Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Proposed Mumbai Dialogue On Lokavidya Tana-bana

Background note for discussion on 24th Feb 2013 in Mumbai

Dialogue with the World of Art, Media & Philosophy

In this new age of information and globalization, it has become imperative that available spaces are recognized afresh and new ones created, where the agencies of change can connect with one another. Lokavidya tana-bana is suggested to be such a space. Lokavidya tana-bana refers to the web of relationships and connectivity among the people, a horizontal web so to say.  This note is to develop the focus for a dialogue on lokavidya tana-bana with activists from the world of art, media, philosophy and social movements. The brief set of paragraphs below are written to argue for and press for the importance of lokavidya tana-bana as the space or location critically significant for debates in the course of development of  a new philosophy and polity of change in the unfolding world.

Lokavidya: For almost two decades now we are in an era characterized by the new sciences (info, bio, nano and cognitive), internet, globalizing policies and frameworks in practically every area - economics, politics, education..., the new American wars and a veritable war on the people across nations by the new industry and the market assisted by the new state. The new movements of opposition to these phenomena and tendencies are growingly relying more on people’s knowledge and ways of thinking, lokavidya. The making of the new world is observing at one end sweeping displacement and uprooting of the peasants and the adivasis and at another their assertion based on their own knowledge and ways. Lokavidya seems to provide that anchor around which a fresh unity of the diverse peoples of the world can assume emancipating dimensions. See Annexure-1 for reference to discussions on lokavidya.

The pace of change as well as the newness, both in forms of control and in people’s opposition, practically outstrips theory, leaving large spaces open for fresh imaginations. Received theories are at bay and the knowledge activity of the people, lokavidya,  is preparing again to be the great source of ideas for a new and desirable world.

Transition in the world of knowledge: One great thing that is happening with all this is coming down of science from the absolute position it occupied earlier and the scientific method no more being honored  as the criterion of legitimization of knowledge. An almost unprecedented enlargement of the world of knowledge is taking place, and this among other things is due to the recognition now of people's traditions of knowledge as valid traditions, granting epistemic dignity to knowledge in society. Such knowledge is generally referred to as lokavidya. Art, media, language and philosophy, namely areas of great and creative human activity, particularly areas of knowledge activity which have always been beyond the dictat of science, are being seen as areas of knowledge activity in their own right. See Annexure-2 for the present transition in the world of knowledge.

Lokavidya Tana-bana & radical change
Lokavidya Tana-bana is expected to become that location where the ideas and activities for change in society naturally connect and interact with one another. It is to be developed as a location where artistic activity, forms of communication, struggles & organizations of the lokavidyadhar samaj and also all individuals, groups and organizations engaged in struggles for justice connect with one another and also engage in new experiments. There is a lokavidya tana-bana in society, which in the form in which it exists is unable to serve the purpose being discussed here. And it is precisely here that art and media can play a truly transformative role by developing those new forms of representation, expression, articulation, communication such that lokavidya tana-bana assumes political significance.

Lokavidya Tana-Bana is not to become an institutional space. Just as lokavidya resides in society, similarly, lokavidya tana-bana too ought to reside in society and develop as a limb of the same.



Lokavidya Dialogues and Campaign

The idea of lokavidya has been in debate for about two decades now. The Congresses of Traditional Sciences and Technologies of India held in 1993 (IIT Bombay), 1995 (Anna University, Chennai) and 1998 ( Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi) drew attention to the growing importance of people's knowledge, so much so that the Varanasi Congress was named Lokavidya Mahadhiveshan. There are articles written, presented in various workshops and also published on economic, philosophical and political aspects of lokavidya. Journals have been published with the titles Lokavidya Samvad and Lokavidya Panchayat. There have been workshops on Dialogues on Knowledge in Society in various World Social Forums (Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Karachi, Nairobi). Dialogues on lokavidya have been conducted across the social spectrum, from among the university educated to the locations of peasants, adivasis and artisans. There have been conferences of Lokavidya Jan Andolan in Varanasi (UP), Darbhanga (Bihar), Singrauli (MP) and Chirala (AP). There are blogs conducting online dialogues and the protagonists of lokavidya actively participate in some international lists. The Vidya Ashram website www.vidyaashram.org puts together the whole gamut of ideas and practice centered on lokavidya.



Transition in the World of Knowledge 
At the Turn of the Century ( 20th to 21st)

  •  Whereas earlier there was an oppressive hierarchy with physical sciences at the top and  life sciences, social sciences, language, art and so on following in that order, now this order stands greatly disturbed, no steady order any more commands respect and value. 
  •   Whereas earlier other knowledge systems and traditions hardly had a place in the world of knowledge modeled by science, now there is recognition as knowledge to people’s traditions of knowledge, particularly lokavidya.
  • Science and technology now have competition from media, art, design and language both as genuine knowledge activity and in the world of commerce.
  • New sciences are emerging, namely information science, science of knowledge management, cognitive science.
  • In the previous age the paradigms of physical science infested all knowledge activity, e.g. studies of language, society, art-criticism and even philosophy, but no more so. New paradigms from people’s knowledge, art, media, Eastern philosophies, life sciences and information sciences are making their way felt.
  • The place of knowledge activity is shifting from the university to the virtual domain or internet on the one hand and on the other to society (witness the increasing recognition to innovation).
  • The criteria of legitimacy of knowledge are changing from the scientific method to on the one hand organizability by the new technology/software and on the other human concerns.
  • The technology front has moved from the power based industrial technologies to radically new areas, namely, info, nano and bio technologies.
  • National controls of the world of knowledge have given way in a large measure to international financial and corporate controls.
  • Movements for the assertion of people’s knowledge in both social and technical areas, the free and open software movement, rise of regional languages and the arts including design, media, and cinema are the new knowledge movements.

     Something very basic has changed in the world of knowledge pointing to an opportunity hitherto not known to the marginalized and the oppressed of the modern world. The initiative this time can and must come from those who have a human concern and who with their activity have been re-instituted in the world of knowledge.


 Vidya Ashram

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