A two-day National Conference on ‘Livelihood of Vulnerable Groups: Empirical and Theoretical Dimensions’ was inaugurated on 26 September, 2019 at the University of Hyderabad (UoH). The conference, which aims to honour the academic legacy of Prof. Kamal K. Misra, has been organized by the Department of Anthropology, UoH, in collaboration with Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), Bhopal, and Anthropological Survey of India, Kolkata. The conference seeks to deepen the understanding of livelihoods of the vulnerable groups through six technical sessions and an additional special session.
The inaugural session started at 10.00 am on 26 September, 2019 at the CV Raman Auditorium in the University of Hyderabad. Prof. K. K. Misra; Prof. Subhadra Mitra Channa, Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi; Prof. P. Venkata Rao, Dean, School of Social Sciences, UoH and Prof. M. Romesh Singh, HoD, Department of Anthropology, UoH were the dignitaries on the dais. Prof. M. Romesh Singh, in his introductory remarks, briefly mentioned the history of the Department of Anthropology at UoH. He appreciated the contributions of Prof. Misra in building the Department to the present stature.
Prof. P. Venkata Rao, in his welcome and appreciation address acknowledging the contributions of Prof. Misra, reminisced on his three decades of association with Prof. Misra, built on shared experiences and similarities. He commented on the focus, professionalism and meticulousness exhibited by Prof. Misra—qualities that have made him an academic, teacher and administrator of high esteem. The address was followed by the screening of a documentary outlining the academic achievements of Prof. Misra. Later, Prof. Misra was felicitated by Prof. Venkata Rao, Prof. Subhadra Mitra Channa and his former students. Prof. Misra shared his thoughts and reflections at the occasion of his superannuation. He expressed his admiration and gratitude for his colleagues in his life, recalling the challenges and opportunities in his long and illustrious career.
Prof. Subhadra Mitra Channa delivered the keynote address on ‘Livelihood of Vulnerable Groups: Towards a Sustainable Future’. Locating the erosion of traditional livelihoods and marginalization of people occupying the fringes of urbanities to the greed and failures of the wider “modern” economic system, she commented that the livelihoods of vulnerable groups have not stopped being viable; rather, they are made vulnerable by the social, economic and ecological encroachment of industrial capitalism. Thus, the vulnerable groups are doubly victimized by marginalization and the consequences of the unviable and unsustainable modern economic system. The loss of traditional occupations also threatens worldviews and cultures associated with them as, unlike modern capitalist system, their economic activities have been oriented towards something beyond profit. She argues that the vulnerable groups have had a longer stay in human history than industrial capitalism, which is on the path of self-destruction. Drawing examples from different communities in India and across the world, Prof. Channa illustrated the impact of systemic exclusion and exposure to the social and ecological consequences of industrial capitalism on the marginalized groups of people. She concluded by saying that the great divide between science and society at large has created a dichotomy between the corporate-state oligarchy and its instruments and the society and masses in the modern world. In this sense, “they are not vulnerable; we are”.
The inaugural session was followed by a special session of invited lectures chaired by Prof. Siva Prasad, Department of Anthropology, University of Hyderabad. The key issues reflecting the main theme of the conference deliberated in six technical sessions. Dr. V. N. V. K. Sastry, Director (Rtd.), TCR&TI delivered valedictory address.