I Balvant Parekh Memorial Lecture 24 October 2013  

Sheldon Pollock, the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University delivered the First Balvant Parekh Memorial Lecture titled “What is Indian Knowledge Good for” on 24 October 2013. Prof. Pollock has received the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award and the Government of India’s Padma Sri.

Sheldon Pollock

Professor Pollock commenced the lecture with a reference to the enlightened philanthropic activities of late Mr. Parekh and the great work the Centre is doing in the field of humanities and social sciences. He focused first on the ‘ambiguity’ of the term, ‘Indian Knowledge’ and reflected on the possible nuances of it. The term could be indicative of knowledge produced in India , knowledge construction by Indians, knowledge about India and Indians, and many more. The idea of Indian knowledge accommodates diversity and plurality of such an incommensurable magnitude and variety, Dr. Pollock emphasized, weaving in references such as ancient Sanskrit texts, Macaulay’s minutes, travelogues, involvement of Western Indologists , perspectives on Indian knowledge generated in a globalized world thriving on consumer culture and the like. His analysis of Indian knowledge steered clear of reverential glorification and unexamined denunciation. Dr. Pollock’s argument was not built around a mundane notion of disciplinary; he expanded the scope of the amorphous concept of Indian knowledge by bringing in the historicity and cultural resonances of a pan-geographic discursive epistemology. After dwelling on the indeterminacy of what can be described as and what constitutes Indian knowledge, he made it clear that his aim was not to gauge the utility of Indian knowledge in terms of employability or cultural benefits. Not relegating into a revivalist dream, Dr. Pollock emphasized the need to have more creative and critical understanding of and interventions into Indian languages, arts, knowledge systems and practices, experiential domains, and technological skills.

A section of Audience

The Centre hosted a special dinner at Hotel Hampton following the Memorial Lecture attended by the Parekhs, Members of the Board of Trust and staff of the Centre, eminent artists, writers, scientists and scholars from Baroda .