Kottayam Kerala 686 560 India

 National Seminar on

Texts and Contexts: Literature and Culture in Post-colonial India

4-5 December 2002


Wednesday, 4 December 2002

10.30 am – 11.30 am
Inaugural Session
Welcome            : P P Raveendran/ Meena Alexander
Chair                : Cyriac Thomas, Vice Chancellor

Lecture : Ayyappa Paniker

Release of Haritham 14

Vote of thanks            : K M Krishnan


11.45 am – 1.30 pm

Academic Session 1: Theoretical Contexts

            Chair: Meena Alexander


                        R Shashidhar (“Genesis and Amnesia: The Politics of Orientalism”)

                        Rajan Gurukkal (“The Politics of Postcoloniality”)

                        AK Ramakrishnan (“Orientalism and Globalization”)



2.30 pm – 4.30 pm

Academic Session 2: The Cultural Politics of Resistance

            Chair: P Balachandran


                        Nissar Ahmad (“Theorizing the Modernity in Kerala”)

                        Meena Alexander (“Rights of Passage”)

CB Sudhakaran (“The Social Collective: Cultural Text as

                                                                     Counter-hegemonic Discourse”)

                        Sherine Upot (“Colonizing Genres: Subversive Antics in ‘In an

                                                                      Antique Land’”)



Thursday, 5 December 2002

10 am – 11.45 am

Academic Session 3: Questions of Representation

            Chair: KC Kurian


                        Ajayakumar (“Re-presentation of the Visual)

                        CS Jayaram ((“The Fall of Icarus: Sense and Censorship in

                                                                                     Postcolonial Indian Art”)

                        CS Venkiteswaran (“Representation in Malayalam Cinema”)

                        AM Geevarghese (“Digital Remediation: The Case of the Afghan Girl”)




11.45 am – 12.45 pm

Poetry Reading

            Chair: KM Krishnan

            Poets: OV Usha, Meena Alexander, D Vinayachandran

12.15 pm – 1.30 pm

Academic Session 4: Texts and Co-texts

            Chair: Ummer Tharammel


TM Yesudasan (“The Grotesque in Contemporary Malayalam Cinema”)        

D Vinayacahndran (“The Folk Culture in Kerala”)

KM Krishnan (“Whose English Is It, Anyway?”)

P P Raveendran (“Genealogies of Indian Literature”)



2.30 pm –4.30 pm

Panel Discussion : Rethinking Indian Modernity

            Moderator: P P Raveendran


                        R Shashidhar

                        Jancy James

                        N Madhavan Kutty

                        Meena Alexander

Nissar Ahmed

                        Rajan Gurukal

National Seminar on

Texts and Contexts: Literature and Culture in Post-colonial India

4-5 December 2002




The National Seminar on “Texts and Contexts: Literature and Culture in Postcolonial India” was organized by School of Letters, Mahatma Gandhi University, at the University campus on 4 and 5 December 2002 with the support of the University Grants Commission and the United States Educational Foundation in India. Fifteen papers on aspects of literature and culture in India by scholars from South India were presented in the Seminar. The Seminar was attended by about eighty participants who included the MA, M Phil and Ph D students of School of Letters as well as teachers of English from colleges in Kerala.

The Seminar was formally inaugurated at 10.30 am on Wednesday, December 4, 2002 by the distinguished poet and critic Professor K Ayyappa Paniker in a meeting that was presided over by Professor Cyriac Thomas, Vice Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University. Professor Paniker in his inaugural lecture elaborated the postcolonial perspective in the analysis of literature and culture in contemporary India. Dr P P Raveendran and Dr Meena Alexander, Co-coordinators of the Seminar, welcomed the invitees and others attending the inaugural session, and Dr KM Krishnan, Lecturer, School of Letters proposed a vote of thanks.

The inaugural session was followed by four academic sessions and a poetry reading session. The papers read at the academic sessions were discussed threadbare by the participants. A detailed report on each session is given below:

Session 1: Theoretical Contexts: This session was held between 11.30  am and 1.30 pm on December 4. Three papers were presented in this session that was chaired by Dr Meena Alexander. The paper readers were Dr R Shashidhar (Chairman, Department of English, Mangalore University), Dr Rajan Gurukkal (Professor and Director, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University), and Dr AK Ramakrishnan (Director, School of International Relations, Mahatma Gandhi University). This was a truly interdisciplinary session in that in addition to the fact of each speaker belonging to a different subject discipline in the humanities, each had brought a cross-disciplinary approach to bear on his topic. While Dr Shashidhar in his paper entitled “Genesis and Amnesia: The Politics of Orientalism” focussed on the relations of power animating the orientalist discourse, Dr Gurukkal’s paper “The Politics of Postcoloniality” sought to unravel the political positions implicit in the postcolonialism debate. Dr Ramakrishnan in his presentation on “Orientalism and Globalization” focussed on the continued relevance of the questions raised by Said and others in the contemporary cultural context. Dr P P Raveendran, Dr Nissar Ahmed and Dr KM Seethi participated in the discussions.

