UR Ananthamurthy Memorial Lecture

JU News Desk
Published: March 2019

School of History and Social Sciences organised the second UR Ananthamurthy memorial lecture on December 8. Dr. Ashis Nandy, Political Psychologist and Social Theorist delivered a talk on “Liberation for those who do not speak the Language of Liberation” at the UR Ananthamurthy annual memorial lecture.

Nandy, recollected poignant moments with UR Ananthamurthy while noting how he was a social democrat. He also recalled being a witness to the diminishing sharpness of ideologies in Ananthamurthy’s later years. This was primarily because of the ‘Indian democratic’ slowly becoming ‘psephocratic’, meaning a government dependent on elections in its manner of political conduct. The new style of populism, Nandy commented, is marked by charismatic leadership, media dependency and the ability to unleash mobs onto one’s opponents, which has gradually allowed the country to seep into the boundaries of lynching.

Nandy began his talk on the opinion of the illegitimacy of nationality, that the ‘floating mob’ is heavily influenced by television. He quoted DR Nagaraj and his idea of ‘technicide’ where the middle class must be compelled to cultivate an aversion towards technology. It is in this context that Nandy commented on the kind of politics and governance that is being imposed. Nandy picked from historian Arnold Toynbee’s obituary of Gandhi and how it befits the current boiling times – “that henceforth humankind will ask its prophets, are you willing to live in the slum of politics?”

Nandy also talked about the politics of history, given the fact that history was one of the ways of constructing the past. Ithihasa is memory dependent while another type of history records the events for posterity. The problem now is that the invisible and the inaudible have become victims and continue to allow the power structures to make history for them. The present system is not geared to listen to these victims. The flaw is in the very structure of understanding liberation. All theories of liberation presume inexorable stages and aim at humanism at large. But, liberation always demands experts, or national leaders, or someone who can set guidelines. This flaw widens the gap between mankind and civilization, creating a newer but fascistic attitude towards nation and nationhood, negating the crisis related to the future of mankind, population and environment.

Dwelling further on the same topic, Nandy remarked that the floating proletariat remains powerless until an exposition on liberation occurs. The authoritarian structures market their ideas precisely acting on the ‘fear of the mob; this enables them to take slower but effective steps for the benefit of the elite, while the masses are left to linger in an illusion of a better life, of a better world.

Nandy was felicitated by Esther Ananthamurthy, wife of UR Ananthamurthy and Dr. Sandeep Shastri, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Jain (Deemed-to-be University) after his talk.