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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Language speaks us!

An interesting video about how we understand language and use it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A History of Transparency, Politics and Information Technologies in India — Centre for Internet and Society

A History of Transparency, Politics and Information Technologies in India — Centre for Internet and Society

'Science needs to be studied in its social context' - Rediff Getahead

'Science needs to be studied in its social context' - Rediff Getahead



3-Month Free Online Access to "English Today "

UGC-Sponsored National Seminar on Resistance Studies

23 -24 August 2011
Theme: Speaking of the Subaltern: Exploring the Past; Anticipating the future
Organized by The Department of English, Pallagatti Adavappa First Grade College, Tiptur, Karnataka
Venue: Kalpataru Vidya Samsthe  Campus Tiptur, Karnataka, 572202
About the Seminar: A group of Indian scholars brought this term into much popularity and made it focal point of research, investigation, critical scholarship and publication through their Subaltern Studies. The Subaltern studies published nine volumes on South Asian history and society, particularly from "subaltern perspective" during 1982-1996. From then onwards this term attracts the attention of many researchers and scholars especially of social scientists and theologians. The geopolitical, economic, historical, political and social maps of the highly backward Indians of the rural and urban regions guided by their 'subaltern consciousness' make us alert to recurring famine, drought, starvation, malnutrition, disease, superstitious belief, bonded slavery, sexual exploitation and humiliation as the by-product of elite society.
Papers are invited for presentation from researchers and teachers on the following areas and related topics (but not limited to):
·          Discrimination by Caste/ Class/Gender
·          Historiography of India
·          Comparative subaltern movements and cults across the globe
·          Distribution of Power and Wealth
·          Role of physical coercion of the state
·          Ideology of nationalism and class
·          Double colonization of women
The abstract in softcopy not exceeding 250 words, with title and author's name as it should appear in certificate, typed in Times New Roman on A4 size, in MS-Word Format, double line spacing should be submitted as an attachment only through  e-mail on or before 10th April 2011, to:

For more details, please contact Dr UdayaRavi at udayaravi.shastry AT

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Humanities-Social Sciences Journals

Humanities-Social Sciences Journals

BA EST 431 Literary Theory End Sem Model Question Paper


Programme: BA (PSEng, JPE, CEP) Max Marks: 100
Course: Literary Theory Duration: 3 Hrs
Code: EST 431

Answer Any Five of the Following. (5x20=100)
i. The questions are designed to bring out your positions viz-a-viz the theories you have studied. Please ensure that while clarifying your positions you locate them within or around the theories you have studied. A personal take or a personal narrative not located within the theories you have studied may not be treated as an answer.

1. Would Eagleton’s position that literature is an ideological apparatus, be acceptable to you? Give theoretically sound agruments for you position.
2. Between Plato and Aristotle, whose position is more acceptable to you? Explain with reasons.
3. How does Saussure’s conception of language complicate the idea of language you have inherited. Explain.
4. What structuralist notions of language and ‘reality’ does Derrida complicate? How does he do that? Elucidate.
5. What are the differing ideas of the subject  do Freud and Lacan inaugurate? Explain.
6. Discuss the possibilities and limitations of poststructuralist feminist thought for you as a student of English studies, and Psychology, who mostly lives and studies on parental support and has a different social history that determines your present subjecthood than that of Europe and North America.
7. How does Judith Butler problematise ‘gender and sexuality as categories of essence’? In doing so what new insights does she give into Freud’s thought? Explain.
8. How does Foucault show the relationship between discourse and power/knowledge? Does Foucault affect the way you looked at the social? Elucidate.
9. If we accept Said’s arguments on Orientalism, what political agenda does it set for you as a young undergraduate at the beginning of the twenty first century? Explain with reasons.
10. On what grounds would you argue that the condition you exist is postmodern. Delineate your argument using ideas of different postmodern thinkers you have studied.

BA EST 431 Literary Theory Material for End-Sem Exam

Making this post on the request of Fatema of II PSEng who made that request on behalf of her friends.

All the best. Do well. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011


    *The Dag Hammarskjöld Scholarship Fund for Journalists is now accepting applications from professional journalists from developing countries for its 2011 Fellowship Program. The application deadline is April 6, 2011.* *The Fellowships are available to radio, television, print and web journalists, age 25 to 35, from developing countries who are interested in coming to New York to report on international affairs during the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Fellowships will begin in mid-September and extend to late November and will include the cost of travel and accommodations in New York, as well as a per diem allowance. * *The Fellowship Program is open to journalists who are native to one of the developing countries in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean, and are currently working full-time for a bona fide media organization in a developing nation. Applicants must demonstrate an interest in and commitment to international affairs and to conveying a better understanding of the United Nations to their readers and audiences. They must also have approval from their media organizations to spend up to two months in New York to report from the United Nations. * *NOTE: For 2011 only, the Fund will not accept applications from the countries of the 2010 Fellows – Nepal, Peru, South Africa and Togo – in an effort to rotate recipient countries. * *The journalists who are awarded Fellowships are given the incomparable opportunity to observe international diplomatic deliberations at the United Nations, to make professional contacts that will serve them for years to come, to interact with seasoned journalists from around the world, and to gain a broader perspective and understanding of matters of global concern. Many past Fellows have risen to prominence in their professions and countries. The program is not intended to provide basic skills training to journalists, as all participants must be working media professionals.* *This is the 50th year the Dag Hammarskjöld Scholarship Fund has sponsored the fellowship program for journalists. The program is administered on a volunteer basis by journalists at the United Nations, who raise money from foundations, corporations and diplomatic missions to finance it. * *Click here <> for full eligibility and documentation requirements and Fellowship application form. Questions about the program, eligibility and application process can be directed to<> All the best Mike Shanahan  Press officer International Institute for Environment and Development 3 Endsleigh Street London WC1H 0DD Tel: 44 (0) 207 388 2117 Fax: 44 (0) 207 388 2826 Email: mike.shanahan AT  Twitter Biodiversity Media Alliance Climate Change Media Partnership roster climatechangemediapartnership Reporting COP16 by developing world journalists

