Friday, January 30, 2009
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ONLITERARY TRANSACTIONS IN A GLOBALIZED CONTEXT: MULTI-ETHNICITY, GENDERAND THE MARKETPLACE VISVA-Bharati, Shantiniketan, WB.
28 – 30 November 2008
MELUS – India (The Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literaturesof the United States, India Chapter) and MELOW (The Society for theStudy of Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World) held their 9thInternational Conference on the theme of "American/World LiteraryTransactions in a Globalised Context: Multi-Ethnicity, Gender, and theMarketplace", recently, from the 28th to the 30th of November 2008.
The venue for this highly topical conference was the Department of English and Other Modern European Languages, Visva-Bharati University,Santiniketan. The conference brought together distinguishedinternational scholars from the United States, Europe, the Middle-Eastand the Far-East as well as distinguished academics from across thelength and breadth of India. This expertly hosted event would not havebeen possible without the generous support of the American Centre, NewDelhi and the USIEF, Kolkata, to whom we owe many thanks. This conference attempted to mark a new heading (a l'autre cap, asDerrida would have phrased it) in questioning the afterlife of thegrand meta-theories of globalising and homogenizing Euro-Americanideologies. It sought to bring together an ensemble of scholarshipfocusing on the complexities of concepts like 'homeland', memory,gender, and market logic both in the American and the world-wideperspective.
In his Key-note Address Prof. Paul Giles, Director of the Rothmere
American Institute at the University of Oxford, outlined the pressingneed to emancipate American Studies from the geo-political concerns ofthe American state. He advocated the committed perusal of AmericanStudies from non-American locations as it would allow the emergence offresh and more objective approaches that would energise the field. In his Presidential Address Prof. Gulshan Kataria lay down thediscursive map for the rest of the conference as he dwelt at length onthe need to probe and question the implicit violence in the tendenciesof global capital, a world in which culture was a free radical tocapital.
A marked feature of this conference, in fact of all MELUS-MELOWconferences to date has been the encouragement provided to youngscholars to show their commitment to American and Global literary andcultural studies, with papers by young scholars included in acompetition for the prestigious Isaac Sequiera Prize. Marked by intense intellectual debate and light-hearted exchangesafter the sessions it was a truly memorable scholarly and human event.Hosted at Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan it was a perfect venuewhere the World came Home to discuss the World.
The Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati inaugurated the Conference withthe traditional lighting of the lamp and a formal address to the delegates. USEIF Kolkata, which extended some fiscal support for theconferences, was represented by Mr Sunrit Mallick.The Conference was spread over three days and fifteen academicsessions. While some of the sessions were plenary, several parallelsessions were also held to accommodate all the speakers.Apart from the academic sessions, several other activities were heldduring these three days. In the inaugural session the Vice-Chancellor released a book edited by GR Kataria and Somdatta Mandal. The book,
published by Prestige, compiled selected papers presented at the 2007Conference in Chandigarh.The first of the Isaac Sequeira Awards went out at Shantiniketan. Awarded to the best paperpresented by a young (under-forty) delegate, it was shared by NamrataSharma and Roshan Sharma.
A small Book Exhibition was held at the Conference Venue and a numberof delegates browsed around the titles and picked up additions fortheir library.
Visva-Bharati is known for Rabindra Sangeet and fine Arts. A vibrantCultural Program was organized by the students. The event also markedthe inauguration of a new Auditorium on the Campus. A sight-seeing-cum-shopping trip on the last day brought the packed three-day affair to aclose.
Future plans of the twin organizations were discussed at length at theGeneral Body Meeting. Among other decisions, the following resolutionswere made:
i The next Conference would be held inChandigarh, tentatively in February 2010.
ii The theme for the Conference was finalized –"MELUS-MELOW Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1980"iii. Deadlines for the coming year were set up – forthe formal conference announcement, submission of abstracts, papers,etc.iv. A Newsletter would be circulated by post (becausenot everyone has access to the net where we post our events).Communication through a Google Group (which had not worked too wellearlier), would be facilitated.
v MELUS-MELOW Office Bearers were elected for thecoming year.
vi Editorial decisions were made regardingpublication of this year's papers. Debasish Lahiri and Himadri Lahiriwould select and edit the papers.
vii It was decided that from now on, in addition tothe Isaac Sequeira Memorial Award, we would have a Special InvitedLecture by a person of eminence. This would be funded by the IsaacSequeira Memorial Fund.
viii Membership fee was revised.
Life Membership is now Rs. 2,000 and
2-year membership is Rs. 500.
All this information along with a more detailed announcement of the next Conference will soon be made available on the website http://www.melusmelow.org/
Members may please note that for certain reasons (mentioned at theconference) it will not be possible to ask the American Center forfunding next year so all prospective delegates should start planningon securing their own travel funds.
