Academia made accessible

Updated: Jun 30, 2020, 12:09 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Mumbai's latest reading group on Instagram aims to simplify erudite subjects through interactive discussions

Satyajit Ray's posters for his movies, including Ghare Baire, were discussed last Sunday
Satyajit Ray's posters for his movies, including Ghare Baire, were discussed last Sunday

There is a post on Academic-ish, a new Instagram page that encourages reading groups, on what the definition of the Global South is. It says, "Global South is a less-hierarchical term than its predecessors [Third World or Developing World] and encompasses mostly [though not all] low-income and often politically or culturally marginalised countries." The post adds that the term includes countries outside of Europe and North America, and that dissemination of knowledge and policy-making is often skewed towards Western theories, as shaped by power relations over centuries through socio-political forces including colonialism. Academic-ish is thus an attempt at correcting that imbalance, the post states.

Saanchi Saxena and Rujuta Date, the researchers who started the page, corroborate this when we talk to them about it. Saxena says, "We wanted to focus on authors from the Global South because we were frustrated with Western theories in all our reading, whether in college or in academia." Their modus operandi is thus to pick a theme for each month and send out reading material on it to the people on their mailing list, who then meet for an online discussion every Sunday. "The main aim is to make academia accessible. We choose readings that anyone from any background can understand," Saxena tells us, while Date adds, "People, hence, have a chance to read something that they might not come across every day. A fiction book is something that you might easily pick up. But you might not read a paper on social or political theory as easily, even though it adds perspective. You might, for instance, read a speech that Dr BR Ambedkar gave to mill workers in the 1950s, and find connections to what is happening with labourers today."

Rujuta Date and Saanchi Saxena
Rujuta Date and Saanchi Saxena

The duo also says that they will bring in experts for the discussions, who will make interactive presentations to simplify the subjects. The discussion last Sunday was on Satyajit Ray's work as a graphic designer, and they roped in expert Devika Gupta, who shared her perspectives on film posters designed by Ray and the impact that his work has had on the graphic design industry. Saxena and Gupta aim to take these discussions offline, too, when the situation allows. Meanwhile, their efforts will continue in the online world to correct the imbalance that exists between the West and the Global South in academic circles.

Log on to @academicishweekly on Instagram

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