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Nishant K. Narayanan

Hyderabad, India
Dialogics and Multilingual Humanities – Scope and Limits
Tuesday, 12th September | 10:45 – 11:45

The seminal term ‘Humanities’ has not only been generating awareness and scholarship about the scope and limits of ‘Western’s’ seemingly all-encompassing Global Humanities, but also divisions, derivatives and clusters about various aspects and attributes of ‘being diversely unified’. This paper examines the umbrella term ‘Humanities’ as a dialogical concept in the context of diversity of languages, identity politics, aesthetics and systems of power(s), which —are emplaced within a broader concept called ‘Multiple Humanities.’ In this context, this paper looks at the limits and possibilities of Multiple Humanities to understand the constitutive dimensions of the term ‘Humanities’ in a semantic cognate framework within the context of Multiple Modernities propounded by Shmuel Eisenstadt and analyse the role of the term ‘Humanities’ as an epistemic attribute in the larger framework of knowledge, especially for cultures and languages, where both are complimentary mediums and sources of discursive practices and patterns.

I am trying to address this issue through the concept of Dialogics by Bakhtin, where he substantiates the importance of comparative dialogics that places the concept of dialogue across cultures and languages in terms of decoding the “utterances”. According to Bakhtin, “In order to understand, it is immensely important for the person who understands to be located outside the object of her/his creative understanding, in time, in space, in culture”. Taking multilingualism of India as a sociolinguistic and literary context and the concept of dialogics by Bakhtin, I would like to analyse the question of how diverse languages, religions and cultures act like multiplicators of the thought of humanities and how this gets translated in various addresses systems and practices in the context of establishing, if possible, a holistic picture of what constitutes India as a site of Multiple Humanities. Also, I would like to focus on the processes and modes of production of the Humanities as an extended dialogue. In a broader sense, the notion of dialogue entails a linguistic dimension as much as a symbolic one. Thus, humanities call for approaches that consider materiality and agency (language(s), mobilities, medium etc.) in conjunction with enunciation processes present in literary and socio-political systems of expression, which through aesthetic and cultural expressions give access to multiple meanings of Humanities. Located at the interface of language, space and medium in the production of meaning and sense, this multidimensional approach gives rise to corresponding multiplicity of humanities. Some crucial questions, which I would like to address in my paper are, which categories from language and culture are to be considered while trying to untangle the tropes, which are associated with inherent spatial and identity conflicts between language and culture in multiple humanities and their underlying discursive practices involved in a conjectural semantic formulation of the term Multiple. Can the humanities in general be understood from particular locations of culture? What opportunities and modes can one draw on or bring forth for a transformative reception of epistemic multiplicities in rethinking the humanities today?