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Race and Postcolonialism

Notes by Simran Purokayastha, 2nd PSEng.

Mary Klages begins by laying out the basic premises of the study of ‘Race and Postcolonialism’, in an essay of the same name, by highlighting that ‘the field we call ‘English’ was originally defined based on the equation between nationality and language: an ‘English’ department studies works of literature written in the English language by people whose cultural history could be traced directly back to England… The field of postcolonial theory examines the effect that colonialism has had on the development of literature and literary studies within the context of the history and politics of regions under the influence but outside the geographical boundaries of, England and Britain.’

‘Because it is a systematic negation of the other person and a furious determination to deny the other person all attributes of humanity, colonialism forces the people it dominates to ask themselves the question constantly: ‘In reality, who am I?’’ Frantz Fanon

Postcolonialism claims the right of all people on this earth to the same material and cultural well-being. The reality, though, is that the world today is a world of inequality, and much of the difference falls across the broad division between people of the west and those of the non-west. Edward Said in fact argues that the West (or Occident) produced the non-white, non-Western cultures and people as inferior through a variety of discourses which stated the terms of their existence as inferior. This division between the west and the ‘other’ was fairly concretized by the 19th century with the expansion of European and European- derived powers to include about nine-tenths of the entire land surface of the globe under its rule. Postcolonial discourses begin to arise in the 1960s as thinkers from the former colonies began to create their own forms of knowledge, to counter the discourses of colonialism: these postcolonial discourses articulated the experience of the colonized, rather than the colonizer, giving what’s called the ‘subaltern’ a voice.

The history of colonialism is intricately connected with the economics of capitalism. Apart from the necessary monetary transactions that characterize such a relation, the West exported its own ‘legal, religious, educational, military, political, and aesthetic ideologies along with its economic regime’ (i.e. Marx’s ‘superstructure’, and Althusser’s ‘ISA’). So, Western cultural standards were upheld and all other notions of culture were denounced as inferior and subordinated to Western standards. ‘English’ departments were initially designed to perpetrate this very thought (of Western cultural standards beings masters in every respect) and were employed
(i) to establish the hegemony of British culture worldwide, and
(ii) Act as a regulatory mechanism to teach and enforce the ‘correct’ form of English as a language.
Colonial and imperial rule was legitimized by anthropological theories which increasingly portrayed the peoples of the colonized world as inferior and requiring the paternal rule of the west for their own best interests (‘development’). The basis of such anthropological theories was the concept of race. The west- non-west relation was therefore thought of in terms of whites versus the non-white races. White culture was regarded (and remains) the true embodiment of ‘civilization’.

Race and postcolonial theorists are interested in studying ‘how distinctions based on race are made, circulated, and enforced.’ Mary Klages then goes on to explain how, because physiological facts (such as hair color, eye color and skin color) become signifiers connected to specific ideological signifieds, the concept of ‘race’ is actually a signifying system. She defines ‘racism’ therefore, as ‘the connections of physical signifiers to ideological signifieds in this system (of ‘race’)’. By extension, ‘race’ as a genetic or biological construct, does not exist. Rather, it is a signifying system wherein physical signifiers become connected to cultural conceptions (and misconceptions) that the physical signifiers are assumed to be pointing towards. These connections are, of course, arbitrary. But theorist then continue to question how these arbitrary connections ‘get made, enforced, expanded, reproduced, and/or modified’. The answer most often lies in Foucault’s idea of discourse, says Mary Klages. Writings about race from various academic disciplines (think anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology, literary studies…) connect physical signifiers with a particular trait, behaviour or disposition (‘certain kind of eye shape with a certain kind of intelligence, or a hair texture with a social behaviour’). And thus, ‘racial traits’ are created, elaborated and perpetuated. ‘And when we have made those associations, we then view those signs of race as ‘real’, as ‘true’, as ‘factual’’.

What I am interested in doing now is suggesting how the general liberal consensus that ‘true’ knowledge is fundamentally non-political (and conversely, that overtly political knowledge is not ‘true’ knowledge) obscures the highly if obscurely organized political circumstances obtaining when knowledge is produced. No one is helped in understanding this today when the adjective ‘political’ is used as a label to discredit any work for daring to violate the protocol of pretended suprapolitical objectivity.’ Edward W. Said, Orientalism (1978)

Mary Klages then focuses on Edward Said and his iconic ‘Orientalism’ where he posits that a ‘discourse works to create ‘knowledge’ about a supposed ‘racial’ group’. He uses the example of anthropology and shows how it was a discipline used to create ‘knowledge’ from the perspective of the dominant culture, about the subaltern. He highlights that this knowledge wielded great power and aided the creation and growth of social attitudes, ideologies and practices that defined and delimited the group or culture in question.

