An unlimited idea of freedom and precision flying is a step toward expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside....To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.-Richard Bach
Osmania University Centre for International Programmes, Hyderabad & ICSSR, New Delhi, Sponsored
International Seminar on
Negotiating Margins: African American and Dalit Writings
17-19 December 2012
Charles Johnson: Embracing the World edited by Nibir K. Ghosh and
E. Ethelbert Miller was formally launched in the inaugural ceremony of the
International Conference on Negotiating Margins:
African American and Dalit Writings organized by Osmania University
Centre for International Programmes (OUCIP), Hyderabad
in collaboration with ICSSR, New Delhi
from 17-19 December 2012.
Satyanarayana as Chief Guest said: The Editorial collaboration between two
writers – Nibir K. Ghosh and Ethelbert Miller – separated in terms of
geographical distance by half the world augurs well in bringing two principal
democracies together. The theme of the seminar is of utmost relevance in the
context of the dichotomy and ambivalence that surrounds the society and polity
of the two major democracies in the globe we inhabit. Writings grounded in pain
and suffering that emanate from prejudice and discrimination on lines of colour
and caste have come to occupy centre-stage in modern socio-political discourse.
I am optimistic that this event will generate sweetness and light in ample
measure and bring closer writers, academics and scholars from different parts
of the world in a spirit of Vasudhaiva
Prof. Jane E. Schukoske, the Keynote speaker at the
conference, said that the book’s effort in putting together contributions on
the life and works of Charles Johnson is a grand tribute to the African
Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh delivered the
Inaugural Address as Guest of Honour. Highlighting the power of words in
negotiating margins, he cited the instances of numerous writers and activists
from the African American and Dalit pantheon and stated: “In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, the Statue of Liberty is
shown to be lost in the fog. With Obama’s resounding second victory the Statue
of Liberty has become increasingly more visible and writers may not find it
imperative anymore to append to their works titles like “Invisible Man,” “No
Name in the Street” or “Nobody Knows My Name.” The presence in our midst of
celebrity African American and Dalit writers and scholars, ought to convince us
how the margins are being redrawn in remaking the world where the line of
distinction between “our” sorrows and “theirs” as pointed out in the poem by Waharu
We did not go on to the stage,
Neither were we called.
We were shown our places,
told to sit.
But they, sitting on the stage,
went on telling us of our sorrows,
our sorrows remained ours,
they never became theirs.
He concluded by expressing the hope that the
conference would prove to be of tremendous significance not only for
people of every colour in the U.S.
but for people of all castes in India.
Excerpts from messages sent by Charles Johnson and Ethelbert Miller:
delighted the festshrift book you and Ethelbert did will be formally
launched at the "Negotiating Margins" conference. Negotiating
Margins: African American and Dalit Writings is a long-overdue conference
of tremendous historical and international importance. In 1959, Martin
Luther King Jr. visited India
as a guest of the Gandhi Peace Foundation and met with Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru. "To other countries I may go as a tourist," said
King, "but to India
I come as a pilgrim." He was inspired by his trip to India, personally renewed in his spiritual
practice, and saw his connection to the Dalit people when at one event he
was introduced, somewhat to his surprise, as an Untouchable from America.
Immediately, he understood that the various meanings for the Hindi word dalita---"driven
or torn asunder," "broken," "crushed,"
"destroyed," "oppressed"---applied equally to black
Americans after the experience of slavery and during the era of racial
segregation and disenfranchisement in the United States. This
conference, then, opens the door for a crucial conversation (one both
political and spiritual) and seminal scholarship devoted to two groups
separated by great physical distance but united in
their similar experiences of being social pariahs in the West and
East. And as with so many other things during its long history, it is not at
all surprising that India
is at the forefront for opening the door onto this specific
awakening.”- Charles Johnson.
