Indian Languages Programme

The Indian Languages Programme (ILP) epitomises the long nurtured belief of the founders of CSDS that a planned and well thought-out shift towards a non-English register will not merely constitute a change in the mode of expression, but it will also facilitate a change in themes and treatment and ultimately give rise to a social science more or less unshackled from its pervasive derivativeness. ILP was started in 2001 and over the years it has emerged as a distinct locus of activity with a number of books and publications to its credit. In the initial years, ILP functioned with a limited agenda—that of translating and making available to the Hindi reading public works by CSDS faculty members. In more recent years, ILP has been engaged in thinking about the entire question of social sciences and what it might mean to ‘do social sciences in Indian languages’. The idea now is to think: (a) beyond Hindi in terms of Indian languages as a whole, and (b) beyond just translations from English and looking at the cognitive challenges of doing social sciences in these languages. Towards achieving these goals, ILP launched its peer-reviewed research journal, Pratiman Samay, Samaj, Sanskriti in Hindi, and a huge effort is being made to generate a multi-volume encyclopaedia of social sciences and humanities in Hindi. Another encylopedia project is focused on Indian cinema. ILP will also be initiating a series of lectures and seminars around social thought in the language universe.

The future of social sciences in India is inextricably linked to the fate of Indian languages. This has more to do with fundamental, epistemic reasons than with contingent, practical considerations. Today's challenge is no more that of producing a mere critique of the limits and limitations of western theoretical frames, but rather of the very reconstruction of social and human sciences. We are increasingly aware today that we have not begun to skim the surface of this task and one of the ways in which we might be able to do so is by contrasting the terms in which debates on critical contemporary issues are framed in Indian languages with the way in which social scientists prefer to talk about them. A vigorous, ongoing conversation between these different discursive universes is an urgent requirement.  It is important to underline here that we should not see this simply as a way of ‘accessing sources’ of information or data from the bhasha universe; rather it is to take seriously the intellection that takes place in that universe by participating in it.

The second realization stems from a more practical issue. If we are actually thinking of broadening the base of our social science/humanities scholarship, for that seems to us to be an elementary demand, then it goes without saying that this cannot be achieved in English but only in the bhasha universe. Needless to say, this too is not an entirely practical issue and we believe that the very contours, form, and substance of our social sciences will change radically once more and more bhasha scholars begin to mark the social science universe with their own stamp. CSDS as a premier research institution, with a solid multilingual record,  cannot but take this task seriously and work towards providing young researchers from the non-English universe with the requisite forums where the best of our own knowledge and thought traditions can meet and converse with those from other parts of the world (the West and Europe being only one of them).

To set up a dialogue between the domain of social sciences and the Hindi sphere and in addressing the lack of quality resources in social sciences, ILP involves a complex set of practices. These include a painstaking process of selection, a bid to develop innovative rather than literal translations, condensing lengthy monographs in consultation with the authors, commissioning fresh articles on specific themes, writing exhaustive introductions, taking interviews, and undertaking careful book designs. For publication and distribution the Centre has arrived at a working arrangement with Vani Prakashan, one of the largest publishing houses in Hindi. Through this collaboration, IPL has conceived four series of books and come out with a number of publications. The first, ‘Lok-Chintan Granthmala’ is organized thematically on issues such as the Indian democratic experiment, the impact of globalization, Dalit encounter with modernity, debates on secularism, and so on. The second series, ‘Lok-Chintak Granthmala’, introduces works of those Indian social scientists who have exercised an influence beyond the disciplines that they were trained in. Two Readers composed of selections from the works of Rajni Kothari and D.L. Sheth have been published till date. ‘Samayik Vivarsh’, the fourth series, is devoted to the publication of monographs. Another series, ‘Sarokar Adhyayanmala’, focuses on aspects of social reality rendered almost invisible in dominant narratives.