‘Said uses the word ‘orientalism’ to refer to the set of discursive practices, the forms of power/knowledge, that Western Anglo-European cultures used to produce (and hence control) a region of the globe known as ‘the Orient’.

It is evident that ‘Orientalism’ depends upon the binary opposition ‘occident/orient’ (west/east). What is interesting to note, however, is that the ‘orient’ is whatever is east of the Anglo-European perspective’. This becomes clearer when one sees that England is the place where time and space begin (Greenwich, England’s GMT (0:00) is what the rest of the world measure time in relation to. Similarly, 0º longitude that runs just east of London is the ‘starting point’ of global navigation.).
Even cultural knowledge about, and representations of, ‘the Orient (al)’ constructed by the West make it a place of ‘otherness’.

Consider the following:

Note that the Orient is everything that the Occident does not want to be. Simply, the West’s construction of the Orient is a projection of all that the West considers negative or has to keep repressed. By placing all forms of ‘otherness’ on the Orient, on the right side of the binary opposition, the Occident can construct itself as all positive.

‘The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much, What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice too…’
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)

The history of imperialism is the history of discourses about colonized places in various forms (official government reports, personal travel narratives, imaginative fiction…) and even this creation of discourse about a colonized culture, unmistakably, works also to silence that colonized culture, which cannot ‘talk back’, or write about itself. Any attempt to do so is considered illegitimate, non-knowledge, nonsense.

Postcolonial theory is concerned with what happens when the formerly colonized culture actually begins to produce knowledge by and of itself, insisting upon making itself heard. In such a situation, thinking about it via deconstruction, the binary oppositions ingrained in the culture’s psyche begin to fall apart, resulting in newer and hopefully more accurate ‘knowledge’ (conceptions).

In connection with this deconstruction of binary oppositions, Klages discusses the works and theories of three thinkers: Henry Louis Gates Jr., Homi Bhabha and Gloria Anzaldua.


  • Connection between postcolonial theories and contemporary African-American theories
  • His article- ‘The Blackness of Blackness: A Critique of the Sign and the Signifying Money’

Familiar to literary theorist’s post-Saussure, ‘signifying’ is typically used in the context of ‘signification’. In African-American cultural usage, the same term takes on a different meaning; that of what Gates calls ‘the dozens’, calling out, rapping and testifying. He insists that this ‘signifyin’’ is not just how African-Americans talk as a natural consequence of little/improper education or because they don’t know the ‘correct’ (where ‘proper’ would be that which is ‘hegemonic dominant cultural’, or ‘white’) forms of speech; rather, the activity of signifyin’ comes from an African and African-American tradition, just as classical rhetoric comes from the tradition of Greek and Latin modes of speech. He traces the roots of black signifying to African mythology and specifically to the archetype of the ‘Signifying Monkey’.

‘Signifying’ therefore, is ‘a form of verbal play, centering primarily on the insult, whereby people can demonstrate a mastery of improvisational rhyme and rhythm; the demonstration of such verbal mastery is a mechanism for empowerment within communities where other forms of power- political, economic- are unavailable.’

This practice is linked to the mythological figure of the Signifying Monkey, who is able to trick the more powerful animals in the jungle through his verbal skills. The link between the two is on at least two levels:
(i) the figure, and the practice, come directly from African cultural mythology, and
(ii) the figure of the Monkey in particular, plays on the racist construction of Africans as apes, and therefore less human than whites. The Signifying Monkey thus takes a figure from the white racist idea of blackness and refigures it and signifies on it so as to represent ‘a person with verbal power and the ability to stir up conflict between those who have more social power than he does’, a far cry from the construct of the ‘inferior monkey’.

Gates also looks at the Signifying Monkey as a subject position within language, at the fringes of ‘correct’ i.e. hegemonic, dominant cultural forms of speech. In this position, the Monkey is able to use words with greater flexibility and signify and shift meanings (fluidity), as compared to the speaker closer to the center of language. ‘Gates celebrates the subversive power of fluid language to disrupt existing hierarchies which create binary relations of domination and subordination’.


What does need to be questioned, however, is the mode of representation of otherness.’
Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (1994)

  • Ethnicity

  • Ethnic cleansing

  • The race-ethnicity-nationality connection

  • Identity (examination: humanist model and poststructuralist perspective)

  • ‘Overdetermined’ and multiply constructed

  • Capitalism as ‘connective narrative’

Primary focus: ‘Hybridity’ and ‘Imagined Communities’
People determined by/part of more than two ideologies or those who are not part of any discourse are said to occupy a ‘hybrid’ position, in Homi Bhabha’s words. Such hybridity is inherently deconstructive, as it breaks down any possibility of a stable binary opposition. Klages says ‘any place where you can cross categories, inhabit two subject positions at once, or find the space between defined subject positions, is a place of hybridity’. Examples include refugees, transsexuals, women etc…
Bhabha then moves on to argue that the idea of a homogeneous, stable concept of belonging to a nation becomes prone to profound redefinition once we recognize the idea of hybridity. He says we belong to ‘imagined communities’ that shape our identity and that we claim as our own. Nationality is an example of one. Hybridity challenges the idea of a unified ‘imagined community’ by bringing up the idea that one might belong to many communities or cultures at once.

