THE CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF CULTURE AND SOCIETY was established in 1996 by a group of scholars interested in developing new approaches to studying culture in India. This interest has been energised by our sense that the social sciences and humanities disciplines as they exist are no longer adequate to the task of engaging seriously with the problems of our time. Today both the political frameworks of the post-colonial nation-state (democracy, secularism, development) and the institutional structures they endorse (among others, our universities and research entres) are clearly in crisis.
Many of the crucial problems confronting us today - relating to questions of gender, caste, comumunity, ethnicity - used to be traditionally relegated to the realm of ‘culture’ rather than being seen as political issues. And when the disciplines dealt with them it was often in orientalist frames, by way of explaining the cultural specificity of Indians, especially those who were "non-modern". The dominant social science framework in India, which was one of modernity -development, saw caste and community as embarrassing obstacles for the new nation to overcome. At the same time, the dominant framework in which ‘culture’ was viewed in the humanities was that of national culture and national identity.
What was at stake was the definition of the truly ‘Indian’, as also the exaltation of ‘our’ culture. From this perspective, Indian culture was seen as best mirrored in the past: in our monumental architecture, our ancient scriptures, our performing arts, our textiles. The emphasis was clearly on a ‘high’ culture which claimed unbroken continuity with the pre-colonial past. For different reasons, then, the disciplines have been marked by embarrassed negotiation or unduly celebratory approaches to Indian culture. In our view, these approaches to culture are not equipped to deal with the extraordinary transformations and political mobilizations that are currently taking place. Yet, these changes are ‘cultural’ changes, in the sense that culture refers to ways of life, even ways of struggle.
The major thrust of CSCS has been to understand culture in its most inclusive sense - as encompassing the diverse attempts of people to produce meaning of various kinds. Such an endeavour will pose a serious challenge to the existing disciplines, and have a significant impact on cultural policy as well as alter the place occupied by ‘culture’ in our political understanding. We use the phrase ‘culture and society’ to emphasize that culture must be seen not as a transcendent entity but as part of a network of social and political relations, indeed as integral to the formation of such relations.
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The CSCS Rule Book
This Handbook is published, in draft form, by the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society. It outlines the policies and procedures concerning the Faculty/Fellows, Staff and Students at CSCS. It includes a description of the CSCS structure and governance, and policy intent statements on equal opportunity and non-discrimination.
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