Thursday, March 22, 2018

Report on the Dharamshala Conference March 2018

Report on MELOW 2018
The 17th international MELOW conference on “Space, Place and Landscape in Literatures of the World” began on 9th March 2018 in Dharamshala. IT was hosted by the Central University of Himachal Pradesh.
The inaugural Session began with Manpreet Kaur, Jt. Secretary, MELOW, as the compere. Roshan Lal Sharma, Professor and Dean CUHP, and the local coordinator  greeted the delegates, affirming that it was an honour for the university to host the prestigious MELOW conference.  Manju Jaidka, Secretary, MELOW, gave a brief overview of the organization. Dwelling upon its history and achievements over the last twenty years, she explained how the society began in 1998, and established strong credentials not just in India but also abroad. Shri HR Sharma, Pro Vice-Chancellor of CUHP, gave a warm welcome to the delegates and assured them of all support from the university.
In his Presidential Address, Anil Raina elaborated upon the theme of the conference. He spoke of space, place and landscape as critical concepts, and their relevance to the study of literature. Developing on the theme, he spoke of the spatial turn in critical theory, and how the seemingly geographical constructs attain cultural overtones. He argued that in the contemporary world of advanced capitalism, the quick evolution of the digital mode and the Internet was as relevant to the study of Space as was humanist geography. He asked participants to discuss the new dimensions of words like place, rootedness, fixity, memory, nostalgia, etc., and expressed a hope that Indian students would soon look at literature from newer perspectives, research on more topical issues, and use the critical concepts put forward by theorists like Edward Soja, Michel Foucault, and Marc Auge among others.
This was followed by the first Plenary Session delivered by Tej Nath Dhar.  He spoke on “Nature and Art in Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer,” and argued that Location becomes an important marker for variety in fiction. He dwelled upon the importance of location in post-colonial novel; and on the significance of multiple locations in diasporic novel. He then spoke about how in the Ecological novel, location becomes a central pivot, and behaves like a character. V.P. Sharma of Himachal Pradesh University, who chaired the session, commenting on the presentation, praised Dhar for successfully reconciling the ethical and aesthetic in his presentation.
The second plenary talk was delivered by Cyraina Johnson Roullier from University of Notre Dame, USA. In her paper “Modernism in Beloved Community(ies)”, she said that the American Utopia imagined by Frank Waldo and others comprise a serious flaw of not including the significance of southern black lives. This Utopia, although it aims at democratic America, excludes the important question of gender and race; ignores Afro-Americans -- especially women. Vijay K. Sharma, who chaired the session, congratulated her for speaking on a relevant issue, and expressed a hope that all-inclusive Utopias would be a reality – though at present it might seem like a pipe dream.
Post lunch on the first day there were four parallel sessions, which were chaired by Dipankar Purkayastha, Unni Krishnan, Meenakshi F. Paul, and Roshan Lal Sharma.
In the session chaired by Purkayastha, Bhushan Sharma and Sakoon N Singh presented their papers. While Bhushan Sharma’s of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University analysed the poetry of Kandaswamy as a site for emancipation of Dalit marginalised identity, Sakoon N Singh from DAV College Chandigarh, articulated the evaluating presence of Jugni in the evolving milieu of Punjab.    
In the parallel session with Krishnan Unni as chair, Adela Kuik-Kalinowski, Daniel Kalinowski and Leena Sarkar Bhaduri read their papers. Adela’s paper was on the nature of existence and myth in Kashubian literature. Drawing upon her own roots in Kaushubian culture, she gave an understanding of Polish literary traditions and general tendencies of Kashubian literature. Daniel Kalinowski, from the same university, focussed on the “images of native nature in old Polish literature,” which spanned from 16th century to 18th century. They were followed by Leena Sarkar from Shree Agrasen Mahavidyalaya, Kolkata, who spoke on the consciousness of nature imagery and its humane role in the depiction of protagonists in Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay’s Pather Panchali.
Meenakshi F. Paul chaired a session which had papers by Rais Ul Majid from IIT Mandi, and Pritha Chakraborty from Maulana Azad College, Kolkata. Majid read a paper on how the genre of 9/11 Post-Apocalyptic fiction serves as a critique of contemporary political corruption and devastation of ecology. Chakraborty in her paper asserted that the concept of space and place is complementary, and cannot be explained in isolation. Focussing on Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place, she spoke about how lesbian couples belong to heterotopias of crisis, and are denied space and place.
