Prof. Ratna Naidu, one of the doyennes of sociology in India, retired from the Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad (UoH) in 1996, after working for 25 years in various capacities, as Professor, Head, and Dean of School of Social Sciences. During this period, she has not only contributed to building the visibility of the department, but also contributed to the shaping of the intellectual careers of several students. Her work on modernization and development, the city, and the politics of communalism is best epitomized by her three books: Values and Models in Modernization, 1971; Communal Edge to Plural Societies: India and Malaysia, 1980 (that won her the Ghurye Award from the University of Bombay); and Old Cities, New Predicaments: A Study of Hyderabad, 1990. Now 80, Prof. Naidu has recently written a EPW article, in which she contests the secular-sacred dyad and argues that: “The enemies of the secular include entrenched interests in the economy and polity which, in today’s highly differentiated societies, are not guided exclusively by religion.”
This one-day seminar was organized by the Department of Sociology in honour of Prof. Ratna Naidu and her important contributions to the discipline of sociology in India. It examined the issues that have animated her sociological life, including: communalism and secularism, the growth and transformation of the city, and ethnic conflict.
The first session began with the formal felicitation of Prof. Ratna Naidu by the Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof. B. P. Sanjay and an introduction to the seminar and a summation of Prof. Naidu’s achievements by Aparna Rayaprol, Head, Department of Sociology. Vinod Pavarala talked about how he imbibed the sociological imagination through her teaching. V. Janardhan went down the memory lane by talking about how she made students read original texts in a way no other teacher did. I Ramabrahmam remembered his association with her at the academic staff college and later as the registrar of Shri Padmavathi Mahila Viswavidyalayam when she was the Vice-Chancellor.
The next session “Understanding the City” chaired by G. Nagaraju had Sujata Patel critically summarizing recent trends in Urban Studies, Sasheej Hegde reviewing Prof. Naidu’s 1990 book Old Cities, New Predicaments: A Study of Hyderabad, and Purendra Prasad talked about New Cities and New Predicaments with the focus on the building of Amaravati.
The post lunch session chaired by Hoineilhing Sitlhour on Religion and Securalism had Vinod K. Jairath ruminating on Middle Class Securalism and D. Parthasarathy from IIT, Bombay talked about religious performance in cities like Mumbai. In the last session Kushal Deb also from IIT, Bombay focussed on conceptual predicaments in urban theory and Srinivas Rao, JNU and M. Muralikrishna, UNICEF talked about the great influence of their teacher Ratna Naidu on their own academic and personal growth and development. It was all in all an emotionally charged and intellectually stimulating day.
– Prof. Aparna Rayaprol