Decolonizing Travel(ing) Theory: Explorations in the ‘Indian’ Analytic Traditions

deadline for submissions: 
June 18, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
National Institute of Technology Silchar

Traveling, both as a concept and performativity, has yielded a diverse range of criticalliteratures that probe into the epistemological, ethical and aesthetic dimensions oftravel and mobility. However, much of the critical theories on travel (and, of late,nomadology) draw on the Western canon, while there appears to be a dearth ofproportionate research on and/or documentation of the indigenous analyticalframeworks that engage with travel(ing) theory. Referencing Edward Said, we use‘travel(ing) theory’ as a generative concept to better understand how ‘foreign’ theorieson travel themselves travel across space and time, are adapted in and adopted by ‘localcontexts, often a-historically and a-culturally, thus usurping their indigenouscounterparts, in this case, rooted in the ‘Indian’ analytic traditions. Using this as a pointof departure, the symposium therefore makes forays into decolonizing travel(ing)theory.Indeed, ‘pre-modern’ India has had a strong tradition of traveling, alongside producingan extensive body of works exploring the ethics and politics of traveling. All Indic ordersof monkhood -- Hindu (cf. Sannyasa Upanishad), Buddhist (cf. Samannaphalasutta) orJain -- for instance, command travelling to be the chief ‘marker’ of the renunciant, thusdistinguished from the householder or the ‘laity’. Concepts of the atithi (contra Derrida’sformulations on ‘hospitality’, or the Christian ethos of neighbor/brethren) -- premisedon the idea of a stranger, who warrants unconditional hospitality -- and that of theparibrajaka or positing the Sufi-Bhakti figures as prophetic ‘mad nomads’ are replete inthe ‘pre-modern’ Indian cultural repertoire, but least theorized from within theaxiomatics of Indian epistemology. However, the ‘colonial episteme’ (cf. Bernard Cohn) could not make sense of indigenous practices of mobilities, when viewed through‘imperial eyes’ (cf. Mary Louise Pratt) and approached from the perspective ofinstrumental rationality. However, the anxiety around the heuristics of travel continuedto reflect in certain indigenous traveling cults -- as illustrated by Rahul Sankrityayan,Indulal Yagnik and Gandhi, among others -- which would have wider ramifications forthe Indian configurations of postcoloniality and modernity.This symposium seeks to stimulate these debates by employing new methodologicaland epistemological tools from ‘Indian’ analytic traditions. It is hoped that thesymposium will serve as a testing ground for ‘critical thinking’ as an epistemic paradigmto foreground ‘an Indian way of thinking’ (cf. A. K. Ramanujan) through ‘travel(ing)theory’. Toward this, the symposium explores (but is not limited to) the following set ofproblems:1. What are the ‘Indian’ textual-cultural-analytical traditions -- very broadlydefined -- that engage with the discourse of traveling? What epistemic breakdo such cults offer? How do we make sense of their ‘affordances’ from withinthe ‘Indian’ philosophical traditions?2. How does ‘cultural difference’ play out in such contexts? What notions ofindigeneity -- both with reference to traveling practices and theroizationsthereof -- does it invoke? To what extent, if at all, is this indigenizationfraught with the articulation of ‘alternative modernity’ (c.f. D.P. Gaonker)and/or postcoloniality?3. How do we decolonize ‘travel(ing) theory’? How is this wrought with diversemeanings in the Indian context? What ‘epistemic ruptures’ come in the way ofsuch decolonizing projects? To participate in the symposium, please send a 300-word abstract and a 100-word bio-note using the link <https://rb.gy/nlvkzs> by 18 June 2021. Decisions on acceptancewill be communicated by 25 June 2021. For questions and clarifications, write to <avishekray@hum.nits.ac.in>.The symposium has been generously supported by the Indian Council of PhilosophicalResearch, and is being organized to commemorate Indian Philosopher’s Day.