Roshan Sharma chaired a session which had papers by Neela Sarkar of New Alipore College Kolkata, Ravinder Kumar of Govt Degree College Majheen Kangra, and Urvi Sharma from Panjab University Chandigarh. Sarkar focussed on Hisaye Yamamoto’s Seventeen Syllables, discussed the third space which is dynamic, and extrapolated on the question of belonging, gender, and race in the work. Ravinder spoke on how in Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories and the City, the post-modern world is an effort to convert the communal melancholy into celebration of nostalgia. Urvi Sharma’s paper was on Ecofeminist discourse in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing, where she brought forth the ecofeminist concerns interwoven in the narratives of both texts.
The sessions were followed by high tea, after which the special invited Isaac Sequeira Memorial Lecture was chaired by Anil Raina. Prof MG Ramanan’s paper on "Nature, Literature and Culture" was presented. It spoke of the interconnection of all forms of life, the fluidity of all borders of time and space, the Oneness of All, and Vasudhaiva Kuttumbakam -- ideas that we in India strongly believe in. 
Following the invited lecture, presentations were made by young scholars who were competing for the ISAAC SEQUEIRA MEMORIAL Award. Hem Raj Bansal of Central University of Himachal Pradesh was the first presenter. He spoke on how to salvage troubled space and place in David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon. He discussed the importance of landscape in the construction of identities, while focussing on the identity crisis faced by a white man brought up by Aborigines. He was followed by Neepa Sarkar from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, who spoke on Mnemonic Maps of an Imagined Home. Using Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, she explored the linkages between memory, identity and home in a space-time continuum wherein memory forms a part of socio-philosophical deliberations in shaping the idea of home. Neepa Sarkar won the ISM award. The decision of the judges was unanimous.
The participants then enjoyed the cultural programme in which students from Central University of Himachal Pradesh, and Dronacharya College of Education performed. It was a scintillating performance of song and dance that lasted over two hours.

On the second day, there were three sessions – and each session had five parallel sessions.
Session II A was chaired by Khem Raj Sharma of Central University of Himachal Pradesh. The first presenter was Anwesa Chattopadhyay from Visva Bharati Central University. She critically discussed the fiction of Khaled Hosseini, in which she spoke on the concept of home ravaged by perennial chaos caused by conflict and social prejudices. Pradipta Shyam Chaudhury from Raja Ram Mohun Roy Mahavidyalaya, West Bengal, analysed the representation of the city Lahore in The Paksitani Bride and An American Brat as a multi-layered space which acts as a heterotopia for the reconstruction of the city. Arka Pramanick’s paper was on the affects of Globalization on Indian Society based on an analysis of The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, highlighting the maladies of cultural and class discrimination, identity crisis and political corruption effecting the society. Barnashree Khasnobis of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprasth University, Delhi, interpreted Ravindra Nath Tagore’s poems as an internal space of the poet and his modus operandi through rasas that empower him to generate emotions through words functioning as sounds.
Session II B was chaired by Neela Sarkar. Arun D M of Christ University, Bangalore, presented a paper on the Dystopian Reality in Indian Cinema. Harpreet Kaur Vohra from PU Regional Centre, Ludhiana, read a paper on Albert Camus’s The Outsider, in which she viewed the prison as a sanctuary. Subham Amin of SRS Vidyamahapith presented a paper in which he juxtaposed Aprajito by Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay and Chkravyuh  by Praksh Jha vis-à-vis utopian/dystopian representation of real and mythical Dandakarnya. Rama Gautam and Nikhil Bhatt presented a joint paper in which they examined heterotopias in the Harry Potter film and book series and also dwelled on the basics of magic realism and heterotopia.
Session II C was chaired by Jyoti Mishra from Raipur. Renuka Dhyani from Govt. College Panchkula said that ecological humanity can be achieved by getting ecological citizenship. Eami Mathew from Kerala talked about the theories of social psychology and how you have to neglect a part of yourself in order to acclimatize to the new environment. Harsimranpreet Kaur Batra from GGSIPU Delhi attempted in her paper to unravel the untouched contours of space, place and landscape in Che Guevera’s The Motorcycle Diaries. Mary Mohanty from SCS College Odisha talked about the river Mississippi in the Huckleberry Finn landscape, and how landscapes combine both their physical origins and cultural overlay of human presence created over millennia to reflect a living synthesis of people and place.
