ধর্ম ও জনসংস্কৃতি প্রসঙ্গে [On Religion and Popular Culture]

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Avishek Ray

Trent University

Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

দেবপ্রসাদ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়

 Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata

January 26, 2008

Debaprasad Bandyopadhay and Avishek Ray talks about the [in]commensurability between religion and popular culture. The discussion kickstarts with engagement of ethics with religion. Bandyopadhay talks about the dichotomy between perceiving religion as spirituality, as converse to secularism and dharma in the non-western thought. He sees religion as a site to buttress the insecurity faced by the Truth-seeking post-Enlightenment subject and shows how the ‘traditional’ practice of Sati (widow immolation) in Bengal was being debated with argumentations – both for and against – surprisingly cited from the same Shastras. On Ray’s clarification on the spacio-temporality of the subject, Bandyopadhay problemetizes the aspect of transience in ‘ethical justice’ having prevailed in a post-Nietzschean God-less world(view). While Ray pitches in the question of ‘culture’ – that of the hierarchy between the ‘high’ and the ‘low’ – and its impact upon religion and vice versa, he cites hosts of examples to establish the bi-way reception and hence points to the indeterminacy in evaluating who/what impacts whom/what.

Bandyopadhyay however reminds of the omni-present religiosity in the form of ritualistic fundamentalism that concerns all forms of social/moral policing, censorship, political/religious allegiance etc. even after the post-modern ‘atheistic’ turn. In face of all such ‘symbolic violence(s)’ that dismisses/discounts the ‘other’ he sheds light on Jaina philosophy of Anekantavada, a doctrine encouraging celebration of plurality and heterogeneities of all sorts. Ray insists that celebration of plurality too is not outside the matrix of power relations, there is no ‘outside’ of hierarchy. Bandyopadhyay sees possibility of plurality being fore-clossed firstly, in ‘masters of the universe’ apparently retaining all powers at the top of the ‘chain’ while appeasing us merely by multiplying consumer choices as we are graduating from monopoly to multi-national capitalism and secondly, in the (Indian) state insinuating secularism as a ‘forced official religion’ imagined to be an advancement (from being religious) in the linear progression of modernity. He adheres to the Marxian logic in seeing money as a hyper-real sign that equalizes or neutralizes all things unequal. He talks about religious figures, healers, shrines and institutes and their nexus with capital.
For Bandyopadhayay, fundamentalism assumes an atomic ‘pure’ origin(ality) of a(ny) knowledge system. In this context Ray detours to the question of the ‘culture’ of science or scientificity. Ray draws attention to the monolithicity in the disciplinary regime of the ‘science’ in terms of its quest for objective truth based on the ‘empirical’ and pushes the discussion towards the culture of spirituality or lack thereof involved therein. Bandyopadhyay prefers ‘sciences’ to ‘science’ for the latter, according to him, has violently reduced (non-)humans to experimental guinea pigs en route achieving systematized law-like generalizations through inductive experimentation. This objective truth-claim is inherently fundamental(ist) and the obsession with ‘Reason’ (cf. Foucault) is but spirituality of another kind that loses sight of different sets of ‘truths’ (as opposed to the Truth). As an alternative, he stresses on the idea of age-old Jaina Anekantavad as a discursive practice of being hospitable to the plurality of the ‘other’, the differences in the ‘other’.

Towards the closure Ray expresses his anxiety in Post-modernism desperately struggling to come to terms with the all-pervasive meta-religious spirituality having nothing to do with religion per se but concerning one’s inflexibility in a growingly intolerant world, with the ethical justice involved in projecting one(’s)-self to the ‘other’ in the face of the collapse of all grand narratives. Bandyopadhyay however keeps faith in Anekantavada as to instill the tolerance needed to acquire in order to be able to engage in a dialogue with the ‘other’ despite non-acceptance of his/her views [cf. the Derridean idea of accepting the unacceptable, forgiving the unforgivable etc.]. This is how, he believes, hierarchies can be done away with which is the pre-condition for a ‘heterotopic’ and pluralistic future.