THE MELUS-MELOW TEAM, 2008 to 2010:
President: Prof. G. R. Kataria (Pbi U Patiala)
Vice-President: Prof. Tutun Mukherjee (U of Hyderabad)
Secretary: Prof Manju Jaidka (PU, Chandigarh)
Jt. Secy: Dr Somdatta Mandal (Vishwabharati, Shantiniketan)
Treasurer: Prof Anil Raina (PU, Chandigarh)
Executive Members:Prof MG Ramanan (U of Hyderabad)
Prof Sushila Singh (BHU, Varanasi)
Prof Nila Das (Kalyani, WB)
Dr Mukul Sengupta (Calcutta)
Dr Vijay Sharma (Delhi)
Dr RG Kulkarni (Shangli)
Dr Nandini Bhadra (Mumbai)
Dr Sukalpa Bhattacharji (NEHU)
Dr Manpreet Kang (New Delhi)
Dr Meenu Gupta (Chandigarh)
Dr Eami Mathews (Kerala)
Editorial Board: Himadri Lahiri and Debashish Lahiri
Newsletter: Dr. Rajyashri Khushu, Pranav Joshipura, Smita Verghese and Srirupa Chatterjee.
International Advisory Board:
Prof Paul Giles, Oxford University
Prof Amritjit Singh, RIC, Providence, RI, USA.
Prof Lok Chua, California State U, Fresno, USA.
Prof Susan Friedman, U Madison, WI, USA.
Prof Hsiao Kishimoto, Soka University, Japan.
Prof Sharon O'Brien, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, USA.
Patrons:Prof E. Nageswara Rao, Hyderabad
Prof M.L. Raina, Chandigarh
Announcement of Next conference: 1st Feb 2009
Deadline for Receipt of Abstracts: 30th June 2009
Acceptaces to be mailed by: 15th August 2009
Complete Papers and Registration Fee to be received by: 30th Nov. 2009
MELUS-India:MELUS-India was founded in 1997, by a handful of faculty members of the English Department of Panjab University, Chandigarh. It began as the India Chapter of MELUS, the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the USA, the second MELUS Chapter set up outside the USA (the first being MELUS-Europe, now called MESEA). Part of an international chain, MELUS-India expresses the collective desire of students and scholars from India to form a global network for mutual interaction. It encourages the pursuit of art and literature across barriers of race, class, gender and nationality. MELUS-India has a membership that runs into hundreds and the numbers are steadily growing. It meets every year and has already conducted several successful well-attended national and international conferences. MELUS-India wishes to provide a common forum for intellectual exchange, to expand the canon of American Literature, cut across boundaries, de-center the given canon, and establish an international network of scholars who share mutual interests. At the same time, one of its goals is to encourage comparative perspectives and turn to multi-ethnic literatures of India with a keener interest. So, on the one hand, while the Society looks outward, establishing connections with the wide world outside, it also takes a look at Indian literatures and places them in a global context.AND NOW, MELOW: Although the activities of MELUS-India were very satisfying, the feeling has steadily grown that doing American literature is fine but a comparatist perspective is needed: American literature needs to be evaluated vis-à-vis other literatures of the world. Where does it stand in comparison? How does America relate to what is going on outside its borders? The members of MELUS-India felt that an association just for the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the USA was not enough: it failed to satisfy their intellectual / scholarly aspirations and research interests. Something more was needed. For this reason, MELUS-India opened up its frontiers, included mainstream American literature, too, in its conferences, and also invited papers on Canadian literature, and literatures from South America. But the desire to reach out farther, across all borders was great and the limits unbounded.At the same time, it could not be denied that the ‘American Studies’ scenario in India had changed steadily. It was different from what it was fifteen years ago, when everyone was doing American Studies and happy enough with American Studies per se. But, with the emergence of new areas of study, and with the academic focus shifting to fresh, unexplored areas, it was not longer possible to remain isolated from what was happening in the world; one would like to remove all blinkers and look around, re-vision the global scenario, and re-assess one’s own position in the changing times. And so, the members of MELUS-India toyed with the idea of widening the horizons of the Association. A lot of deliberations took place over the last few years. Finally, there seemed to be some consensus and it was decided that a parallel organization would be floated, called MELOW (Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World). This Society would co-exist with the present Society. It would include all current members of MELUS-India, organize its activities and conferences in conjunction with MELUS-India, have its conferences dove-tailing into MELUS-India Conferences, on a compatible theme, and decide matters related to membership fee, further rules, and office-bearers at its future meetings.After an animated discussion at the 2005 conference in Chandigarh, almost all the members of MELUS-India present at the General Body Meeting signed in agreement. And so began a new chapter without closing the previous one! MELUS-India members became MELOW members, looking forward with enthusiasm towards having a stronger association with a far-reaching, wider base. January 2006 saw a combined conference in Hyderabad, with the two Societies presenting two different facets of the same theme. “Dialog Across Cultures” was the main theme of the Conference. The MELUS sub-theme was “Bridging Differences in American Literature” and for MELOW it was “India and the World”, its first conference focusing on India. In March 2007 the twin Societies met again in Chandigarh for another International Conference, this time on “Literature in Times of Violence.” In November 2008 the Annual Conference was held in Shantiniketan, W Bengal. The assiciation continues to grow.
Where do we stand today? MELUS-India and MELOW today are acknowledged as responsible, world-class academic organizations with links with other international organizations across the globe. Apart from MELUS in the U.S., MESEA in Europe, and the international IASA, its members stay in contact with leading university departments in India and abroad. News and information is exchanged and circulated on a regular basis. One can, with justification, say that MELUS-India and MELOW have achieved its target of establish a worldwide network of scholars!