Report on One-day Seminar
“Hind Swaraj: Hermeneutical Questions of Interpretation, Mythic Construction, and Contemporary Relevance”
December 4, 2009
The Forum on Contemporary Theory organized a one-day seminar on Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj at the Centre for Contemporary Theory, Baroda on December 4, 2009. The seminar was conducted as part of the celebration of the 100th year of the publication of Hind Swaraj. Professor Douglas Allen from the Department of Philosophy, University of Maine, USA delivered the keynote address, which was followed by presentations by other scholars. Professor Allen is currently in India on a Senior Fulbright Grant to work on his project on “Mahatma Gandhi and Violence, Terrorism, and the Contemporary World” at Mani Bhavan, Mumbai.
The keynote address titled “Hind Swaraj: Hermeneutical Questions of Interpretation, Mythic Construction, and Contemporary Relevance” analyzed Hind Swaraj in its times and after and also briefly traced the images and avatars of Gandhi as Mahatma, Bapuji and many other cultural constructs associated with the persona of the author of Hind Swaraj.
D. Douglas Allen
Besides giving an insightful overview of Hind Swaraj and its political and philosophical implications, Dr. Allen discussed the notion of ‘justifiable violence’ alluding to the points of view in Bhagavad Gita and Hind Swaraj. He also problematized issues like war, terrorism and violence with reference to Gandhian philosophy. In the discussion which followed, Dr. Allen elaborated on his still continuing research on Gandhi, his life, philosophy, politics and works.
Dr. Thomas Pantham’s presentation, “Mahatma Gandhi on Hind Swaraj in 1909, 1921, and After” tried to place the author and the text in different socio-political contexts in history and examined the complex and changing relationship of the author with the text. He placed Hind Swaraj in the South African context, post First World War scenario and also in British India wherein the National movement was gaining momentum. He made an interesting observation that the text is titled ‘Hind Swaraj’ and not ‘Hindu Swaraj’ and it triggered vigorous discussion.
In the post-lunch session, Dr. AupamYadav theorized on “Freedom, Rationality, and Civilization in Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj” by explaining the ways in which freedom, rationality and civilization are intricately interrelated. She presented a political philosopher’s vision on the text. Amit Pradhan’s paper, as the title “Teaching Hind Swaraj to Mere Degree Seekers: Problems in Pedagogy” indicates discussed the task of introducing a profound text and its context in four hours’ time to a bunch of students who are interested only in an academic degree and whose only concern is the probable questions from the text in the exam. His analysis of how to interpret a text in a classroom and while teaching it, how to do justice to the students and the text problematized pedagogy with reference to knowledge and its utility. The discussion that followed the presentations captured diverse issues like international affairs, democracy, religion, violence and terror of our times. Dr. Prafulla C. Kar attempted a nuanced critique of Modernity with reference to Ernest Gellner’s idea of ‘spiritual nationalism’ to which Gandhian idea of ‘nationalism’ is similar and also brought in the role of religion in formulating both nationalism and modernity. He mentioned the simplistic way in which Gandhi’s notion of Ramrajya and Swaraj or Home rule are interpreted and tried to show the intricacies and varied possibilities of these conceptualizations. He also elucidated the Gandhian view on the moral and ethical issues pertaining to ‘nation’ as a cultural and political construct in his multi-dimensional presentation titled, “Nationalism, Religion and the Critique of Modernity: Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj”
Prof. Thomas Pantham
Prof. Prafulla C. Kar