Note: Downloadable document is in Bengali.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 11

Keywords: popular, folk, mass, high culture, fundamentalism, Anekantavada


About Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

Debaprasad Bandyopdhyay (b. 1965), through his 25 years journey in the realm of institutionalized academics did 27 different types of works, which are someway different from the earlier paradigms or, one might say that those works are not only mere reproductions of his inherited institutionalized cultural capital or a mimicry of a colonially imposed model that leads to intellectual anorexia or rather a type falsification of earlier paradigms. However, that might be not only a lofty claim but it also hid the fact that all our information and knowledge are socially accumulated knowledge that was, it is matter of regret, posed as private property through the sign © and the wisdom is rarely available. Bandyopadhyay’s works and projects are the products of his social milieu. Bandyopadhyay is a local sub-altern public sphere academician, who avoids the technical intelligentsia (followers of Sahib’s models and they are not committed to the persons who are accommodating surplus work-time to them by performing surplus labour) or inorganic intellectuals and thus fails to be a part of academic tribe and its subsequent socialization process. Of course, that socialization process does not lead to legendary Socratic dialogue. He is also a political activist though he has not affiliated to any political parties as he was always talking about the corporatization of political parties within the money-sign-based democratic system. He is a regular participant in TV and radio talk-shows and documentary films, street-corners’ talks and International seminars on socio-political, psychological, linguistic, environmental and economic issues. He also writes editorial columns in newspapers. He is also a part of parallel academics as it is found in West Bengal’s Little Magazine Movement, though that was not counted as the part his academic pursuit by his parent institute. His parent institute justifiably does not believe in the domain of parallel academics as this unorganized sector does not directly contribute in the transactions of formal/organized print capitalist eco-enemy paper-publication. Though the dissemination of knowledge is also observed in this space of these parallel academics as all these writings in public sphere simultaneously influence the classroom-discourse and some of them are translated into English, French and Italian. Not only that, Bandyopadhyay also sought engagement with the people, who, by supplying their surplus labour, are sustaining his livelihood. Bandyopadhyay, a linguist by training and a Ph.D.-holder (1996), a junior lecturer (1999-2011) in an autonomous central government institute in India, tries his best for those from he has received and is receiving the manifestation of surplus labour by executing some self-funded projects on economic issues in West Bengal, India. Recently he has got a consolation promotion to the post of Assistant Professor. He has done following 27 research works: 1. Crippled Creativity: An inquiry into language, psyche, society: 2. VALENCY OF BANGLA VERB AND PROBLEM OF COMPOUND VERBS: 3. Archaeology of Bangla Grammar : 4. CAN COMPUTER SPEAK? 5. FUZZY LOGICAL EXPRESSION IN BANGLA : 6. FOLKLORE AND FOLK-LANGUAGE: MYTH OR REALITY? 7. HISTORICISM IN THE DISCOURSE OF BANGLA LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 8. ABHABA, ECP, DELETION AND TRACE 9. SVATVA OR MY-NESS AND ECONOMIC ENTITLEMEMT 10. TRANSLATION STUDIES 11. MASCULINITY STUDIES 12. YAYATI & BABAR COMPLEX 13. SOCIO-ECONOMIC SURVEYS IN AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY IN WEST BENGAL 14. CONCEPT OF BODY IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY AND ARCHITECTURE 15. THE CONCEPT OF ERROR (KHYATI) IN MAD-(WO)MEN’S LANGUAGE 16. THE CONCEPT OF PERCEPTUAL TIME AND GRAMMATICAL TIME IN BANGLA 17. BANGLA CALLIGRAPHY, LANGUAGE ART AND LINGUISTIC PEDAGOGY 18. WO(L)D SPACES: NON-EXISTENCE OF WORDS 19. ANEKANTA METHODS 20. SILENCEME: SILENT OTHER IN LINGUISTICS 21. IMAGINED BOUDARIES AND PRE-COLONIAL INDIAN IMAGI-NATION 22. MAKING OF THE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE 23. SEGMENTING THE SUPRASEGMENTALS : MUSICKING IN SPEAKING 24. INTERPRETING GENETIC STRUCTURE BY DEPLOYING LINGUISTIC STRUCTURE 25. GLOTTOPOLITICS OF LINGUISTIC SUBALTERNITY OR AN AGENDA FOR PLANNING FROM BELOW 26. SEMIOTICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY 27. SOCIOLOGY OF CONTEMPORARY ACADEMICS
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