“A successful conference consists
not only of scholars exchanging ideas but also of laying the foundation for the
creation of maps and blueprints. If we are indeed living inside a World House
as Martin Luther King, Jr. mentioned in his last book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? then we have a responsibility to prevent
groups and individuals from being marginalized. The study of comparative
literature should be seen as essential in the 21st century as taking
steps to protect ourselves from global warming, religious strife and nuclear
war. When people place emphasis on similarities instead of differences
remarkable things can occur. This December gathering “constructs” a cultural
bridge between people separated by distance as well as language.In the world of ideas the rivers always flow,
the mountains rejoice and the valleys retain their memories. The International Conference on Negotiating
Margins: African American and Dalit Writings should be a reason for
celebration. History today turns to touch those once defined as untouchables
and the world turns. This marks the dawn of change. When dusk comes it will be
dark like us. Oh, the night will be beautiful for the stars will shine and the
“new spirituals” will be sung by people who have been given back their voice. I
congratulate Professor Sumita Roy and Professor A. Karunaker of OUCIP and Nibir
K. Ghosh for making it possible for scholars from different parts of the globe
to share their views on a subject of universal relevance. I am also delighted
to know that that the conference has on its agenda the launch of Charles Johnson: Embracing the World,
the book that I had the pleasure of editing with Nibir K. Ghosh. Throughout the
movie The Book of Eli the actor
Denzel Washington portrays a man protecting a book; by the end of the movie we
understand the importance of his actions as well as the significance of the
text. Charles Johnson: Embracing the
World is a book we should all cherish. It highlights the work of a writer
whose contributions are essential for living and understanding reality. One is
forever grateful that this man’s vision embraces our world. There are no
borders or boundaries to beauty. Charles Johnson in this book reveals the lotus
in his heart. We are all capable of becoming better human beings because of it.
Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh addressing the audience as Keynote Speaker at the Two-day National Conference on ‘Science in Media’ organized by YMCA University of Science and Technology, Faridabad from December 3, 2012 to December 4, 2012.
Science, Media and the Integrity of Design
Excerpts from the Address:
“A good newspaper, I suppose, is
a nation talking to itself.” - Arthur Miller
In 1965, in an article in Horizon, Alvin
Toffler coined the term "future shock" to describe the shattering stress and disorientation that
are induced in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a
time.The term led to the epoch
making book by Toffler titled Future Shock.
The concept of future shock strongly suggests that there must be balance between the pace of environmental change and the
limited pace of human response. For future shock grows out of the
increasing lag between the two.
If Toffler were to view the accelerative thrust
brought about by unprecedented scientific advancement and information
technology in a far too shorter time span, he would simply be dumfounded with
amazement and probably ask us to recall the lines of T.S. Eliot from Choruses from the Rock:
With all the technological advances and change, “Endless
invention, endless experiment,” we are
compelled to ask is mankind happier or wiser than he was 100 years ago? Perhaps,
we haven’t traveled too far from the predicament described by Mathew Arnold: “YES: in the sea of life enisled,/ With echoing
straits between us thrown./ Dotting the shoreless watery wild,/ We mortal
Millions live alone.”
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
If we subject the
pace of the accelerative thrust of scientific change to the domain of Media, we
can easily visualize a transformation that may be called revolutionary to the
core. It is true the arrival of the digital revolution
– the evolution of the Internet, the emergence of new forms of media, and the
rise of online social networks – has reshaped the media landscape and made the
current-day Media something we couldn’t have imagined even 15 years ago.
The Internet has turned what used to be a controlled,
one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions.
appraisal of the current electronic and print media scene would acquaint us
with the pros and cons of the Media revolution. What comes readily to my mind
is the applicability of Gresham’s Law.
Gresham Law states, "When bad money and good money are both circulating
side by side as a media of exchange, bad money drives good money out of
circulation, other things remaining the same." Gresham’s Law, it is clear, operates in the
media field as well: shallow, soap-opera-led commercial programmes drive the
serious and worthwhile out of the Market. With the growing reliance on social media, we no
longer search for news, or the products and services we wish to buy. Instead
they are being pushed to us by friends, acquaintances and business colleagues. In the words of our former first citizen, Kalam: "Why is the Indian media
so negative? Why are we in India so
embarrassed to recognize our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a
great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to
acknowledge them. Why? We are the first in milk production. We are number one
in Remote sensing satellites. We are the second largest producer of wheat. We
are the second largest producer of rice. In India we only read about death,
sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE…?"