Session II D was chaired by VP Sharma. Amit Narula from DAV College Chandigarh, in his paper on Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, discussed it as a saga of displacement. Anshita Sharma from Panjab University Chandigarh discussed the displacement effects on human behaviour with reference to Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s Srikanta. Rimika Singhvi in her paper delineated the issues of physical space and memory of a place, self and identity, alienation and freedom as dealt by Imtiaz Dharker in his poetry. Manika Arora from Panjab University in her paper on Sujata Bhatt’s poetry explained how images in Bhatt’s poetry carry ideological baggage of multi-spatial identity.
Session II E was chaired by Meenkashi F. Paul. In this session Mohit Abrol from IIT Delhi in his paper analysed Sebald’s handling of identity, memory and history in his poetry. Kuldeep Raj Sharma from Eternal University, Himachal Pradesh, presented a paper on Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide from the perspective of politics of place. Nidhi Sharma from Khalsa College University of Delhi, in her paper on Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos discussed the imagined geographies and the blurring and charting of other worldly spaces. Manpreet Kang from IP University Delhi, focussed on space and gender politics, based on the re-reading of The Scarlet Letter.  She highlighted how women can create a space and place of their own.
Session III A was chaired by Tej Nath Dhar. Nipun Kalia from Chandigarh University addressed the issues of masculinity and queer identity by analysing the intersection of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Smartphone app Grindr as a site of online space for challenging the binaries of sexual identities. Rahul Singhal from Aligarh Muslim University studied the blurring of divisions in the conventional understanding of space and place in post-cold era, enquiring into the homogenisation and heterogenisation of Globalization in cotemporary milieu. Suneel Kumar from HP University focused on select aboriginal women’s autobiographies and presented a paper on the plight of aboriginal nomadic communities who were stripped of their cultural identity by the arrival of European invaders. Sangeeta Singh from Govt College Hamirpur analysed academia as a space which can re-negotiate patriarchal boundaries in Carolyn Heilbrun’s Death in a Tenured Position.
Session III B was chaired by Cyraina Johnson. In a joint paper Karan Singh and Himani explored the concepts of space and temporality in Amrit Lal Vegad’s Travelogues on Narmada.  Jyoti Mishra’s paper dwelt on Naturalistic dimensions in J.M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea and showed how the sea is both a source of life and death. Shimi Moni Doley’s paper on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein viewed the novel and/or its protagonist as a space for the subversion of the masculine ideal.
Session III C was chaired by Manpreet Kang. In her study of “The Translated City in Satyajit Ray’s Cinema” Chandrani Chatterjee from Pune argued that the city becomes a space of contention, debate, negotiation and translation between clashing ideologies of the old and the new, the rural and the urban, the ancient and the modern. Debarati Bandyopadhyay from Visva Bharti, Santiniketan, in her paper asserted that some urban spaces turned into wilderness, changing the face of the world and evoked a picture of conflict between topophilia and topophobia. Jasmine Anand from DAV College spoke about urban space as a place of unification but economic inequalities and social diversities create separation and individualism. Nilak Datta from BITS Goa, in his research conceptualised wilderness as a blank space upon which personal and cartographic adventures are realized.
Rimika Singhvi chaired Session III D. Aswathi V. Anand from IIT Hyderabad spoke about the spatial constraints and the process of identity formation with reference to Joyce Carol Oates’s Little Bird of Heaven. Barnali Saha from Guru Gobind Singh IP University Delhi, presented her paper on select short stories revolving around Bengal partition in order to understand their treatment of nostalgia. Dinesh Kumar from Panjab University Chandigarh in his paper discussed the role of place in one’s life –and elaborated on how the place/space functions as a stratagem to question the modern governing system. Jaidev Bishnoi from Panjab University Chandigarh, presented his paper on Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide from the perspective of place and placelessness.
Session III E was chaired by T. Ravichandran from IIT Kanpur. Manoj Jayakumar from University of Hyderabad in his paper talked about how spatial narrative development of the past impacted colonialism. Nirmal Kumari from Central university of Jammu addressed the post-colonial issue by taking into consideration the objectification of women and the symbolic juxtapositioning with land in Ngugi Thiongo’s Weep Not, Child. Santosh Rajguru from LBP Women’s college Solapur M.H. presented a paper on multicultural homogeneity of the British society, celebrating the third space wherein space and time is continuously negotiated.
