Essays and Studies is out!

The latest issue of Jadavpur University Essays and Studies, edited by Paromita Chakravarti and Amlan Das Gupta is out!

The volume is dedicated to the memory of Professor Sarbani Chaudhury.

essays&studies_cover

Topics covered in this volume range from how to drop the right name in Early Modern England, to anonymous women writers and animal encyclopaediae, and coming right down to digital Florence and the world of Assassin’s Creed II.

Contributors include Debapriya Basu, Dibyajyoti Ghosh, Doyeeta Majumdar, Nandita Roy, Parvinder Kaur, Rupa Mukherjee and Somnath Basu.

Collect your copy now!

Fun fact: Ole Worm, whose wonder cabinet is featured on the cover, celebrated his 429th birthday only a couple of days (13 May) before the volume was published!

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Dalit History Month at JUDE

The month of April saw students and faculty at JUDE observe Dalit History Month. It was a time of raising awareness among others, among ourselves, of introspection, and of celebrating resistance, writes Debagata Bose of UG1. Photographs courtesy Md Shahnawaz of UG2.

Your letter of the 24th addressed instant to the Sjt. Sant Ram has been shown to us. We were a little disappointed to read it. Perhaps you are not fully aware of the situation that has arisen here. Almost all the Hindus in Punjab are against your being invited to this province. The Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal has been subjected to the bitterest criticism and has received censorious rebuke from all quarters.

B.R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste (1936)

Poster

With a little help and guidance from members of faculty, the students of the Department of English, Jadavpur University, celebrated Dalit History Month in April 2017. It was, at least partially, in the hope of raising awareness among ourselves and among others of issues of systemic oppression, as well as with the aim of critically examining our own perspectives and privileges.

Dalit History Month Department

“We hang Christmas lights, why not posters?” 

To this end, members of JUDE had decided upon “sessions” to be held every week, totalling eight sessions in a month. We had initially planned on film screenings and discussions, but some rigorous brainstorming led us to add a few more programmes. We decided to include “reading sessions” to be led by students, and to invite Issai da, who had been a major participant in the struggle against caste oppression, to share his experiences.

Reading session

Our observance of Dalit History Month began with Dr. Nilanjana Deb giving an introductory lecture to the subject – I deliberately stress upon the word “introductory” because a issue as vast as this cannot be understood in an entire semester, let alone a forty-minute session. However, Dr. Deb set the gears turning with the “Parai” drum-beats and a strong call to students to step out of their comfort zones, to rise up against this blight upon our society. She moved on to give a brief account of the history of oppression that Dalits have faced and how people like Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and others have risen up against this She ended with “Fan Baba Sahib Di”, a song by the new voice of ‘Dalit pop’ in the country, Ginni Mahi aka Gurkanwal Bharti, a 17-year old whose songs mainly celebrate the lives of Sant Ravidas (founder of the sect to which she belongs) and Dr Ambedkar. Through these songs she talks about her community and about social change.

Film Screening 2From there, the students took over with their reading session, discussing excerpts from texts such as Munshi Premchand’s Godaan (1936) and historical incidents that often get lost in mainstream media and can only be found in blogs: a case in point being the story of Nangeli, depicted by Ajay Shekhar’s “Breast-Tax in Kerala History: Nangeli and Mulachiparambu.”

The second session was held in the same week, where we screened Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry (2013), which is about a thirteen-year old boy. The story set in Akolner, Ahmednagar, depicts the caste oppression he has to fight daily. The film is proof of how the Dalit movement has impacted cinema. Our third session was dedicated towards the completion of the reading session. Students from the department shared instances of caste oppression that they have themselves witnessed.

The fourth session was the one for which we experienced the biggest turnout: it was the one where we would screen Inki Surat Ko Pehchano Bhai, followed by Rashmon Issai sharing his experiences as a member of the Dalit community himself.

Issai da session

“Do remember, though, that sometimes the people you oppress become mightier than you would like”

Issai-da, one of the Departmental indispensibles, was a part of the Dalit movement not by choice, but because of circumstances over which he had no control. His choice to protest against the oppression that he and the members of his community faced was, however, a conscious one – a choice to protest again an unfair system that denied an entire community basic human rights while being a part of a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. Dalits in his village are, to this date, not allowed to drive cars or motorbikes. They are denied access to certain buildings, community wells, and even basic services such as shaving. Issai da spoke to us about the systematic cycle of oppression that has been, and is still being perpetrated against the members of the Dalit community in country. An interesting idea which he put forward was that he had removed the surname from his and the names of his children, thereby effectively removing the identity of being a “Dalit”, and continuing to function within the same society.

We, the students of JUDE, look forward to holding more sessions celebrating Dalit resistance – it is a duty which we, as individuals capable of making a choice, should aim to fulfil to the best of our abilities.

