Course on Researching the Contemporary 2018

The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies invites applications for its two-month Course on ‘Researching the Contemporary’. This multi-disciplinary teaching program will critically examine the formation of the contemporary and its multiple histories, ideologies, forms and affects.  The following three courses offered this year will enable participants to familiarize themselves with concepts, theories and methods to critically understand and analyse the contemporary:

Decolonizing Theory

Course Instructor: Aditya Nigam

For the purposes of this course, we make no distinction between social and political theory, or between theory and philosophy. We will be concerned here with the broadest sense of theory as critical theory that is at once ‘normative’ and ‘explanatory’ and philosophy in its most diverse forms as it appears in different thought traditions across the world.The course takes up some of the concerns of our earlier course on social theory that had been offered for about five years, collaboratively, by some faculty members but it also connects up with some recent global concerns that have emerged in Asia, Africa and Latin America, which are variously expressed as projects of ‘decoloniality’, ‘epistemologies of the south’, ‘decolonization of theory’ and so on. These different impulses define a complex relationship with what can, for shorthand, be called ‘Western theory’.

As far as we are concerned, in this course we start with the recognition that what we understand as Western theory, itself emerges by drawing from diverse bodies of knowledge- both philosophical and scientific-from different parts of the world and there is little to be gained from its outright rejection. Nevertheless, it underlines the need to move from an attitude of deference and awe to one of critical engagement on equal terms.

It therefore, questions the universalist claims of Western theory, which render specific European experiences of ‘modernity’ and its constituent processes like ‘secularization’, ‘individuation’, ‘industrialization’, ‘capitalism’ into norms and ideals to be aspired to by societies across the world. One of the imperatives arising from this change in our relationship to Western theory is that we learn to draw, without embarrassment or apology, resources of thought from our own intellectual traditions, even when we steer clear of any futile search of ‘pure’ and ‘unadulterated’ indigenous traditions.

Taking historical, historico-philosophical and philosophical work produced by scholars-past and present-from India, China, the Arab and Persian world and Latin America as its point of departure, this course seeks to put the very idea of ‘modernity’ itself under the scanner. Key concepts of modernity, as well as the knowledge produced under its banner-in virtual oblivion of the experiences of the non-European world – will be opened up for examination during the course. The course however, seeks to go beyond simply providing critiques of Western knowledge and theory for it will also centrally be concerned with the question of what it means to do theory in and from the global south.

Research as Practice: Issues in Method

Course Instructors: Hilal Ahmed, Sanjay Kumar, Sanjeer Alam

This component of the Researching the Contemporary course aims at addressing some of the fundamental issues/problems in social scientific research which are not given adequate intellectual attention. The component, broadly speaking, intends to address three types of issues/problems often facing research scholars and practitioners: (a) Issues related to academic presentation such as proposal writing, academic essays, research papers, thesis writing and referencing. (b) Issues related to the practicalities of conducting survey research such as constructing sampling frame, developing survey questionnaire and analysis and presentation of data etc. And finally, (c) the issues related to the identification of sources and usability of official statistics such as Census and National Sample Surveys (NSS) in social scientific research.

Urban Experience in the Global South

Course Instructor: Awadhendra Sharan

Cities in most parts of the world are often described by their difference from European cities, being considered colonial, third world, or more recently, southern. Correspondingly, new urban theories are being proposed based on the experience of southern urbanism. Participants will be introduced to these changing urban spatial imaginaries in Asia and Africa, through debates on infrastructure, environment, housing, planning, labour etc. Both historical and contemporary urbanisms will be studied.

Apart from these full-length courses, special supplementary lectures will be organized to provide a sense of fullness. This intensive program will have compulsory readings of course materials and class room discussions. Participants are expected to make presentations and participate in a presentation workshop at the end of the course. A participation certificate will be awarded upon successful completion.

The course will be conducted over 8 weeks between 2 July and 31 August 2018. Classes will be held in CSDS seminar room on week-day afternoons, three days a week, from 2.30-5.30 pm.

Applications are invited from M.Phil./Ph.D. students as well as independent researchers.  While applying please submit your C.V. and a 1000-word description of your research question/topic. The candidate must indicate the category (SC, ST, OBC, General) to which s/he belongs. Selected out-station participants shall be provided with roundtrip travel expenses (3-tier AC) and a stipend of INR 25,000.

Total number of seats: 40* including seats for SC and ST categories   
Deadline:  6 May 2018

Applications may be sent to: teaching(@)

* The number of seats is indicative and may increase or decrease depending upon the quality of applications.