Session 2: The Cultural Politics of Resistance: This session was held between 2.30 pm and 4.30 pm on December 4. Sri P Balachandran, theatre activist and Lecturer, School of Letters, chaired the session in which four papers were presented. Dr Nissar Ahmed (Professor and Head, Department of Philosophy, Sree Sankara University of Sanskrit, Kalady) read a paper on the problems of theorizing the modernity in Kerala (Title: “Problems of Theorizing the Modernity in Kerala”). Dr Meena Alexander’s paper entitled “Rights of Passage” focussed on her subjective experiences as a creative writer in a postcolonial world. Dr CB Sudhakaran (Department of English, Cochin College, Kochi), in his paper “The Social Collective: Cultural Text as Counter-hegemonic Discourse,” spoke on the element of resistance in the decentralized planning process initiated in Kerala. Dr Sherine Upot (Reader in English, School of Distance Education, Mahatma Gandhi University) in her presentation “Colonizing Genres: Subversive Antics in In an Antique Land” spoke on the element of resistance implied by the disruption of form in Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land. Dr Rajan Gurukkal, Dr R Shashidhar, Dr K M Krishnan and Dr AK Ramakrishnan participated in the discussions.

Session 3: Questions of Representation: This session held in the forenoon of December 5 was chaired by Dr Ummer Tharammel, Reader, School of Letters. There were four presentations on various aspects of non-literary representation in the session. In his presentation, accompanied by slideshow of paintings, Sri Ajayakumar (Principal, College of Fine Arts, Trivandrum), discussed various aspects of visual representation with a special focus on installation. Prof. CS Jayaram (Sacred Heart College, Thevara), in his paper, “The Fall of Icarus: Sense and Censorship in Postcolonial Art” analyzed the politics of gallery exhibitions and the extent of state intervention with reference to the  paintings of the renowned artist Surendran Nair. Dr CS Venkiteswaran, film critic, spoke of the various thematic and representational tendencies of contemporary Malayalam cinema. Prof. AM Geevarghese presented a postcolonial re-reading of the manipulative techniques of digitalized photography used in “rediscovering” an Afghan girl by the National Geographic magazine. The presentations were followed by active discussions that were led by Dr R Shashidhar and Dr Meena Alexander.

This was followed by a poetry session in which two poets, Sri D Vinayachandran and Dr Meena Alexander, read their poems.

Session 4: Texts and Co-texts: This session, which was chaired by Dr R Shashidhar, was held in the afternoon of December 5. Three papers were presented in this session. In his paper entitled “The Grotesque in Malayalam Cinema,” Prof. TM Yesudasan (Department of Englsih, CMS College, Kottayam) raised some pertinent questions on the growing tendency in recent Malayalam cinema to portray grotesque figures and tried to relate it to other issues like the star system prevailing in the cinematic culture. Dr KM Krishnan in his presentation “Whose English Is It, Anyway?” identified the presence of three distinct varieties and perspectives on Indian English fiction. Dr PP Raveendran in his paper on “The Genealogies of Indian literature” discussed some of the methodological problems involved in the conceptualization of Indian literature as a theoretical category by pointing to its constructed and historically contingent nature. The session was followed by lively discussions on issues pertaining to Indianness and Indian modernity, in which Sri Ajayakumar, Prof. CS Jayram, Dr Rajan Gurukkal, Sri Cijo Joseph and Dr Meena Alexander took part. The session came to a close at 4.30 pm.

Since several of the issues that were to be taken up in the scheduled panel discussion on “Rethinking Indian Modernity” came up for scrutiny in the session on “Texts and Co-Texts,” it was decided to abandon the panel discussion.

The seminar was wrapped up at 5 pm on December 5 with the concluding remarks of Dr P P Raveendran, who also proposed a formal vote of thanks to all those who had lent a helping hand in bringing the seminar to its successful conclusion.