On November 10, 2021, the Department of Sanskrit Studies, School of Humanities, University of Hyderabad hosted a Distinguished Lecture under its first Institute of Eminence course – OE101 entitled: ‘We Live, Your Live and the Mute ‘Other’ – Negotiating Human Non-Human interactions in Pre modern South Asia’ being co-ordinated by Aloka Parasher Sen, Professor Emerita in the Department. Professor Dipesh Chakravarthy, celebrated historian who is famous for his contribution to postcolonial theory and subaltern studies, was the guest of honour. Professor Chakravarthy is the Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of History at The University of Chicago. His writings take deep insights from the Sciences to alert us on how the Human Sciences need to study climate change.
Professor J S R Prasad, the Head of Department of Sanskrit Studies welcomed the distinguished speaker with a Sanskrit shloka and commended Professor Aloka Parasher Sen for conducting several of such sessions. The event was attended by many enthusiastic students and several faculty members which made for a very lively setting.
Subsequently, Professor Aloka Parasher Sen gave a warm introduction of Professor Dipesh Chakravarthy and explained the interesting aspects of Prof. Chakravarthy’s work.
Prof. Chakravarthy went on to talk about non-humans with reference to climate change, which is his area of expertise. He talked about the Earth system which is something scientists have constructed and talked about what propelled him into the direction of researching climate change. He further talked about historical responsibility and climate change with reference to calculating greenhouse gas emissions from different countries on a per capita basis, raising the question of inequality.
“Historians were not interested in the question of why not… What was the meaning of the 20th century particularly after the Second World War and why did that meaning not contain any news of Global Warming but it had to say a lot about Globalisation?” Mused Professor Chakravarthy.
Chakravarthy continued, “Human history for people like me in subaltern studies, the main theme of history was freedom and human freedom and the question of freedom being configuring different ways through ideas of rights, through ideas of self-determination for our nation, decolonisation, through the idea of abolition of inequality of different kinds between human beings and through the fight against oppression.”
He talked about the distinction between natural and human history. “Human history was a realm of freedom, constrained by necessity,” he remarked. He also talked about various historians to support his research.
He segued into a presentation on various aspects responsible for climate change along with the socio economic trends that aggravated it and climate related global human activities and how the climate responded to those.
It was an invigorating presentation on climate change as he pointed to the utmost importance of phytoplanktons, fungi etc. and their role in keeping the earth and its inhabitants alive. Interestingly, he also mentioned how over time, as this downward trend regarding the climate continues, some parts of the globe will become uninhabitable and some parts will become more habitable.
As the event neared its end, an interesting Q&A session took place with various thought provoking questions and enlightening answers by Chakravarthy. The session concluded with Professor Aloka Parasher Sen thanking Chakravarthy and the students who joined this great session.
Contributed by Anukriti Chaturvedi, Department of Communication.