Bhabha is interested in forces and identities that destabilize the idea of a homogeneous ‘imagined community’ and argues that the concept of ‘nation’ is built upon the exclusion (or even extermination) of those who are described as not belonging to the nation. He concentrates on refugees as an example. ‘The performance of identity as iteration, a re-creation of the self in the world of travel, the resettlement of the borderline community of migration, is where Bhabha locates the project for those not included in unified definitions of ‘nationhood’’, says Klages. One important place where this happens, according to Bhabha, is in literature. Literature has, for long, been solely associated with nationality but, times have changed and literature needs to give voice to the transnational, the hybrid, the postcolonial and the refugee experience. This, he says, will, in fact act as a transformation tool that will change how we think about literature itself.


Homi Bhabha’s idea of the ‘hybrid’ finds a parallel in Gloria Anzaldua’s concept of ‘the border’. The border is both the space between cultures, classes, races, ideologies- the slash- and the place where they meld and mix (both sides of the slash and on neither side of it).
Anzaldua, in her essay, focuses on naming ‘the multiplicity of identity formations she inhabits simultaneously and contradictorily’. Her views concur with that of (post)structuralists who maintain that language speaks us. She asserts that ‘ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity- I am my language’. But those who occupy ‘the border’, she says, are ‘deslanguadas’ (without language)- ‘a linguistic nightmare, those who speak an orphan tongue and therefore culturally crucified’.
It is important to note that while Bhabha fights for the necessary presence of hybridity in literature, Anzaldua asks in what language such texts can or should be written, especially when one’s language is illegitimate or otherwise unacceptable.
Anzaldua’s own essay, in English and Spanish, embodies her answer to this problem. Anzaldua sees her linguistic mixture as a mode of empowerment, rejecting both sides of a choice structured as a binary opposition. Here again, one sees the fluidity of such a de-centered subject position. She claims this fluidity as a form of power: ‘Maimed, mad and sexually different people were believed to possess supernatural powers by primal cultures’ magico-religious thinking. For them, abnormality was the price a person had to pay for his/her inborn extraordinary gift’.

References and Recommended Reading:

· Pinto, Anil. Race and Postcolonialism. Christ University. Mar. 2011. Lecture

· Young, Robert J.C. Postcolonialism A Very Short Introduction. Rev. ed. 2007. India: OUP, 2003. (Available in the Christ University library, MA Philosophy section)

· Said, Edward W. Orientalism. Ed. 2001. India: Penguin Books, 1978. (Also available in the Christ University library)

· Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Ed. 1994. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1902. (Also available in the Christ University library)




(Class Presentation: 12 March, 2011)

Sundar Sarukkai, the author of Translating the World, was trained in physics and philosophy. Within his essay “Translation and Science”, Sarukkai reviews the domains of translation and science because, for him, the activity of science shows striking similarities with that of translation.

Sarukkai’s primary definition of translation is that of any activity undertaken in response to an original. According to Sarukkai, for Science, that original is the world; and for translation (in the ordinary sense), it is the source text. Sarukkai contends that while there are differences between what is normally called translation and what is called science, on the level of abstraction, however, the similarities between them are overwhelming. While classical theories of both claim that they are quintessentially non-interventionist, Sarukkai argues that in fact, ‘both’ are necessarily mediated interpretations. The entire essay seems to be drawing connections and similarities between the activities of science and of translation, implying that the activity of science ‘is’ a translation.

In the essay, Sarukkai studies language in relation to science and suggests that one useful theme in studying this relation is that of ‘translation’. He observes that the idea of translation has appeared sporadically in philosophy of science, but feels the scrutiny is severely inadequate. Even when it is studied, he claims, it is only the “naive view of translation” that is taken into consideration. Such an approach, he feels, does not do justice to the complexities inherent in translation. And it is by paying heed to these complexities in translation that will allow one to realise the intrinsic link between science and translation.

He observes that science harbours a suspicion towards language (thus favouring the language of mathematics and symbols as opposed to ordinary spoken/written language). Similarly, language too harbours a suspicion towards translation and this has allowed the view that translation is “essentially a secondary activity, derivative and dependent on the idea of an original text”. He highlights the commonality of the two domains in their “naive views”: the naive view of translation harbours the belief that translations only change the language of the text but continue to keep its ‘essence’ intact; the naive view of science harbours the illusion that it can “distill ideas outside the purview of language”, thereby objectively transcribing the world.

Sarukkai’s immediate concerns regarding scientific discourse and translation are: science discourse has engaged with translation predominantly on the basis of the naïve view of translation. Philosophical and literary considerations of translation have been absent in scientific discourse – surprising, since the discourse has moved from one language system to another as well as deals on the level of textuality too. Translation has been invoked in various other contexts of science, he admits, such as the ‘incommensurability thesis’ for example, but has been inadequately studied. So he hopes to highlight the common grounds scientific discourse and translation share so as to draw attention to their similarities and thereby open the realm of translation within the philosophy of sciences to much needed debate.

The similarities between scientific discourse and translation are overwhelming for a number of reasons for Sarukkai. They are listed below:

*If translators are readers of the source text they translate, scientists are readers of “the book of nature”, which they then translate.

*Both, scientific discourse and translation subscribe to the ‘naïve view’ – regarding the ‘essence’ that remains unchanging and that can be captured and transferred objectively.

*In the philosophy of science, the idea of translation is implicit – in the context of interpretation, science is seen as “reading the book of nature”.