North East sms episode
We are all aware
how recently social media and other sources of technology were used to threaten
people from North-East leading to amass exodus from southern states. The sms’s
with inflammatory matters and doctored pictures and videos were used blatantly
to create social unrest in the country. Facebook emerged as a tool to incite
violence or spread hate.
If the media,
with all its modern gadgets, had the time and inclination and even a small
measure of social responsibility, it should have delved deep into the malaise
and found out the source of the problem. Rather than counter the panic created
by the sms and other social media networks, the Media found it more convenient
to give hype to the exodus. Perhaps, from Media perspective what was of
paramount concern is either Gopal Kanda’s tryst with beautiful females in
remote farmhouses or its 24x7 preoccupation with guests at the Saif-Kareena
wedding. Unfortunately, the Media is
being seen less and less as a neutral observer and more and more as
participants, or even collaborators.
Media is just a
word that has come to mean bad journalism. Thomas A. Edison Said: “We will make
Electric Light so cheap that only the wealthy can afford to burn candles.” If
Thomas Edison invented electric light today, the TV channels would probably
report it as, ''Edison threatens Candle making
industry.'' Phone line pe bane rahiye.
Integrity of Design
In an era when there was neither
radio nor television, Gandhiji’s publications like Young India, Harijan
and Navajivan galvanized the whole nation to action against an empire
where the Sun never set. An effective communicator, fearless and eloquent
with his words, he reached out to millions of people with the outpourings
of his heartand
soul and convinced them of his cause. These publications were to Gandhi "a
mirror of his own life." He was clear about the nature
and content of his newspapers. They would not carry any advertisements nor try
to make money. Mahatma Gandhi said: "The sole
aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper is a great power, but just
as an unchained torrent of water submerges the whole countryside and devastates
crops, so an uncontrolled pen serves, but, to destroy.” Similarly, Bande Mataram, edited and published by
Shri Aurobindo, between the brief period - beginning in 1907 till its abrupt
winding up in 1908 - changed the political
thought of India.
It is needless to make a mention of the impact Munshi Prem Chand’s Hans had in the evolution and promotion
of economic and social concern of the common populace. Going
by such line of reasoning, how many publications in the world today would be
able to measure up?
Watergate in journalism history. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward
and Carl Bernstein created a new milestone in American journalism when
President Richard Nixon had to step down. Says Leon Jaworski
in The Right and the Power:
The Prosecution of Watergate: "From Watergate we learned what
generations before us have known: our Constitution works…and that no one -
absolutely no one - is above the law."
In 1961 Jawaharlal Nehru
had reminded us: “It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and
poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom
and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited
by starving people…. Who can indeed afford to ignore science today? At every
turn we have to seek its aid.” But while adoring the blessings that
science can provide, he also asked us to cultivate the scientific temper. This
involves the application of logic and reasoning, and the avoidance of bias and
preconceived notions in arriving at decisions, and becomes particularly
valuable while deciding what is best for the community or the nation.
Thus, rather than indulge in propaganda,manufacture of consent, irresponsible
and unethical journalism, distorting or sensationalizing news reportage,
hyper-commercialization, private treaties with corporates;
rogue practices like paid news, and bribe-taking for favourable coverage etc.,
the Media barons must cultivate the urge to shape public opinion through debates
of high order and discussions that reflect the fiery touch of intellectuals and
the humane concern of patriots. Refraining from
setting the ‘Page 3’ approach as its topmost priority, the Media has to
undertake the responsibility of deciding as well as propagating what is
best for the community or the nation as envisaged by Rabindranath Tagore a
Where words come out from the depth of
Where tireless striving stretches its arms
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way,
into the dreary desert sand of
where the mind is led forward by
ever widening thought and
into that heaven of freedom, my
father, let my country awake.