Session IV A was chaired by Debarati Bandyopadhyay. In this session Sumita Kumari from NIT Jalandhar interpreted the disability of the protagonist in the contemporary materialistic world as depicted in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Rohit Jahari from IIT Ropar presented the effect of discursive forces on an individual in Easterine Kire’s Mari. Somjeeta Pandey from Burdwan University critically scrutinized Romesh Gunesekera’s Heaven’s Edge.
Session IV B was chaired by Seema Bhupendra. The first paper was by Priyanka Panwar, of University of Delhi, in which she spoke about the literary landscape in Ruskin Bond’s novel, The Room on the Roof. The next paper was by Ranjita Pati from Utkal University, in which she spoke on spatial configuration in Anita Desai’s novels. Shishu Bala from IIT Mandi attempted an ecofeminist reading of The Collector’s wife. 
Session IV C was chaired by Krishnan Unni in which KBS Krishna from CUHP read a paper on the possibility of redemption in nightmarish cities in Cornell Woolrich’s Short stories. Kunal Ray from FLAME Pune in his paper examined the author’s interpretation of 19th century Calcutta which determines an alternative history of the city. Leenu Sugathan from University of Hyderabad talked about precarity and complex issues of heterotopic spaces to determine the nature of social relations and institutions. Monika Kaushik from IIT Mandi talked about psycho-sexual conflict of the people living in metropolitan cities.
Session IV D was chaired by Harpreet Vohra. Sudeshna Majumdar from Rampurhat College, West Bengal, discussed the representations of space in Post-partition Bangla Memoirs. She explained how the centrality of space at a particular time is achieved through recurrent images of nature, river, familiar topography etc. Tarun Deep Singh from SGTB Khalsa College Delhi University in his paper analysed the function of intersecting spaces in Funny Boy. The third speaker in this session was Harpreet Kaur who read a paper on Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.
Session IV E was chaired by Rama Gautam from Pune. Pallabee Dasgupta from Banaras Hindu University presented a paper on select contemporary English novels in reference to depiction of Postmodern city. Rachit Verma from Panjab University Chandigarh argued that globalization is an offshoot of colonialism. Kalikinkar Pattanayak from Khallikote Cluster University Berhampur presented a paper on Gitanjali analysing it as a utopian text.
That concluded the sessions on the second day.

On the third day, there were five parallel sessions. Session 5A was chaired by Karan Singh. The first speaker, Zeenat Khan from MCMDAV College for Women, Chandigarh, observed the writer as a catalyst who transforms the landscape of fiction into a textual space for the reconstruction of identity. She based her arguments using the works of M.G. Vassanji. She was followed by Anu Sugathan from University of Delhi, who analysed how the temporal distinction between past and present is blurred in Sarnath Banerjee’s Corridor. Sayanti Chatterjee from IIT Madras focused on the representation of small towns in contemporary Hindi cinema which serve as a voice of hybridized subjectivity created by the effects of globalization.
Session 5B was chaired by Ranjeeta Pati and papers were presented by Kawaljit Kour and Manpreet Kaur -- both from Govt. SPMR College of Commerce Jammu. Kawaljit Kaur observed how cultural assimilations happen in diaspora focusing on Yasmine Gooneratne’s A Change of Skies. Manpreet Kaur focused on the conflict between first and second generation diaspora, and brought forth the dilemma face by diasporic communities in order to maintain their identities while trying to shake them off at the same time. Shreya Rastogi, from IIT Hyderabad, engaged with the work of Michel Foucault and Kevin Hetherington to understand Heterotopia as a space wherein dominant socio-cultural dynamics are countered and redefined.
Session 5 C was chaired by Dipankar Purkayastha. Focusing on Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement, Khem Raj Sharma from Central University of Himachal Pradesh discussed the Post-natural world and the Apocalypse. He was followed by T. Ravichandran who analysed the new ethics of resource control in Emmi Itaranta’s Memory of Water and Mindy Mcginnis’ Not a Drop to Drink. Tasleem Ahmad War of University of Kashmir spoke next. He observed how the literature and films featured a steady stream of apocalyptic scenarios after the 11 September 2000 incident.
Session 5D was Chaired by Janesh Kapoor. In this session Mishail Sharma, from Panjab University Chandigarh, Nisha Thakur from Eternal Univeristy Sirmour and Prabuddha Mukherjee of Ravenshaw University presented their papers. Mishail evaluated how the call centre literature addresses the complexities and the dilemmas of emerging new hybrid identities in urban globalized Indian space. Nisha analysed the politics of place and nostalgia for homeland in Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs.  Mukherjee discussed the concept of double diaspora in his paper on Cyril Dabydeen’s North of the Equator.