*The notion of ‘original’ is important to both domains – science attempts to write the text of the ‘original’ world, and it is in response to this that categories like ‘verification’ and ‘approximation’ arise.

*Roman Jakobson’s tripartite classification of types of translation – intralingual, interlingual, and intersemiotic – can be applied within the context of scientific discourse.

Intralingual Translation: translation within the same language – when we use different words and phrases to communicate similar meanings. These synonyms/synonymous phrases, however, will face the problem of equivalence in meaning since they can only be ‘similar’ and never the ‘same’ in meaning.
In science, the problems associated with incommensurability thesis arise here. The thesis responds to the belief that theories in science are ‘built’ upon each other, thereby implying that the concepts and entities referred to in one theory remain the ‘same’ when used in another theory, although in a different context. Incommensurability about theories maintains that it will not be possible, in general, to translate a term from an old scientific theory to a new one (because of the changing historical and differing social contexts in which the words first gained currency), if by translation is meant the complete carryover of meaning in these terms.

Interlingual Translation: involves rewriting a text in one language into another, thus converting a text written in the source language (SL) to one written in the target language (TL).
In science, when scientific texts get translated from one language to another it is interlingual translation. Scientific discourse is increasingly written in the language of English only fairly recently, and in the past, seminal works have been written in various other languages – German, Russian, and French, to name a few. It is indeed remarkable, notes Sarukkai, that these diverse texts in different languages have been rewritten and expressed in one language, English, with scarcely any mention of the problems present in translating from one language into another. They open up obvious questions such as why should the problems of translation not be present in translating scientific texts from other languages to English? Are the problems of equivalence, faithfulness, communication of meaning and so on not present in these texts? Or is it that they exist but are seen to be unimportant in the context of science? If so, who makes this judgment, and why?

Intersemiotic Translation: a translation of verbal signs by means of signs of nonverbal sign systems – for example, articulating emotion through writing and portraying that same emotion through acting on stage in theatre; it is a translation on the multiple levels of semiotic systems – from one semiotic system (writing/textual) into another (acting/theatrical).
In science, scientific texts are essentially multisemiotic in nature, continuously moving from symbols to natural language (ordinary language used to write scientific discourses) and vice versa. Sarukkai draws attention to the fact that in the case of mathematics, there is always the ‘presence’ of intersemiotic translation in the way we continuously interpolate from symbols to natural language. The semiotic system of mathematics does not derive any meaning without prior reference to natural language. A ‘+’ symbol can function as addition only if it is interpreted (through natural language) as the act of adding elements to arrive at an accrued number. In reading and writing the scientific text, Sarukkai maintains, there is always a movement from one semiotic system to another. There is no other mechanism, other than translation, Sarukkai affirms, that can effectively explain how it is possible for us to generate ‘coherent’ meaning of such texts. The use of diagrams, figures, tables, charts, and so on are typically constituents of the scientific discourse that relates scientific activity to the concerns of intersemiotic translation.

Note 1: The common feature here between scientific discourse and translation, in the context of Jakobson’s classification, is that they share the problem of ‘complete equivalence’ – which is never possible for any of these three types.

Note 2: ‘Original’ for translation studies is a primary impulse and refers to the source text; for Science, it is the world as presented to us – hence science is also a translation.

While these ideas of translation studies are clearly present in scientific discourse, their presence appears to have been ‘erased’ – But how?

Understanding how science erases the presence of translation in intralingual translation: in opposition to the incommensurability thesis, the words that refer to objects allow for a common reference in different theories; these seem to function as ‘names’, thereby erasing the problem of equivalence. In this way, ‘names’ (when they are treated like proper names) do not get questioned but rather get ‘carried forward’ without debate. An ‘atom’, therefore, will remain an ‘atom’ regardless of the contextual implications it has gathered from its inception to date.

Understanding how science erases the presence of translation in interlingual translation: diverse texts in different languages have been re-written in English, but somehow problems of translation never gain attention. One reason, according to Sarukkai, is the subordinate position that natural languages are assigned in scientific discourse, privileging the language of mathematics; ‘insubstantial’ content (natural languages) Vs. ‘essential’ content (mathematical language).

Understanding how science erases the presence of translation in intersemiotic translation: scientific texts, for Sarukkai, prefer to gloss over the issue of translation to present a ‘unified’ text, as if the problem of translation across different semiotic systems is absent. Hence the tables and charts and diagrams are chosen to be read in conjunction with the supporting natural language texts, as one text in its entirety, rather than scrutinized in isolation.

Note: All three ways of erasing translation debates from science shows the idea of ‘invariance’ and the ‘invariant core’ (the unchanging essence), which are also ideas present in translation studies.

*Scientific texts are written in natural and symbolic languages – and also are not one uniform genre as is portrayed. Translation studies shows how the intermarriage of different genres is problematic and this too exists in science discourse, even if not paid adequate attention to.

