Now you can view this blog on your mobile phones! Give a try.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rethinking Technology in Higher Education in India

Rethinking Technology in Higher Education in India[1]

Anil Pinto
 Dept of Media Studies, Christ University, Bangalore, INDIA.

 (Published in the journal ELT Vistas Vol 2, Issue 1. 58-63. Print. ISSN 0975-8526.)

While there have been many discussions on technology in higher education, especially in the context of language teaching, they have largely been either utopic or dystopic.[2] The former argues that technology is a panacea for all the difficulties that one faces in teaching in the regular classroom, and educational administration. The latter’s view would disagree with technology doing a better job than the human teacher. The second group also asks questions about the teacher becoming redundant with the technology, or the consequent loss of human touch in education. What is to be noted is that both the responses are a reaction to the phenomenon of the proliferation of the digital technology in the society and its direct and indirect bearing on the classroom.  However, both polemic positions ignore the complex ways in which the digital technology has come to redefine our engagement with the social- and the political aspects of our society and consequently also the classroom.

Before I begin to discuss digital technology in the context of higher education, I wish to clarify the use of some key concepts here. One is technology. Technology on the one hand has come to be understood as an object out there, and on the other, in recent times, to exclusively refer to high technology like mobile phones and computers. However, I draw upon the etymological understanding of the term technology which comes from the Greek word techne meaning skill or that which reduces human labour. By extension I treat script, print as technologies. Script and print are the two technologies that have redefined the way human societies were organised and their worldview.[3] Although there is no availability of evidence that can stand the rigour of academic inquiry to suggest that the digital is also a similar technology like that of print and script, empirical observation, and anecdotal evidence clearly points to such a direction.

I use the term digital technology in order not to group the new phenomenon under the rubric of other technologies as I wish to draw attention to the nature of the technology that defines it – digitality. I also use it to make a point that the digital technology is distinct in that “[m]uch like the print technologies the rise and emergence of digital technology seems to be producing new citizenships, forms of governance and public spheres of which … technology-mediated identities are a component.”[4]

Classroom although linguistically suggests a physical organisation of place within an enclosure of four walls where teaching-learning takes place, needs to be considered more as a space that emerges in a specific relationship between knowledge disseminator and knowledge ‘receiver’ within the norms and laws framed by the state or society. Such an understanding of the term will help in understanding the nature of the classroom in the context of distance, and internet-mediated learning. 

One of the reasons why the polemic positions regarding the digital technology arise is because of the tendency to concentrate only on the technology and not necessarily reflect on how do the technologies influence and sometimes transform or enable different subjectivities. The other reason is due to the tendency to treat the digital technology merely as another technology and thereby collapse the present development as belonging to the old developments of the television or print technology era.

Digital technologies have already unleashed a different imagination, behaviour and thinking that are changing the socio-political conditions as we knew them. These have already had a direct impact on the classroom. The use of mobile phones quite unapologetically, constant touch with the world outside the classroom through mobile phones, plagiarism that seems completely normal for the students, blogging, social networking among students based on political causes, academic needs, expressing academic disappointment, venting the grouse against the teachers and institutions in the cyberspace, institutions trying to woo prospective students through institutional websites  are some of the immediately perceived outcomes of this new condition.

What makes the phenomenon worth taking note of in India is the recent interest of the state to harness the internet technology to address the issues affecting the higher education. The Indian State has been allocating significant amount of money and putting organisations in place to not only make information and communication technology (ICT) part of existing higher education apparatus but also to look at creating a new system facilitated by the ICT alongside. Recently, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its go ahead for the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology. This mission costs Rs 4,612 crores in the 11th plan.[5] Indira Gandhi National University (IGNOU) is making its course material available online and allowing students to take exams online round the year for select courses. Quite a few universities are also shifting to making the course material available on their websites, or giving it in CDs.[6] These are some of the examples of existing universities trying to adapt to the changed social demands mediated by digital technology.

