The Nation’s brightest minds talk about ‘Nationalism’

By Meenal TatpationMar. 24, 2016in Perspectives

The events that unfolded after the evening of the 9th of February, 2016 at the well-known and respected Jawaharlal Nehru University Campus (JNU) as winter gave way to spring in Delhi will forever be etched in our collective consciousness as the reawakening of the debate on what Nationalism means for a plural and diverse society like India’s.

Much has been written and said about the role of the media, Delhi police, JNU administration and the so-called anti-national students. But what needs to be widely shared and debated are the series of lectures or ‘teach-ins’ that prominent professors from JNU have initiated after their lynching at the hands of the patriot lawyers. Titled, ‘What the Nation really needs: India, the National and Nationalism’ this teach-in has featured India’s prominent academicians, researchers, journalists, activists and politicians talking to students about what nationalism means to them, on the administration steps of the JNU campus, now rechristened ‘azadi’ square [1].

Ari Sitas (South African sociologist, writer, dramatist and activist) who spoke about the experiences of the birth of nationalism in South Africa and India from their shared colonial past and the work that needs to be done towards building a national identity in colonised nations
Dr. Satyajit Rath’s (Biologist and Senior scientist at National Institute of Immunology) talk which drew parallels between the life-giving diverstiy within the human body and the multiplicity of traditions and diversity in society that needed to be balanced to make systems function
Prof Tanika Sarkar’s (Historian) talk on what Mahatma Gandhi perceived as nationalism
Romila Thapar’s (Historian) lecture on the role of history in building narrative of nationalism

These lectures offer an eye-opening diversity of views, forcing one to escape from the narrow confines of jingoistic patriotism and to see the nation as what is really is, a constructed identity that needs to be worked on, everyday.  

The month long lecture series also featured many more lectures on several topics including

the growing inequality and capitalistic fundamentalism by renowned journalist P Sainath
The economic policies of the current government by economist Jayati Ghosh
Sociologist Prof. Satish Deshpande on the role of the university in allowing individuals to understand different worldviews and nationalisms

In a world that is becoming increasingly narrow in attitudes, economic models and the definitions of nationalities and nationalisms, this lecture series offers refreshing perspectives and broadens one’s views about one’s own idea of patriotism and nationalism.

The lectures are all available on the Stand With JNU YouTube channel.

[1] ‘Azadi’ was the alleged anti-national slogan that was raised at JNU during the fateful evening of 9th February.

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