*Since most scientific texts read like prose (introduction, chapter divisions…), Sarukkai uses Lawrence Venuti’s arguments of “minor literature” and “authorship” to understand scientific discourse better, especially in terms of articulating the tensions in translation.
Minor Literature: when a dominant standard dialect minoritizes its variables such as group/regional dialects, jargons etc. and foreignises the heterogeneity in favor of a dominant homogeneity, it creates a sense of ‘foreign-ness’ out of the heterogeneous minority. Although this ‘foreign’ component is very much a part of the dominant unit, it gets lost in translation and goes unnoticed.
In scientific discourse, the subjugation of natural language (as sub-text) in favor of the dominant mathematical language (which the discourse claims is the language of nature) can be seen as the ‘minor’ literature; and goes unnoticed in the process of translating the world.
For Venuti: “Good translation is minoritizing: it releases the remainder by cultivating a heterogeneous discourse, opening up the standard dialect and literary canons to what is foreign to themselves, to the substandard and the marginal.”

Authorship: Venuti speaks of authorship and legitimizing the ‘original’ in translation studies through the source text’s (legitimate) association with the ‘original’ author. In comparison, the translation is illegitimate in that it has an illegitimate association with the original author through the translator.
In scientific discourse, Sarukkai points out, scientists are never the original authors. They can only write, rewrite, and translate the world as original. The first authorship, the one who holds copyrights over the translation, is the world. Scientific discourse only opens up the text of the world, one that is already ‘written’.

In this sense, scientific discourse is always derivative and always a translation. Therefore, it is a ‘pseudotranslation’ in that it abdicates responsibility, and also bestows an ability to say something on somebody else’s behalf.

*Finally, Sarukkai uses the concept of ‘dubbing’ to draw parallels between science and literary concerns of translation. Dubbing presupposes the idea of an original and implies a translation that retains the ‘essence’, suggesting that in visual media, language plays a secondary role in comparison to the visuals in that it uses lip synchronization (visual) to cover up the dubbing (language) aspect. Dubbing also implies ‘multi-layering’ of texts – the larger question is, do all layers get translated? Or only the parts dominantly held as relevant?
In Scientific discourse too we see these parallels drawn by Sarukkai. Natural language plays a secondary role; multi-layers are seen through the multi-semiotic nature of the discourse, and the movement from one semiotic system to another involves the process of dubbing. Labeling of diagrams, figures and tables, for example, is similar to the process of sub-titling. Just as language is changed but the visuals are retained in dubbing, mathematical equations are many times retained but the ‘language’ related to the specific problems is changed.

Thus, for Sarukkai, the task of reading of the world, as science undertakes, involves all these aspects of translation and needs to be studied in more detail to understand the sociological and philosophical nature of scientific discourse.

Monday, March 14, 2011


(Class Note: 16 December, 2010)

Translation Studies as an academic discipline is still largely uncertain in terms of dwelling on the epistemology in translation. And this is probably one of the main reasons why translation is looked at as a secondary activity – derivative and dependent on the idea of an ‘original’ text. Translation Studies as a domain of knowledge production, too, has had very little scholarship. Also, nearly all translation theories are ‘literary theories’ which do not include translation questions regarding the Sciences.

As a result, during the translation studies classes, many questions regarding the scope of translation studies were raised with regard to whether it is limited only to the domain of literary studies or could it also be extended to all disciplines that used translations. More specifically, the aspect of translations within the Sciences was of special interest to the class. Would the politics of translation still be relevant to the domain of the Sciences? Is the scrutiny of problems in translation (especially political problems) a habit of the Social Sciences and not concerned with the Sciences? Is translation in Science, then, merely an act that will transfer content from one language to another and bypass the translation-problems associated with languages? Does that mean that scientific content is universal, objective and always translatable?

Going by Kantian epistemology, it appears to be so. Kantian philosophy is systematic and can be studied as distinct areas. They can be broadly classified based on his three seminal works as the areas of ‘Science’, ‘Ethics’, and ‘Aesthetics’: Critique of Pure Reason (structure of reason, metaphysics; ‘The Sciences’); Critique of Practical Reason (ethics; ‘The Social Sciences’); and Critique of Judgment (art, beauty, taste; ‘Aesthetics’). The discrete boundaries seem to avoid coinciding with one another. The Sciences will study matter (physics), changing matter (chemistry), matter that has life (botany), and matter that has life as well as consciousness (zoology). The Social sciences will be concerned with ethics; ‘how’ one must think, how one ‘can’ think. Aesthetics would look at how to experience pleasure and beauty of the arts without any value judgments. For Kant, philosophy doesn’t fit into any of these domains. Rather, philosophy will help reflect on these domains; hence, we have Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Social Sciences etc.

Traditionally, translation studies could be located within the domain of Aesthetics. The questions seemed to be roughly along the lines of whether the pleasure one got from the source text could be achieved in the same way in the translated text. Much of the theoretical discussions seem to be in the Aesthetic domain, which is not really about meaning but about aesthetic experience guised as meaning. However, there are the ethical questions that looks at the politics involved in translation, concerned with the domain of the Social Sciences. These kinds of questions seem not to encroach into the domain of the Sciences. This suggests that translation questions need to be different in the Kantian epistemology with regard to the Sciences as compared to those asked within Aesthetics and the Social Sciences. It also suggests that science translation should be easier since it is a descriptive domain. But if that is true, then why can’t science translation be universal?

It was in this context of reflecting on translation studies that the following questions/debates were raised in class:

*Should we translate science at all?
Well, Yes, because then theory/knowledge becomes accessible to that speech community, thereby allowing for further theory/knowledge production.

*Problems in science translation are different because it is a discipline entrained in experiment. So if the translation is wrong, the result will not be achieved or it may produce different results.

