The two-day UGC-SAP national seminar on ‘Representations of Gender, Caste and Religion in Indian Writings’ concluded at Panjab University (PU) on Friday.
The two-day conference explored the politics that inform the representations of caste, gender and religion in literary and social paradigms through a serious of panel discussions and academic sessions.
During one of the academic sessions on Friday, Rainuka Dagar, director (Research) at Gender Studies unit, Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), explored the reasons for the legitimisation of gender constructs and cultures of violence through popular art forms and sociological research.
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Dismantling the monolithic constructs of caste, religion and gender, professor Pankaj Singh spoke about the identities that people end up associating themselves with. Reading from her latest book of poetry ‘Eating God’, noted poet Arundhati Subramaniam revealed the violence, eroticism and ferocity in Bhakti poetry. The relevant and socially controversial status of Khap Panchayats formed the focal point of professor Jagmati Sangwan’s activist perspective and professor Surajbhan, historian at Delhi University, focussed on the myth and reality of these bodies.
Issues such as construction of gender identities and literary representations of gender and caste in the works of Gurdial Singh and Mahasweta Devi and the questionable authority of the subaltern in cyberspace were dealt with on the second day. A discussion on the myths and realities of Khap Panchayats in the modern day was deliberated upon by Surajbhan Bharadwaj, associate professor at Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi, and social activist Jagmati Sangwan.
“In recent times, many incidents of honor killings have come to the forefront in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other rural belts of New Delhi. Even though these places have not been left out of modernisation in terms of facilities like educational institutions, health centres and developed infrastructure, the Khap Panchayats have been strongly propagating their ideas against intra-caste marriages. These Panchayats have tried to legitimise their ideas for not allowing intra-caste marriages by citing examples from history. However, the origin of these ideas is unknown,” said Bharadwaj.
The national seminar illustrated the simultaneous presence of dissent and devotion in women’s poetry of medieval India. Drawing attention to the socially and politically vital space of the intellectual in the ‘free marketplace of ideas’, professor Rumina Sethi, in her closing remarks, emphasised the concern of the academic world with culturally relevant issues that have a direct impact on social-cultural transformation.
Professor of History at Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) Vijaya Ramaswamy delivered the valedictory address and professor Rumina Sethi, chairperson, Department of English, chaired the valedictory function. The seminar concluded with a vote of thanks by professor Akshaya Kumar from the Department of English, PU.