Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 20-21 (March 1991) p. 2.


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Introduction

The first part of the seminar held in the summer of 1988 at the Kasauli Art Centre has been published in the last issue of the Journal of Arts <& Ideas (No. 19) under the title: Dialogues on Cultural Practice in India. The contributions by Kumar Shahani, Arun Khopkar, Ashish Rajadhyakasha, Sanjaya Baru and Sudipta Kaviraj, were grouped under the subtitle: Critical Frameworks. The second part is being published in this issue under the running title, Dialogues, and subtitled. Inventing Traditions. The contributions fall into two groups. Vivan Sundaram, A.G. Krishna Menon, Anuradha Kapur and Anup Singh refer directly to the question of inventing traditions as practitioners. Susie Tharu, Kumkum Sangari, Madan Gopal Singh and myself, we speak theoretically about the need for changing tracks once given directions can be seen to have been denuded by the rough ploughing of dominant ideologies.

While editing the enormous amount of speech recorded over a week of the seminar in Kasauli, Ashish Rajadhyaksha and I have tried to keep the polemical edge of discussions, on the one hand, and the deliberately encoded formulations, on the other. The reader will therefore encounter both an invitation and a resistance to fluent cultural discourse in these pages.

What the reader will notice in fact is a constant repositioning that takes place in the course of the arguments, a demonstration of reflexive thinking on and around a subject. As for example the subject of mythic representation and its political meanings in contemporary art forms. What is also noticeable is how there is a countering process set up by such a discussion between the women and the men round the table. I point this out not to highlight a rigid polarity which is thankfully far from the case. But to emphasize that the purpose of collective thinking is furthered when differentiated positions within a given historical ethos are thus marked. Women seem to want to interrupt the march of transcendent reason. They insist almost too much on historicity but tendon tiously, trying to work out generic deviations. Expressive conventions about myth, about the unconscious, about the self and its symbolisms are made to yield to voluntarist dislocations that align with history but perhaps in the way of two steps forward, one step back. Anuradha speaks of tragedy as a narrative form for contemporary theatre that wants to find a mode of address for imaginary communities when real communities are in serious jeopardy. Susie sets up a relay of doubts about literary assumptions in the recall of women's writings until a virtual anti-aesthetic is positioned. Kumkum speaks about the ironies of 'othering' in the name of the unconscious


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