Opening session: Conversation between Romila Thapar and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
14 August 2017
The opening session of the third annual History for Peace conference—The Idea of India—was a conversation between Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Romila Thapar. As Spivak said, the audience ‘eavesdropped’ on a conversation between ‘two old friends’ as they deconstructed the potential meanings of the idea of India from geographical, historical, cultural, social, linguistic and economic lenses.
Spivak asked Thapar a series of questions, beginning with how the idea of India is negotiated within history teaching. Thapar historicized the various conceptions of India, and challenged its ever-developing structures, from ancient to modern India. Through various anecdotal and cultural discussions, Thapar and Spivak then discussed economic development, the evolution of education, personal negotiations with freedom, linguistics and even diaspora transactions of Indian identity.
Peppered with humour and historical references, Thapar and Spivak had the audience hooked on to every word. The evening drew to a close, foreshadowing the spirited discussions that were to follow.
– Anushka Halder and Stuti Pachisia