*Translating formulae seems to be problematic. Mathematical symbols and the number system have to become universalized in which case the target language may have to accommodate or even invent a different phonetic system to accommodate the formulae. For example, how would one translate E=mc2?

*Translation as a branch of linguistics can only be looked at in terms of a descriptive discipline (like Science) and cannot account for the questions of, say, ‘power’ coming from postcolonial studies because then, it goes into the domain of the social sciences which take up such questions.

Finally, it was strongly suggested that a study of translation theory be extended beyond the boundaries of literary translation debates and be compared with translation debates that exist within the other domains – especially that of the Sciences. One immediate proposal was to study work done by physicist and philosopher Sundar Sarukkai, such as “Translation and Science”. Perhaps crossing boundaries and venturing into different disciplines in this manner would be the key to unlocking the epistemological possibilities of translation studies.

BA IV Semester EST 431 Literary Theory Study questions for End semester

Following are the study questions on BA IV Semester EST 431 Literary Theory Study put together by II year CEP students. Special thanks to Natasha Vijay of II CEP and those who contributed and questions.


What is Literature?
  1. How does Eagleton explain and critique the Formalist view of literature?
  2. Comment on L.A Richard’s experiment
  3. Explain the various objectives raised to different views of what constitutes literature
  4. What is literature according to Terry Eagleton?
  5. Explain Eagleton’s argument against objectivity.

  1. How can Sausure be deconstructed?
  2. What is the influence of Levi Straus on deconstruction?
  3. Contrast the bricoleur to the engineer
  4. What is the center according to Derrida? Can the center be removed?
  5. Describe certain binaries and show how they can be deconstructed.

  1. What does Lacan mean when he says that the phallis connects the signifiers to the signifieds in light of his previous statement that the signified is lost in a chain of signifiers.
  2. In the imaginary stage, although there is a lack, there is no language. How can this be explained?

Queer Theory
  1. Illustrate the stance taken by Butler regarding subject positions in Queer theory
  2. What are the major concerns of gay and lesbian studies?
  3. What does Butler say about the category “woman”?
  4. How do Queer theorists challenge the feminist concept of sex and gender?

Ideology and Discourse
  1. What is Marxist theory?
  2. How does Marx structure the world in terms of capital and economics?
  3. What is the ideal mode of production?
  4. Talk about the concept of alienation of the worker in terms of Marxist theory
  5. How does discourse create a relationship between power and knowledge, according to Focault?
  6. What does Althusser talk about in his essay ideology and ideological state apparatus?
  7. What is the difference between ideology and ideologies?

  1. Define modern, modernism, modernity
  2. Who wrote the book “Postmodern conditions; report on knowledge”
  3. Who says “We are in the realm of hyper reality?”
  4. Explain the Rhizomatic model narratives
  5. Discuss Arboresnce with respect to Deleuze and Guattari.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Science Studies Journal

Science Studies Journal

Film Appreciation Course at FTII, Pune from 16th May to 11th June, 2011

      A four-week full-time course in FILM APPRECIATION will be held at Pune from 16th May to 11th June, 2011 under the joint auspices of National Film
    Archive of India and Film & Television Institute of India. The course is primarily designed to meet the needs of teachers interested in introducing film study activities in educational institutions, film society organisers, film critics, journalists, film researchers, Govt. officials handling films and others interested in films. The curriculum includes theoretical and practical study of the art and history of film and the development of cinema as a medium of art and communication. Film classics both Indian and International will be used for critical analysis and study. 1. The medium of instruction would be English. 2. The applicant should have completed 21 years of age as on 01.04.2011 3. The course fee of Rs.7,500/- should be remitted by Demand Draft in favour of "Accounts Officer, Film & Television Institute of India, Pune" only after the confirmation of selection. Fees once paid will not be refunded. 4. This is a non-Residential Course. However, participants will be assisted in availing of boarding facilities in nearby hotels or lodges at concessional rates.  Advance copy of the duly filled in application in the prescribed format can be submitted through e-mail to nfaipune AT Hard copy of the application alongwith administrative fee of Rs.200/- (Rupees two hundred only) by Crossed Demand Draft payable to Accounts Officer, FTII, Pune should reach the following address on or before 04.04.2011 : The Director, National Film Archive of India, Law College Road, Pune - 411 004. N.B. -The application will be considered only on receipt of Administrative fee.   DOWNLOAD FORMS: FORMAT OF APPLICATION:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Study Questions on BA EST431 Literary theory Course - PSEng, JPEng, CEP

Following are the study questions on BA EST431 Literary theory  Course composed by II year PSEng students on 10 Mar 2011. Hats off to them. Special thanks to Susan, Fathima, Margaret for co-ordinating the workshop output. 

What is Literature?
1. What is literature according to Terry Eagleton?
2. What does Terry Eagleton say about the notion of literature being defined as-
i. imaginative writing (fact vs fiction)
ii. uses language in peculiar ways.
iii. depending on content.
iv. self referential language.
v. "fine writing"
3. Why does Jacobson speak of literature as "organized violence committed on ordinary speech"?
4. Explain the Formalists view of literature.
5. In your opinion, should there be a fixed definition for what constitutes literature? If so, what?
6. What is your personal understanding of literature and its influence on you?