Session 5E was chaired by Kalikinkar Pattanayak. Ranjita Barik from R.C.M. Science College Khallikote, Seema Bhupendra of SGG College Banswara and Rajitha Venugopal from Jamia Milia Islamia University presented their papers. Ranjita highlighted the nostalgic recollections in select works of poetry of Manju Jaidka. She spoke of how the landscapes undergoes change and this change resonates in nostalgic laments of the poet. Seema in her paper interrogated the protagonist’s backward glance at her roots by probing the complex web of race, colour and a sense of uprootedness. Rajitha observed the sense of place as exhibited in the works of Barbara Kingsolver. 

The Conference concluded with a Valedictory session chaired by Tej Nath Dhar, the senior-most professor present. A report of the conference was read out. The office bearers of MELOW addressed the delegates, deliberated on future academic activities and urged the members to stay in touch.
A General Body Meeting of MELOW was held finally. Some changes were made to the Executive committee, the financial health of the society was discussed in detail, and suggestions were invited from the house regarding the possibility of organizing regional events.
A round of thank-yous marked the conclusion of the Conference. By all standards it was a successful one and delegates dispersed after expressing their earnest desire to attend future conferences. 

Compiled by KBS Krishna with inputs from Jaspreet, Prateek, Manoj, Surender, Shikha, Rohit, and Yash.

In the concluding session of the 17th International MELOW Conference in Dharamshala from 9 to 11 March 2018, a General Body Meeting was held of all the members present. This was in accordance with the regulations on the Society’s Memorandum of Association. In all, approximately 120 members were present. Prof. Cyraina Johnson, Prof Tej Nath Dhar, and Dr Krishnan Unni attended the meeting as special invitees. The meeting was chaired by the President, Anil Raina. Office bearers of MELOW were present along with the other members.
The agenda included several items presented for ratification, specifically the decisions of the Executive Council meeting held prior to the GBM, financial matters, future MELOW activities, and other issues with the permission of the Chair.
The decisions of the Executive Council were presented before the House and the following matters were approved and passed after some deliberation:
·        Care will be taken to ensure a proper “conference grooming” of delegates, particularly the younger scholars, and a proper code of conduct/ etiquettes will be made clear in conference announcements. Further, Chairpersons of sessions will sensitize delegates on maintaining proper decorum in appearance and presentation of papers.
·        Greater effort will be made to identify outstanding plenary speakers for MELOW conferences and to bring in foreign delegates to the conference. Members with foreign contacts would explore possibilities. In particular, an effort will be made to bring in some members of MELUS (USA) and IASA to future conferences. The House also approved of the proposal that membership/delegate fee be fixed for South Asian and Middle Eastern countries at subsidized rates (at par with members from India). Debarati Bandyopadhyay volunteered to contact academicians in Bangladesh, Vijay Sharma would explore similar possibilities in Sri Lanka, and Roshan Sharma in Nepal.
·         Matters related to MEJO, the MELOW Journal will be pursued by Manpreet Kang in Delhi.  The possibility of printing hard copies of the E-journal will be explored. Manpreet Kang will issue a circular with deadlines for submission of revised conference papers for possible publication. She may take the help of Neela Sarkar in the editorial work.
·        Regarding financial matters it was decided that (i) a new account will be opened in the name of MELOW  in ICICI bank, Sector 9, Chandigarh  with Manju Jaidka, Secretary MELOW) as the authorized signatory. Thereafter, the money in the MELUS-India account (in the same bank) would be transferred to MELOW. This is as advised by the bank because the MELUS-India account has been frozen and cannot be operated, (ii) 30 to 40% of the MELOW savings may be invested in a UTI CRTS fund, (iii) MELOW may hire a part-time assistant (on a modest remuneration of not more than Rs 2,500 pm) to assist with financial dealings.
·        Regarding Office Bearers of MELOW: The name of Neepa Sarkar from Bangalore was added to the Executive Council. Parminder Singh from Chandigarh was appointed the new Treasurer.
·        The possibility of holding regional level seminars and workshops would be explored in earnest. Members were asked to send proposals for holding such events in their parental institutions. A deadline for proposals will soon be announced.
The meeting ended with the Secretary, Prof. Manju Jaidka thanking all the members and the special invitees for attending the meeting.