Educate, Organise and Agitate

A History for Peace workshop based on Bhimayana
In person workshop at The Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Calcutta

‘Yet, in fact, History continues and the struggles persist. And so, we face the challenge of how to tell stories about them across the world today.’— John Berger (Foreword, Bhimayana: Incidents in the life of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar)

What is the idea of democracy in a nation which has systemic inequalities like caste entrenched into its fabric historically? In imagining the future for a nation such as this, how did Ambedkar envision and build a different reality for India? His discourse on freedom went beyond challenging the more immediate external systems of oppression such as colonialism. To him, the internal systems of oppression would be the far tougher challenge to face in building this nation into a democracy. Reading Ambedkar is a reading of this ‘battle for freedom’, of this persistent struggle within Indian democracy.

This workshop focuses on interacting with Ambedkar— his ideas, experiences and politics—and their place and significance in our present and every day, through a close reading of Bhimayana: Incidents in the life of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (Navayana, 2011).

for the in person at The Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Calcutta

The Idea of Democracy| Ludhiana:
A glimpse

Romila Thapar in conversation with Arvind Narrain 

Performing the Goddess

Photographs by Naveen Kishore

An exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum
16 August – 11 December 2022
Free admission. Gallery 213

Photographer, filmmaker, and founder of Seagull Books, Naveen Kishore began his creative life in the theatre. Intimate and intense, Kishore’s Performing the Goddess is a serial portrait that puts us in proximity with an actor’s private rite of transformation. Newly acquired by the museum, the seventeen photographs in Performing the Goddess depict the actor Chapal Bhaduri (b. 1938). Once famed for his work in jatra (a popular theatre form in Bengali-speaking regions of India and Bangladesh), Bhaduri lost his prominence when women actors began to portray female characters previously played by men. Bhaduri instead found work as an itinerant performer playing the goddess Sitala, whom devotees worship for protection from disease. In Performing the Goddess, we witness Bhaduri’s reverent and precise nightly preparation for the role of Sitala and his exhausted stripping away of costume after the performance. Yet, we do not see the public performance itself. Kishore instead asks us to understand something about the complexity of Bhaduri’s interior experience.

This body of work resonated widely in the 1990s and early 2000s, a moment of new critical thought about the performative nature of gender. A companion film by Kishore, Performing the Goddess: The Chapal Bhaduri Story (44 minutes, 1999; click the link below to watch), explores these connections through an extended first-person encounter with the actor.

Watch the film here

Anne Frank: A History for Today

31 October–25 November 2022 | Max  Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata

As India partner to the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, we recently concluded a peer-guide training workshop with a group of 18 high school students from Kolkata on the ‘Anne Frank: A History for Today exhibition, as part of the Goethe Institut’s ‘LESSONS FROM GERMANY’S PAST: FASCISM AS A HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE’.

We invite you to drop by—the exhibition is open for public viewing from 31 October to 25 November (Monday to Saturday), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

If you are a school and would like your students (classes 9 and above) and teachers to make a trip to the exhibition and be led around by our peer guides, please book your slot right away! 

To do so, please email us at with your preferred date, timings and nos. of visitors. 

The last History for Peace quarterly newsletter for 2022 is here!

October, November, December 2022
Dear Reader, 

For the last quarter of this year, here’s what we have for you: 

The sixth annual History for Peace conference The Idea of Democracy
travels to Ludhiana this November! Supported by the Takshila Educational Society, this History for Peace conference will, for the first time, be addressing both teachers and students at the Delhi Public School in Ludhiana.  
 This October, we invite you to History and her Source—an online workshop on engaging with ‘unconventional’ sources in History by historians Aloka Parasher-Sen, Aruna Pariti, V. Rajesh and Sagnik Saha. 

Anne Frank: A History for Today, the travelling exhibition, is back in Kolkata on 29 October and will be open for public viewing at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata all through November. 

An exciting new classroom resource re-looking at 1857 from History for Peace.

Read the entire newsletter here.

The Idea of Democracy| Calcutta: In glimpses

The 6th annual History for Peace conference

What is so powerful about the idea of democracy, and why does it resonate so strongly with people’s struggles across time and space?

Everything is dependent on political power in the country today—the good, the bad and the indifferent. So, do we just say: We have no access to this power and therefore we give up? Or do we say: We cannot change the political power but, within our little circle of activity, we can do what is possible? And I would say that is the way in which many of us have functioned all our lives. We have not attempted to change the political power. If you are not in a position to fight the political power, then please use your little energy and activity to make half a dozen young people think. The process of thinking involves the process of agency.

—Romila Thapar

In keeping with the urgent need of our times, History for Peace explored The Idea of Democracy at the annual conference for teaching history in Calcutta this August. Speakers at the conference included Romila Thapar, Krishna Kumar, Sudipta Sen, Sundar Sarukkai, Anurag Bhaskar, Apoorvanand, Arvind Narrain and TM Krishna; Teachers’ workshops were facilitated by educators Shahnaaz Khan, Shivangi Jaiswal, Smita Bhattacharya and Juraj Varga. 

Click here to read a detailed report on the conference. 

Seagull Books at 40: Founder Naveen Kishore through the eyes of colleagues and collaborators

A two-part series by Jerry Pinto for Scroll.In, celebrating 40 years of Seagull Books.

Naveen Kishore. | Gurmehar Kaur.

‘My first meeting with Naveen Kishore was marked by an absence. By the time I met him he was the Enigma from Calcutta as the city was then known, the man behind Seagull Books which had brought us our first film scripts, our first play scripts and some heavy hitting non-fiction books and important translations. I expected him to take all the oxygen in the room, to fill up space in the way some publishing legends were wont to do. Instead what I discovered was a watchful withdrawal, more in keeping with a writer or a poet.

Over the years however, I have also discovered a warmth offered in homoeopathic and healing doses; and a friend who can get things done.’ 

Read the entire piece here.

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