There is however, an inherent flaw within the present imagination which has brought ICT into the existing higher educational institutions which are trying to accommodate the ICT within the structure that is largely a legacy of the print era. For examples, one of the direct outcomes of the digital technology is to increasingly present knowledge as contested. This comes clearly in conflict with existing lecture method which assumes that there is definiteness to knowledge and the teacher’s reading and view is the sufficient proof of that.
The tensions one notices in the classroom or within academic institutions between teachers and students are also due to the way knowledge production has changed. During the print era formal knowledge production was the sole privilege of the scholars and researchers on which the teachers banked on. When knowledge production breaks the age barrier and in a typical classroom or an academic space you have students who are producers of knowledge in the cyber space, and teacher who has not involved in publication, tension in their relationship is inevitable. The teacher and the student going to the same source for information, for example, Wikipedia can also create new tensions in the power-equations between the teacher and the students.
Within the Indian higher education set up the present tension is due to the historical development of the borrowed university structure meeting the changed socio-economic and political conditions. First, in the Humoldtian imagination, a teacher in a university was supposed to be also a knowledge producer.[7] But the teacher for numerous reasons remained only as a knowledge disseminator. It is this historical role only as a knowledge disseminator that now has come to be challenged in Indian higher education due to state intervention which likes to see teachers as knowledge producers and not merely knowledge disseminators. Second, this state intervention comes along with the market demands for skilled labour from the universities which has made theoretical or conceptual learning seem like an aberration. Third, the exposure of Indian higher education to first world thanks to globalisation coupled with India’s global ambitions necessitated a global ambition of higher education.
However, none of these created a crisis in higher education for which the state now thinks of the ICT as an answer. The crisis that the state takes note of occurs when the three historical and contemporary issues meet the fourth historical development of India – higher education as a right – where increasingly various groups making claims to entry into higher education . The demand looks nearly impossible for the state to achieve within the present infrastructure and resources. Further, this claim to higher education as a right runs counter to the Humboldtian imagination of the university where the university is entrusted with the job creating a small elite class which will preserve the national culture.[8] Hence, the state turns to ICT as a way of addressing the crisis. In this context the digital technology becomes for the state what in communication theory is called the last mile solution. But the introduction the digital technology to address the crisis, only further takes the university away from its Humboldtian moorings.
The incorporation of the digital technology would call for a different type of organisation of the institution in terms of its curriculum, pedagogy, testing, evaluation, and administration. The idea of institution as buildings may require change. It might more of a cyberspacial presence. Curriculum may take on the coursework reading mode with blurring of disciplines where the reading material is made available online. This might even dissolve existing disciplines and create newer ones. Peer learning may replace face-to-face regular contact classes. Testing could become anytime, anywhere and may demand different levels of testing. Evaluation will undergo changes perhaps of which we do not have clear idea. The administrative set up of a university might undergo important change with the administrator becoming the most important person than the professor, a trend that is increasingly becoming a norm.[9]  

While the digital technology is likely to replace the physical teacher, it may not replace the symbolic teacher, and the research-teacher.[10] The symbolic teacher might be required to validate a skill or particular exposure to knowledge and methods of a domain of knowledge. However, the research-teacher is most likely to stay as the perhaps in a different role and function.

However, the most significant change that will occur would be the model of teaching-learning. With all the major interactions of human societies with technologies which consequently shaped them differently, if there was on  model that survived from the period of the script through print was the one to many model of the teaching.[11] It is this model that is under threat of becoming many-to-many model – a way in which the knowledge architecture on the cyberspace is built.

In conclusion, with the state initiative in proliferating ICT into existing traditional universities, and creating ICT based educational systems imparting higher education, the very structure and nature of higher education and classroom its microcosm, itself is emendable for change. Since, such a change is inevitable, while implementing the ICT it would be important to think about accommodating the technology enabled imagination within the re structuring of the institution of higher education.

