts.

How relevant are libraries in the context of globalization? How can technology help in making libraries relevant? What is the relation between technology and Humanities? How can we continue to preserve texts without museumization? How can technology help in new ways of acquisition of information and dissemination of knowledge, especially with the success of the Sciences in this aspect? At this rate, we can only begin to imagine how long we will continue to have students studying Literature as some universities have already done away with History and Philosophy.

A very important part of the workshop was its focus on the importance of research that needed to be grounded not on Western theories, because this has been tried and tested. But, participants were encouraged to come up with new and innovative theories and ideas that were unique and interesting. As one of the speakers said, even the language should be new, where readers could comprehend it instead of making it so mysterious thus pandering to mystification. Now more than ever, under the reign of globalization, Universities seem to have been given a space to create new discourses, write, read, question and research areas unknown. Humanities now more than ever before can re-look and re-discover the value of dance, song and oral literatures.

Yes, a new creative map needs urgent creation not just in the Universities and in the Humanities as a department, but also in the hyper-media. Since globalization has created this space for new voices to be heard, we should think hard as scholars of Humanities and as educators about what we really want to say, its relevance and its impact on education in the future.

Kristina Zama Department of English, Daulat Ram College for Women