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Silent Pasts and Speaking Presents: History and Language in Contemporary South Asia

G.N. Devy
Friday, September 22, 2023
4:00-6:00 PM
10th Floor Weiser Hall Map
Please join Professor G.N. Devy for a presentation on two recent, major intellectual initiatives that pose significant challenges to the ongoing politicization of language, community, and history in contemporary India.
The first project is the massive, People’s Linguistic Survey of India (published by Orient Blackswan, 2013-23), a 50+-volume survey of more than 780 languages currently spoken in India today, many of which now struggle for recognition and preservation, as perceived by the people who speak them.
The second, The Indians: Histories of a Civilization (published by Aleph, 2023), is a seven-part history of India spanning more than 12,000 years, with contributions from more than 100 of South Asia’s most prominent historians and ethnographers, including two U-M faculty members (professors emeriti Thomas Trautmann and Madhav Deshpande).
G.N. Devy organized and edited both of these ambitious and historically important projects. Both projects creatively draw a bright line under the intimate relation between democracy and diversity, and work against contemporary political efforts to homogenize India’s cultures and sanitize India’s pasts. Professor Devy’s presentation will describe the genesis and approach of each project, and reflect more broadly on the place of diversity in India as a nation, as people, and as a spectrum of cultures.

Ganesh N. Devy is a scholar, educator, activist, and the Obaid Sidiqqi Chair Professor at the National Center for Biological Research, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bangalore. He is a prolific writer, having authored or edited 109 books in the fields of literary criticism, anthropology, education, and philosophy. From 1980 to 1996, Devy was a professor in the Department of English at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda.

In 1996, Devy gave up his academic career to initiate a deeper engagement with Adivasi and Denotified and Nomadic Tribal (DNT) communities. Devy went on to found the Bhasha Research and Publication Center in Baroda, the Adivasis Academy at Tejgadh village, and the DNT Rights Action Group, among several other initiatives. Professor Devy has also been the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including the Padma Shri (India’s fourth highest civilian award, given by the Indian government) in 2013. In 2003, Devy received the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for his pathbreaking book of literary criticism, After Amnesia (Orient Blackswan, 1993). In 2015, Devy returned this award in protest over the “growing intolerance towards the differences of opinion” then manifesting in the murder and imprisonment of several prominent intellectuals in India.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Biology, Center For South Asian Studies, English, English Language And Literature, Graduate Students, History, Humanities, India, Interdisciplinary, International, Literature, Scholarship, Social Sciences, sociology
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Department of History, Center for South Asian Studies, Department of Linguistics