[1] This paper is an outcome of the Digital Classroom course jointly taught by Ashish Rajadhyaksha, CSCS, Nishant Shah, CIS and me at Christ University, Bangalore.
[2] I owe this insight to Ashish Rajadhyaksha.
[3] Briggs, Asa and Peter Burke. A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet. Cambridge: Blackwell, 2002, pp 1-14.
[4] Shah, Nishant and Sunil Abraham. Digital Natives with a Cause? Bangalore: CIS, 2010, 23.
[5] Mukherjee, Shubra. ‘Education Plan Halfway’. Deccan Herald. 31 Jan 2010, pp 7.
[6] Gandhigram Rural University offers its M.Phil. course material in CDs.
[7] Readings, Bill. The University in Ruins. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp 15.
[8] Ibid.
[9] ibid, pp 8.
[10] This insight is from Anup Dhar of CSCS, Bangalore.
[11] This insight is from Anshis Rajadhyaksha.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

CONFERENCE: In Spotlight Again: English Language and Literature

AINET International Conference & 5th National & 9th Vidarbha ELTAI Conference, Nagpur
18-19 January 2013

Venue: VMIET Campus, Dongargaon, Wardha Road, Nagpur

Call for Proposals
Proposals are invited for the following kinds of presentations related to any of the conference focus areas:
 15 minute paper presentations
 30/ 60 minute workshops
 Poster presentations

Abstracts of papers, workshops or poster presentations (Max. 200 words) should be sent by email only in the given Presenter Proposal Format to vidcon2013 AT by 31 August 2012. All abstracts will be blind reviewed and will be subject to the approval of the Selection Committee.

Important Dates
Submission of proposals/ abstracts: 31 August 2012
Decision on proposals/ abstracts: 30 September 2012
Re-submission after revision, if applicable: 31 October 2012

Best Speaker Awards
The best presentations from amongst the delegates will be awarded the ‘Best Speaker Awards’. Presentations will be evaluated on the basis of innovativeness of idea(s), academic quality, practicability, relevance to the context and overall style.

How to Register?
Please  download the form from 

For Further Details Visit 

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Interrogation of Translation Studies through Self-translation

Reading More Intimately: An Interrogation of Translation Studies through Self-translation

Anil Joseph Pinto
Dept of English and Media Studies, Christ University, Bangalore

(Published in Salesian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 3, No 1, May 2012. Pp 66-73. ISSN 0976-1861.)

While the poststructural turn has made the study of translation more self-reflexive, it has not made translation studies scholars rethink the fundamental assumptions of translation process, which poststructuralism should have. As a result, many practices in the nature of ‘translation’ have not only got marginalised but have got relegated to absence, within translation studies. One such practice is self-translation. This paper tries to read the process of self-translation closely and thereby raise critical questions on the fundamental assumptions about translation. The paper will conclude by positing self-translation as an important domain for scholarly engagement by drawing attention to its potential to make translation studies more nuanced.


Translation studies, since the post-structural turn,  has evinced serious attention and concerns from diverse set of domains, namely post-colonial studies, feminism, and cultural studies, as against the old disciplines of biblical studies, linguistics, anthropology, and philosophy. The turn not only weakened previous  concerns and modes of inquiry which treated the need for translation as granted and the process as a natural one, but also began to question these very taken-for-granted positions. The whys and whats of translation became more important than hows. Consequently the how of translation found it extremely difficult to be a formula and got continuously problematised.

Self-reflexivity attained through poststructuralism showed that translation was not merely a linguistic exercise but strongly embedded in the political process of gender, colonialism, patriarchy, state and nation.

While postcolonial translation studies, post-theory, brought to the fore the unequal relations of cultures and languages within which the process of translations took place, feminists have looked at translations as not only subduing and displacing women’s work but also inscribing patriarchal and masculine agendas in them (Niranjana; Bassnett and Trivedi; Tharu and Lalita). The cultural studies has not only taken both the post-colonial and feminist concerns on board in the study of translations but also has looked at the role translation is playing in shaping identities and enabling different ways in which meanings are made.

