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Democracy's multiple genealogies: Translating the political in southern India

Bush House, Strand Campus, London

13 Feb Dalit India Part of King's India Institute Seminar Series

Speaker: Dr Lisa Mitchell (University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract: In recent weeks protesters have been heard reciting the preamble to the Indian Constitution, while Kerala’s government is taking steps to formally implement the reading of the preamble into the morning assemblies of schools and colleges. 

In villages across Jharkhand, the Pathalgadi movement has seen the public display of the Constitution on large stones, emphasising the idea that the government exists to serve the people, and in Telangana, the famous singer and balladeer Gaddar has launched a 'Save the Constitution, Save India' campaign. 

This talk contextualises contemporary understandings of the meaning and practice of democracy by examining one strand of influences — the contributions of the writers and translators associated with the Vijñānacandrikā Granthamāla (1907-1934).

The VCGM was a publishing society spearheaded by Komarraju Venkata Lakshmana Rao, the diwan of the princely state of Munagāla (on the border of present-day Telangana and Andhra Pradesh), and Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao, later the first Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly. 

This talk examines a selection of their translations of globally-circulating political ideas into the Telugu language (then the most widely spoken South Indian language) as part of a larger effort to situate the unique history and practices of democracy in India. 

*If you are external to King's and would like to attend this event, please contact the event organiser directly.

About the speaker

Lisa Mitchell is Associate Professor of history and anthropology in the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Language, 'Emotion, and Politics in South India: The Making of a Mother Tongue' (Permanent Black, 2010) and 'Hailing the State: Collective Assembly, Space, and the Politics of Representation in the History of Indian Democracy' (forthcoming). 

She is currently on research sabbatical and is a Fulbright-Nehru Visiting Fellow in the Department of Cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Language University in Hyderabad, where she is conducting research for a new book project entitled 'Democracy's Multiple Genealogies: Global Intellectual History in Translation.'

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