Course on ‘Researching the Contemporary' 2014

‘Researching the Contemporary' is a two-month Course that would be held at CSDS in the months of July-August 2014. This cross-disciplinary Course will critically examine the formation of the contemporary and its multiple histories, ideologies, forms and affects.  The three courses offered will enable participants to familiarize themselves with concepts, theories and methods that help analyse the contemporary.  These include:

I.  Media and Historical Method

This course will explore the way media technologies and their modes of social and cultural existence constitute human experience in the modern and contemporary epoch. It is simultaneously conceived of as an invitation to explore historical method.

We will consider the vantage point of media experience as a crucial way of engaging what it has meant to live in historical time; specifically, how cognition, sense perception, bodily and emotional engagement have been configured at key junctures through the media, including print culture (newspapers, novels, popular pamphlet, pulp and visual culture), sound technologies (radio, gramophone, cassette and digital formats), photography, film, and the broader configuration of new media. Our aim is not an exhaustive tracing of histories and linkages. Rather, it is to explore media as a key site of historical experience, what it has meant to read, listen, view, touch and feel, and how this has constituted our everyday life and social and political engagement. In the process, we will consider what such a focus means for historical method, to `do’ history, by complicating our understanding of the nature of the modern archive. How do we engage media as an object of historical analysis, what do media offer evidence of, what is the status of the visual and auditory material relayed by media technologies, especially in conditions of media manipulation? What new problems and possibilities are heralded by digital technologies in framing media histories and effects?

Course Instructor: Ravi Vasudevan

II. Religion and State in Modern Indian Thought

The course will explore transformations in the meaning of the terms “religion” and “state” and the relationship between the two in 19th century and early 20th century India. In short, it examines the changing contours of state and religion under conditions of modernity. In order to do so we must understand how these terms were used in the earlier period and what forces affected a change in their meaning and relationship with the advent of colonial modernity.

Course Instructors: Rajeev Bhargava and Sudipta Kaviraj

III. The Work of Theory: Thinking Across Traditions

The term ‘theory’ immediately brings to mind names such as Plato, Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Marx and so on.  That is, theory appears as a particular body of philosophical thought coming to us from Europe and globally relevant in its scope.  In this course, we shift our attention away from western theory as such and ask the prior question – namely, what it is to theorize, what is the work that theorization accomplishes.  In our view, the work of theory involves a certain kind of abstraction and/or generalization in thought – through an engagement with the times while drawing upon diverse histories, traditions and systems of thought.   In this course, we aim to reopen the given concepts of modernity, time, reason, capital, aesthetics, politics and the social – through an exercise in ‘thinking across traditions’.

Course Instructors: Aditya Nigam, Rakesh Pandey, Prathama Banerjee