Interestingly, most of the questions and concerns raised by these newer domains have also in a sense been universal in nature, encompassing all nations and races within their theorisation and marking the binaries, us and they, into which all would include.

However, in the ambitious universal concerns of these different domains only the model of translations across time and space became area of inquiry leaving out multiple other practices of translation which might not have been universal in nature. One such is self-translation.

The dominant imagination in translation studies is one of a second person, a person other than the author, translating the work of a person living or dead, in the same linguistic or national community or another linguistic or national community. Postcolonial questions have largely been raised in the context of a person from a colonising culture translating the works from the colonised culture and looked at the assumption of the coloniser getting embedded not only in the choice of texts but also in translating within the framework of the worldview of the coloniser. Studies influenced by cultural studies have taken the postcolonial interrogation further by showing how the translations by the colonisers not only shape the worldview of the colonised through the acts and products of translation but also the nature of reverse translations, i.e. translations of texts from coloniser’s language to the language of the colonised, and have shown the way these translation practices get materialised within the discourse of the coloniser, thus aiding and complementing the project of colonialism.

In the presumed model of translation in translation studies, because a second person translates a text, a serious debate on the faithfulness of translation emerges. In the case of self-translation, since the writers themselves translate, the question of faithfulness seemingly becomes irrelevant.

It needs to be noted that self translation also raises serious questions on the notions of original as well. In case of the self-translation what is original, the one written first or the one written later?  If that is so then, the original gets defined only in terms of chronology and not necessarily because of any inherent properties.

An interesting phenomenon is that self-translations are normally seen as original. For example Tagore’s Gitanjali is seldom seen as translation of its Bengali version. Similarly, people are hardly aware that all plays of Karnad were first written in Kannada, but for two.

The postcolonial studies, and feminist studies now find it difficult to engage with the phenomenon of self-translation as it does not easily lend itself to the assumptions of enquiries borrowed from translation studies. Such inability to engage with the phenomenon of self-translation also results in then questioning and threatening the boundaries and more importantly the legitimacy of the inquiries of these theoretical approaches in translation studies.

While there have been marginal interests in self-translation in some counties in southern Europe mainly in Italy, and parts of the United States of America and Canada, in most other countries there has hardly been any research activity in this domain. I have not come across any study in India on the self-translation questions other than an MPhil study done in one university in the South of India. There has been no recorded information about the publications in this area either.

Standard works on translation namely The Translation Studies Reader edited by Lawrence Venuti, Works of Eugene Nida, Susan Bassnett, Tejaswni Niranjana, Harish Trivedi, GN Devi, have no reference to this phenomenon. The only exception among standard works on translation is Mona Baker’s Routledge Encyclopaedia of Translation Studies which has an entry by Rainier Grutman on self translation.

The name for the practice of self-translation has also been contested. The first edition of Routledge Encyclopaedia of Translation Studies published in 1998 uses the term ‘auto-translation’ as against the 2009 edition which uses the word ‘self-translation’. However, the recently held conference on self-translation at Swansea University from 28 June – 1 July 2010 chose to title its conference ‘The Author-Translator in the European Literary Tradition’, thereby throwing in yet another term for the phenomenon ‘Author-translation’.

Considering that most recent studies and research publications choose to use the term self-translation, it is likely that the term self-translation will become more accepted. Although a Google search provides nearly 42,000 results for ‘self-translation’ as against 98,600 for ‘auto-translation’ and 64,000 for, ‘author-translator’, since auto-translation also signifies automatic, i.e., computer-mediated translation, and author-translator has overtones of pre-structuralist understanding of the presumed relationship of the writer to the text, self-translation seems a more suitable label.

Self-translation is a fairly common practice in non-literary writings, especially academic writings where scholars do translate their works to different languages for publication. While that is also an important area to interrogate, this paper intends to concentrate only on literary translations as it is this domain which has been much theorised by non-linguistics based scholars.