What is Literary Theory?
1. What is "literary theory" according to Klages?
2. How can any kind of writing qualify as "literature"? How do you judge them as "valuable"?
3. How can we distinguish "literature" from other kinds of texts?
4. What is "close reading"?
5. Why is "literary theory" considered a necessary and valuable part of a literary education?
6. What is "literature"?
7. How do we use "literary theory" in our daily life?
8. What is the "product" of studying "literature"?
9. "What we call 'literary theory' really ought to be named something like 'world theory'..." Do you agree with the statement? Explain.

Plato and Aristotle
1. Compare and contrast Plato and Aristotle's views on Art.
2. Differentiate between Plato and Aristotle's ideas on Form.
3. What are your view on "Reason" as a process of logical deduction? Keep in mind the Platonic and Aristotelian perspectives.
4. Censorship of media content is critical in maintaining order in society. Do you agree or disagree? Use the views of the thinkers in our syllabus to substantiate your stance.

Humanist Literary Theory
1. "Poetry is a useful teaching tool". Explain according to Horace's views.
2. After reading from Horace to Mathew Arnold, do you view poetry as pleasurable reading or a teaching tool? If you disagree with both, specify why.
3. Talk about poetry in respect to subjectivities keeping in mind the views of Edmund Burke.
4. When Joseph Addison views poetry as pleasure, what insight does it give us? What's your take on it?
5. What is the negative capability according to John Keats and why is it important for art?
6. How do the views from Horace to Mathew Arnold reflect the Humanist approach?

1. How does Levi Strauss build on Saussure's theory of language?
2. Explain the study of Myth according to Claude Levi Strauss.
3. Explain the theory of Signification.
4. Explain the study of Myth with regard to Oedipus Complex by Levi Strauss.
5. Explain the ideas of "Langue" and "Parole".

1. How does deconstruction problematize structuralism?
2. Illustrate the role of the centre in holding the structure together in deconstruction.
3. Explain "Bricolage" with an example.
4. What does Derrida uncover in Levi Strauss' problems "the elementary structure of Kinship"?
5. What is Derrida's critique of primacy speech over writing in his deconstruction theory?

1. Trace the Psychosexual development of humans by Sigmund Freud.
2. How is psychoanalysis useful to the study of literary criticism?
3. Why does Freud consider that women are not suitable to be the rulers and shapers of civilization?
4. Discuss the three stages of Polymorphous perversity according to Lacan.
5. Why does Lacan consider boys to be closer to the Phallus than girls?
6. Differentiate between Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis.
7. What is the difference in the stages of polymorphous perversity as dealt with by Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis?

1. What is the difference between the pre-post structuralist and post structuralist feminism?
2. Explain the concept of "l'ecriture feminism".
3. What is Feminism according to Helene Cixous and the concept of Medusa?
4. Explain the post structuralist view of feminism.
5. Briefly portray the background of feminist ideology.
6. Explain Feminism in relation to Literature.
7. What is "Jouissance"? What is the importance of the concept in feminist ideology?
8. Explain the concept of "sexuality" in feminism.
9. How does Luce Irrigaray substantiate her take on "this sex which is not one"?

Queer Theory
1. What are the contributions of feminist theory of the formation or basis of the queer theory?
2. Explain the two basic approaches to the understanding and categorizing of human sexuality.
3. Do you think Queer theory (as mentioned in the syllabus) is relevant in the context of the Indian social structure?
4. How does Freudian Sexuality look at the operation of homosexuality and gender?
5. Does Judith Butler advocate the destruction or change of the traditional family structure? If so, how?
6. Explain homosexuality in terms of the oedipus complex. Explain Judith Butler's view on the same.
7. Explain why women should not be looked at as ontological entities according to Butler.

Ideology and Discourse
1. How do ideologies work? Do ideologies construct subjects?
2. Explain how Althusser, Bakhtin and Faucault's perception of ideology functions.
3. Explain Marxism and the Marxist theory in the light of literature.
4. According to Faucault, how does discourse create relationships of power and knowledge?
5. Explain Bakhtin's concept of Luteroglossia.

Race and Postcolonialism
1. Briefly outline the theories of post-colonialism and Orientalism.
2. Comment on the views given by Henry Louis Gates Jr. on "The signifying Monkey".
3. Compare and contrast the ideas of Gloria Anazaldua and Homi Bhaba.
4. What are your views on race and post-colonialism?
5. What according to Bhaba is the idea of a nation?
6. Explain Homi Bhaba's idea of Hybridity. In this context, what are your views on identity formation?
7. Explain Henry Gate's analysis of "Signifying" and "Signified".
8. Define Post Colonialism and explain its theory.
9. How does Race function as a signifying system? Explain in the Indian context.
10. Explain the West's projection of otherness on to the orient through the analysis of a relevant movie (other than Karate Kid which is used in the text)
11. What is Gloria Anzaldua's analysis of "the border"? And what is her theory on the multiplicity of language and identity formation?
12. How have structuralist theories influenced the theory of Post Colonialism?

Post Modernism
1. Define modernism and name the prominent authors associated with this movement.
2. What are the main characteristics of modernism?
3. How is post modernism similar to modernism and how do they differ?
4. What are Frederic Jameson's views on modernism and post modernism?
5. Differentiate between modernism and modernity.
6. What are the basic ideas of Enlightenment?
7. What are Jean-francois Lyotard's views on post- modernism.
8. Explain in brief Jean Baudrillard's views as a post-modernist.
9. Who are the authors of "Anti-Oedipus"? What are their contributions and views? What is a Rhizome?