New India's World

Workshop on New India's World. An invitation to rethink the question of novelty.

Organised by the Centre of Global South Asian Studies, Dept of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies Sponsored by FSE - The Danish Council for Independent Research - Social Sciences

Convenor: Ravinder Kaur

The idea of ‘new India’ has by now become shorthand for the forward march of a nation long deemed to be ‘held back’ by the tide of history. The suffix ‘new’ representing awe and excitement of novelty in our times is now firmly entwined with the process of economic reforms initiated more than two decades ago. The nation’s shift towards free markets and global capital, and its ascent as a prominent and desirable ‘emerging market’, is now central not only to the ongoing dramatic reconfiguration inside the social-political landscape, but also to the ways in which India presents itself and is perceived on the outside. That this acceleration into the future is widely believed to be led by the prosperous, highly skilled and aspirational middles classes is the subject of both popular celebration as well as scholarly debates. In fact, the overarching imaginary of a cosmopolitan global Indian middle class that is thought to have overcome the ‘old’ traditional structures of caste, religion and class itself hints at the yet unfolding conflicts and multiple mobilizations at work in shaping the ‘new’ in contemporary India. These fractures and fissures, and political coalitions and electoral arithmetic that had begun taking shape during the 1990s were brought to fore during the 2014 general elections.

The very idea of India, we are now told, is in a state of flux where the fundamentals are being questioned, challenged and revised. The crux of these arguments is that the Nehruvian era is finally over. Or put differently, the Nehruvian edifice that was steadily chipped away at since the economic reforms is now thought to be in an ultimate state of decay. What is less clear in this discourse however is the form of the new ideological scaffolding being put in its place. What is the shape and aesthetics of this new? And what forms of the past are effaced, and what are revived in the making of this new India?

This workshop is an invitation to rethink the question of novelty shaped around the dynamics of old/new, ancient/modern, authentic/inauthentic and vernacular/foreign from a location like post-reform India that is both unsettling and unsettled. The idea and aesthetics of novelty in post-reform India appear in a variety of interconnected discourses ranging from change, progress, development, innovation, mobility and aspirations to the yearnings for the original, the unblemished ancient past in the making of the future. Concurrent to this uplifting discourse, and almost considered inevitable, is the presence of the language of violence, conflict and marginalization deemed necessary in this epochal transition. This too is a manifestation of novelty that is often glossed over.

The workshop is the last in a series of public events organized as part of the international research programme ‘Nation in Motion: Globalization, Governance and Development in New India’ (2010-2015).

Finding the workshop venue