The Center for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad organized a two- day International Seminar on ‘Comparative Literature: Questions of languages and minority’ from 14th to 16th October 2015 at the School of Humanities Auditorium.
The Inaugural was held on 14thOctober 2015. The Vice-Chancellor of the University Prof. Appa Rao inaugurated the seminar and Professor PanchananMohanty, Dean, School of Humanities delivered the Inaugural address. The seminar director Dr. SowmyaDechamma introduced and explained the theme of the seminar to all the participants from different parts of the country and abroad.
Dr. Sowmya said that this idea comes from her location and interest in languages belonging to the minority. “I thought looking at the historiography of literature from various positions from various languages that are not in the public sphere would be much more fruitful for us today”, she said.
Explaining the theme of the seminar she said that ever since print entered the scene, it has not been called into question as it should have been. This also holds true for translation through which comparative literature largely works,translations that are made possible in cases of languages that carry certain power of which writing is the most fundamental, added Dr. Soumya.
Vice –Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao addressing the audience said “Although I do not understand the deeper dimensions that this particular topic has, I am standing here to inaugurate the conference and feel that it is a wonderful opportunity for both professors and students for productive discussion”.
Professor Tutun Mukherjee of the Centre for Comparative Literature said that Comparative Literature is by nature transgressive and that it does not believe in boundaries. This seminar will deliberate on the constituent of ‘Comparative Literature’, which is ‘philology’ (love of languages), Historiography and critical approaches, she added.
Remembering the concepts of Marshall McLuhan she said “Society that possess the alphabets is very powerful, because he says the alphabet is militant and aggressive transformer and observer of cultures. That society can translate other society into ‘Alphabetic mode’.
Making her point she questioned the nature of translation as to what it does to other cultures while it translates: Does it assimilate, include or exclude and those excluded domains should develop their own orthography and medium of communication of kind of language that enables them participate in critical course she added.
Remembering the book ‘Archaeology of Knowledge’ written by Michel Foucault she said “Discourse of languages talks about sedimentation of history in every society. History is written at different levels ‘Macroscopic’ and ‘Microscopic’ scales of writing history. These histories organize the event”. Consequently, one has to engage with the history constantly she added.
Panchanand Mohanty, Professor, Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies and Dean, School of Humanities chaired the session. He said that this is a strange country which has no language policy even today. Nobody knows how many languages are spoken officially because any language spoken by less than ten thousand people is not listed in the census report. “According 2001 census, there are more than 42 crore ‘Hindi’ speakers in this country and out of that only 2.13 percent are ‘Trilingual’, that means 98 percent ‘Hindi’ speakers are ‘Bilingual’. Among ‘Tamilians’ the percentage of ‘Trilingualism’ is only of three percent, means 97 percent are bilingual. What kind of ‘Multilingualism’ we are talking in this country? ‘Multilingualism’ and ‘Multiculturalism’ survived in this country only because of Minor language speakers” he explained.
Regarding translations he said that, this country doesn’t have a ‘Dictionary’ between two Indian languages. ‘We don’t have an ‘Odiya-Bangla’ or a ‘Marathi-Punjabi’ dictionary. “What translation are we talking about? This shows the attitude towards languages in this country” he said.
Inspiring and thoughtful papers were presented by different people in the seminar and the discussions, debates were productive.
-Sandeep Manohar, Department of Communication