 

Digitization of Departmental Journal

Good news for students and researchers!

20170426_180130The journal of the Department of English, Jadavpur University Essays and Studies, is being digitized for ease of access. Arshdeep Singh Brar, a former student of the Department (MA batch of 2014), currently a Fellow at the School of Cultural Texts and Records, has taken on the mammoth task of photographing, cleaning up, and compiling Pdfs of all 30 issues. The articles will be available as separate Pdfs, accessible on-site as well as online.

 

jues

UG1s Sighted at National Library: Part I

On 29 March 2017 a group of UG1s found themselves at the National Library browsing through personal letters, early printed books and exquisite manuscripts. Agni, Sreemoyee, Ayantika, Sambuddha and Shohini share their experience. The Department wishes to thank the NL authorities whose enthusiastic support is making the series of guided tours possible.

An AC1 deposited thirteen odd first year undergraduates at the Hazra crossing under a notoriously bright Kolkata summer sun. Chasing one another through Alipore traffic in four autorickshaws, we weren’t quite sure of what to expect at the end of the road.

Despite living in Kolkata for the major portion of our short uninspired lives, we were as close to being oblivious to the ins-and-outs of the National Library as the ghosts that are said to loiter in its premises before we were dragged by the ears to acknowledge the existence of an inexhaustible degree of literary heritage and resources.

An expanse of well-maintained green dotted with the infamous and grotesque National Library garbage cans, humongous unruly trees, and straight well-behaved shrubs welcomed us. Our sentry was a grayish squirrel which strayed onto the pavement in front of us before scrambling away; and a few dogs who padded over to us in search of biscuits and love. On one hand stood a white marble edifice of British architecture, an ugly brown scaffolding pretending to be its exoskeleton while on the other side stood a concrete and glass mixed-bag building that one could mistake for a multi-corporation’s over-artistic nest.

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Photographs: Shinjan Pramanik

Teeming with exuberance, we climbed a set of black marble staircases plastered with warnings about their propensity to cause fractures when not dry and burst into a stuffy ballroom smelling of pigeons and secrets.

The underground mystery room reminded us of Harry Potter’s journey with Hagrid to his safe at Gringotts. The room was opened and we lined up to see rare books, manuscripts, and maps we would not forget for years to come.

The next one hour was a jumbled rush of wonder and information, and even after hours of consultation while composing this article we couldn’t figure out the actual order in which we saw the rare books, comprising limited and first edition books distinguished by their design, illustration, and history.

Among the many hidden treasures we saw the earliest forms of prints and original written manuscripts preserved over time. In the tour we were  accompanied by an over-enthusiastic and officious gentleman who imposed two questions repeatedly: a) How old is this book? (Yeh kitna saal purana hai); and b) What material is this made of? (Yeh kis material se bana huya hain?) with persistent jabs at the rare books with his fingers while we exchanged glances. Then he lamented the general decline of handwriting in our fallen age. It was a little unfair to us, we thought, because he compared this generation’s handwriting to those of century old texts written by professionals!

We saw books that dated back to the 13th Century; books as heavy as 30 kilograms that required at least three people to pull it out of the shelf; a book published for Rabindranath Tagore, The Golden Book of Tagore, as a tribute to the bard on his 70th birthday edited by Ramananda Chatterjee with an introduction handwritten by Tagore; Persian books with intricate calligraphy on gold; books printed on vellum–unborn calf leather–and Tibetan Buddhist manuscripts.

Our guide had the kindness to introduce us to letters written by Subhash Chandra Bose while he was in jail, handwritten manuscripts of authors like Sarat Chandra Bose, Sarojini Naidu, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and other writers we have read and admired. We also saw the original hand-drawn map of the Grand Trunk Road from Delhi to Kandhar, and the landscape of the city of Lahore–as detailed as it was panoramic.

There was also a remarkable dictionary of the English language measuring 1 inch by 1.5 inch, with an engraving of the venerable Doctor Johnson on the endpaper, printed in Glasgow. It came inside a locket, one side of which was a magnifying glass, through which one could consult the dictionary in times of dire need–provided they could remember where they last put it!

While Prof. Abhijit Gupta introduced us to the art of lithography and other intricacies of print culture, Sujaan explained how using reprography–a form of storage on tape–one can preserve and access newspapers dating back to as early as the 18th century.

The faint hint of the sunset through National Library’s cascade windows announced the end of the tour. While only four of us returned with our memberships, all of us were ready to bring home an experience that had had a profound impact on us and the way we perceived Kolkata, books, and the art of books.

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The first batch of UG1s at the NL along with Prof. Abhijit Gupta, Sujaan & Donee. Photograph: Kaustav Roy.