The position of self-translation in India was no better. In India it got subsumed within the broad term of bilingual translation.

Non-acknowledgement of self translations has perhaps been due to two reasons. One, given the multilingual nature of the country, there was no much opportunity of knowing whether the English version was an independent work or a ‘translation’ from the native language. The practice of most of the translator of not mentioning whether the work was a translation also has contributed to this silence.

The other way of arguing this point is by not insisting that they should have done it but looking for reasons for such practice – of not mentioning the self-translation as a translation.

In the case of Rabindranath Tagore he did not call his work a translation, perhaps partly because there was a re-writing of the poems rather than reproducing them faithfully from its Bangla version.

Down south Girish Karnad also does not mention that the plays in English are the translations of their counterparts in Kannada.

The phenomenon of not treating self-translation as translation is prevalent perhaps because even the publisher’s endorse of this view. If either of the writer or publisher had insisted on calling the ‘second’ work as translation, it would have been called so. Therefore, it can be concluded that there is a consensus between both the writer and the publisher in not referring to a successive work a translation.

One reason for this could be the dominant practice of calling translation only that wherein a text of a writer is rendered into another language only if it is done so by another person. This dominant imagination perhaps has caused such a practice of not calling a translation by writers of their own works not translation.

The second reason for the non-acknowledgement could be due to the prevalence of self translation largely in multilingual countries as against monolingual and economically dominant counties. The phenomenon of self-translation is seen in countries such as India, Canada, Brazil, and Italy which are not in the league of ‘theory producing’ countries. Hence, the practice then does not get the attention of theorists.

A third reason is predominance of bilingual writing. The idea of bilingualism was so strong that the practice of self-translation got associated with bilingual writing. Since most bilingual writers wrote in English and their purported mother tongue, it was taken for granted that the works in English were the ‘original’ works and not translations.

These points then beg the question what is self-translation? According to Rainier Grutman, “the term ‘self-translation’ refers both to the act of translating one’s own writings into another language and the result of such an undertaking” (2009).

Grutman makes a distinction between bilingual writers and self-translators. He notes that unlike the bilingual writers, self-translators make a conscious choice of creation in two languages. In the case of bilingual writers, the context determines their choice. In the case of self-translators in India, most importantly Tagore and Karnad, the primary work is in the native language, Bangla and Kannada respectively, and the successive recreation is in English, a language that allows communicating to readers in other languages and those from outside the country. It is also important to note that in both their cases the only ‘literary’ works would be written first in the native languages but that does not apply to  non-literary’ prose writing.

It cannot be overlooked that both Tagore and Karnad were part of the global academic community with significant exposure to the Euro-American life, language and academics, which may have shaped this phenomenon.

Old questions of faithfulness or new questions of unequal positions within which translations take place, which is otherwise called politics of translation, that have defined the scope of translation studies, are based on the premise that a translation is always done by a second person other than the writer of the source text. But if this assumption were to be disputed, one would then have challenged translation studies from within.

Consideration of self-translations therefore either will have to be seen as a separate domain of inquiry, independent of translation studies or as part of translation studies. The problem of considering it part of translation studies is that then translation studies will have to undo all the work that defined it. But considering self-translation as a separate domain will then raise questions about translation studies itself.

A more productive approach then would be to consider the questions being raised by the study of self-translations and reinvent the domain of translation studies leading to more fruitful insights into human societies.

What kind of questions can self-translation raise? The primary question it can raise is regarding the relationship of translation studies to text. Text for translation studies is the material text. The rendering of that material text in another language by a person other than the writer of the first text, constitutes translation for translation studies. This in turn draws attention to two features of translation, one the source text comes before the second text hence sourceness of the text is marked by chronology and not by something inherent in it. Two, that translation is only that which is done by the second person. This assumes that the first text has fixity. This fixity of the text can be challenged by a different kind of literary practice where Karnad writers a text in Kannada and then a similar one in English which of these would now constitute the source text. If one were to produce a Marathi version, and were to argue that an understanding derived from both the Kannada and English texts was considered for translation, then, the argument is already outside the scope of present translation studies. For then, the person is not translating the text but a particular reading.

