Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Horizons

New Horizons of Human Development
Chennai, February 9, 2006

My host at MIDS Ananta Kumar Giri is a remarkable scholar and humanist who has brought together an extraordinary collection of scholars, activists, and poets. Two of us are from Japan, while others are from Bangalore, Delhi, Kerala, and of course Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu.

We meet around 9 am, climb into three auto rickshaws and head to Madras University, a grand old series of Mughal-style buildings from the British era that stand out by the sea on the Marina Beach, the long sand doorway of Chennai to the world. There is much in the content of the program that relates to LAFTI and Amma’s and Appa’s work.

“New Horizons of Human Development and Social Transformations: Towards a Multiverse of Dialogue and Learning” is the theme of the workshop, jointly organized by the Madras Institute of Development Studies and the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras. The latter, as we find out from the talks during the day, is a radical collection of liberation theologians and social activists. Our chair is Professor Felix Wilfred, head of the department, who welcomes us and who later gives a presentation on “The Calling of An Inclusive Development: Technology, Religion and Spiritual Transformations.”

John Clammer of Sophia University, Tokyo, begins our day with a critical analysis of “Peace and Development,” drawn from his work with the United Nations University. My own paper is next, on “India and Japan: The Challenge of Marginality, Multicultural Education, and Human Development,” followed by Anthony Savari Raj of the Department of Philosophy, University of Madras, who speaks on “Development as Cultural Innovation: Some Cross-Cultural Considerations.” “New Horizons of Human Development: Self-Development, Inclusion of the Other and Planetary Realizations” by Ananta Kumar Giri takes us up to lunchtime.

We start the afternoon session with a different approach: “Towards a New Poetics of Self and Society: A Reading of Some Inspiring Poems from Different Languages About Human Development and Social Transformations,” coordinated by Sister Kochurani Abraham, who is also with the Department of Christian Studies. We have poetry in Tamil, Oriya, Hindi, Tamil, English, and Japanese, all on themes of human liberation and development.

Subash Sharma, a scholar from the Indian Institute of Plantation Management, Bangalore, then talks about “Theories of the Quantum Rope and Human Development,” followed by Satyavir Chakrapani, an NGO leader from New Delhi who speaks on “Inter-Faith Collaborations and Realizing Millennium Development Goals.” He is followed by a hurried presentation by Nalini Rajan of the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, as she has to go somewhere else quickly. Her subject is “New Horizons of Development Communication and Civil Society: Gandhi, Habermas and Beyond.” We then have an excellent summary of the day’s presentations by Jayshree, a PhD student at MIDS, followed finally by comments on the day’s presentations by Professor S.P. Thyagarajan, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Madras.

We participate the next day in seminars with colleagues and then graduate students from MIDS and Madras Universities, earnest and serious young scholars like Jayshree, Anne, Raju, and Sister Kochurani. Two days of reflections on the human condition and new avenues for development.


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