The secondary and subsidiary question it can raise is regarding the idea of the original. The idea of the original is posited only in relation tot its inferior re-production by a ‘non-creator’. By the same principle if the creator were to create two works in two different languages of similar structure and content, which one of these is inferior, or which one of these is the original. If one were to apply this thought to translation studies then the idea of the source text/or original text assumes the translation by a person other than writer. Therefore, the originality is determined by not text but by presence of non-writer translator.

These questions that arise from considering self-translation within the domain of translation studies draw attention to the fundamental assumptions formed by translation studies by not considering all activities in the nature of ‘translation’ to be translation. This bypassing of such translation activities contributes fresh question for the stagnating domain of translation studies.

Works Cited
Bassnett, Susan, and Harish Trivedi, eds. Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 1999. Print.
Bassnett, Susan. Translation Studies, London: Routledge, 1991. Print.
Grutman, Rainier. ‘Self-transaltion.’ Routledge Encyclopaedia of Translation Studies. Ed.Mona Baker. London: Routledge, 1998, 2009. Web. 2 July 2010.
Mukherjee, Sujit. Translation as Recovery. Delhi: Pencraft, 2004. Print.
Munday, Jeremy. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. London/New York: Routledge, 2001. Print.
Nida, Eugene A. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1982. Print.
Nirajana, Tejaswini. Siting Translation: History, Post-structuralism, and the Colonial Context. Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1992. Print.
Tharu, Susie, and K. Lalitha.. ‘Introduction.’Women Writing in India from 600 BC to the Present. Vol. 1. New Delhi: OUP, 1992. Print.
Venuti, Lawrence, ed. The Translation Studies Reader. London: Routledge, 2001. Print. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

II National Students’ Conference on Literary and Cultural Studies

Centre for Comparative Literature
School of Humanities
University of Hyderabad

RAW.CON 2012
Researchers at Work Conference
II National Students’ Conference on Literary and Cultural Studies
25th – 27th September, 2012

RAW.CON or Researchers at Work Conference 2012 symbolizes a student initiative. We, the postgraduate and research students from the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, believe that a student conference would create a platform for the researching student community. Such spaces are valuable and would contribute a lot through discussions, exchange and sharing of ideas, interrogations and interventions on interdisciplinary studies from universities around the country. RAW.CON 2012 -- a three-day national students’ conference planned and organized by students and for students, with the support of the Centre and the University, is happening for the second consecutive year.

The focus is on Interdisciplinarity, urged by the need to transcend frontiers.  RAW.CON hopes to provide an ‘ideal’ legroom for researchers to think beyond disciplines, explore and test paradigms, yet be rigorous and mindful of the demands of quality research. We hope RAW.CON would provide a dynamic space/platform for upcoming scholars.

RAW.CON invites students and researchers from all over India for this fun-filled, three day conference. We invite papers on the following thrust areas:

De-Constructing Caste                                           Nations and Sub-nationalisms
Religion and Representation                                    Gendering Language
Centering Margins                                                 New Trends in Cinema
Re-reading Histories                                              Comparing Literatures
The Popular and The Academic                                Identities and Beyond
Translating Literatures and Cultures                         Media, Representation and Violence
Research papers in related areas are also welcome! In addition, we invite panels on issues of contemporary literary and cultural relevance.    

500 word abstracts (Maximum time for a single presentation is 20 mins) may be emailed to or snail-mailed to RAW.CON 2012, Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad – 500046.

Last date for submission of abstracts:      5th August, 2012
Intimation of selection:                           25th August, 2012
Submission of full papers:                       15th September, 2012