Intersections: Monthly Lecture Series
Engineering in India: A Brief History of an Aspirational Profession
Monday, 8 February 2021
Dr Aparajith Ramnath
Assistant Professor
School of Arts and Sciences, Ahmedabad University

Both scholarly surveys and popular culture suggest that engineering is one of the most coveted educational qualifications, seen as a mark of prestige and a ticket to the good life. But the cult of the engineer in India is much older than the recent, post-liberalization phenomenon involving information technology, software, and outsourcing. In his talk, Dr Ramnath discussed these and related aspects on the emergence of engineering as a reputable profession in colonial India to its modern state of affairs. Engineering began as a stately enterprise in the late 19th century, catering to the infrastructural and administrative needs of the Raj. Civil engineers went on to build railway networks, bridges across rivers, dams, and roads. However, with the onset of the First World War and the Indian independence movement, educational and employment opportunities became available to Indian engineers as well. Training for these engineers happened now in new kinds of institutions, such as TISCO in Jamshedpur, which emerged as nationalist responses to imperial pedagogy in the older colleges. The impetus generated by this transition allowed for engineering to later be seen as integral to nation building, gradually lending the profession the technocratic power which it now enjoys.

Literary Musings: Exploring Fictional Representations of the Partition of India
Monday, 8 March 2021
Dr Rachna Mehra
Assistant Professor
School of Global Affairs, Ambedkar University Delhi

The loss and trauma accompanying the Partition of the Indian subcontinent was dehumanized, banalized, and subsumed in official narratives by appearing in the form of a nondescript inventory of facts and figures populating the pale and redolent leaves of bureaucratic registers. Literary writers salvaged this rather dismissive numerical representation of the Partition by accepting the gory reality and encapsulating it with precision without falling into the trap of being pretentious or feeling the anxiety to gloss over the obscenity or obnoxiousness of violence. In her lecture, Dr Mehra explored both the effects of Partition and the affect produced by the event by contrasting the recorded memory available in the annals of public domain to those presented in prolific literary form. Referring to Punjabi, Urdu, Bangla, and English writers, she commented on the status of women at that time and explained how women of both India and Pakistan suffered due to the inter-generational violence that characterised the Partition. Arguing that the Partition has somehow been at the heart of every communal conflagration in the subcontinent over the past seven decades, she made a case for a more perceptive, interdisciplinary historical method which would be as at ease with the archive as with oral histories and lived experience.

Psychology in India
Monday, 19 April 2021
Prof Girishwar Misra
Former Head
Department of Psychology, University of Delhi

Tracing the development of Psychology since its inception in India in 1916 after the first laboratory was established in Calcutta, Prof Misra discussed the flaws of following a strictly positivistic approach in psychological research. He commented on the importance of the human experience as embedded in the cultural context, questioning in effect the universality of psychological constructs. He affirmed that over the past three decades a more rigorous inculcation of this interrogative spirit has led to investigations in the subfield of cross-cultural research and explorations of conceptual and symbolic resources in the Indian thought systems.. The lecture allowed participants to appreciate culture as an open system of meaning and practices, allowing for adaptation and constant reorganization according to the given context.

Eye of the Storm: The Spectator at the Centre of the Sporting-Entertainment Complex
Thursday, 26 August 2021
Dr Vidya Subramanian
Research Affiliate
South Asia Institute, Harvard University

Analysing spectatorship in contemporary cricket with close reference to the Indian Premier League, Dr Vidya Subramanian critiqued the entertainment aspect of televisual sports coverage. Differentiating between the traditional spectator and the ideal consumer, Dr Subramanian explored the multidirectional fan identity capitalized by televisual broadcast of sport. She argued that IPL fandom can be understood as driven by a consumerist temperament. The annual cricketing festival of India, as it is advertised, the IPL has extended the reach of cricket beyond traditional spectatorship through personality driven market campaigns. It produces a postmodern identity of the non-connoisseur, the ‘everyman as a fan’, which takes a fan and turns her/him into a consumer. She also underlined the role of Information and Communication Technologies in facilitating this transformation through the bringing together of large groups of fans online on social media, the near-continuous engagement of sport and television anchors with content generated by users and fans, such as tweets and Facebook posts, and even the marketing and advertising gimmicks that lure audiences.

An Apprentice to Grief: Auto-Ethnography and Tactile Loss in Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking
Thursday, 30 September 2021
Dr Anirban Halder
Independent Scholar

Grief Memoirs narrate both individual and cultural mourning and thoroughly examine the nature and process of bereavement and loss. In this lecture, Dr Anirban Halder explores the culture of mourning and the fundamental eloquence of grief through a close reading of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). By focusing on the text’s efficacious use of auto-ethnography, he analysed how losing and grieving loved ones leads Didion to question the meaning of life and death. He engaged critically with Didion’s dilemma to understand contemporary cultures of mourning, especially in post-industrial societies where “life” and “health” are built around the notion of death as a personal failure. He related the importance of memory in the therapeutic healing of grief by referring to Das Kopfkino, Head Cinema. He also pointed out that often this experience of loss, be it of a relationship or of some cherished idea, is interpreted in relation to its various stages, but such categorization still fails to give depth to the specificity of loss.

Posthuman Ecologies and the Unconscious
Tuesday, 26 October 2021
Dr Arka Chattopadhyay
Assistant Professor
Department of Humanities and Social Science
IIT Gandhinagar

Focusing on Timothy Morton’s concept of the hyperobject, Dr Chattopadhyay foregrounded the notion of coexistence and rhizomatic interrelation amongst humans, nonhumans, and abiotic forms along with the gigantic entities like biosphere and planetary and solar systems which constitute posthuman ecologies. By contextualizing Sigmund Freud’s “uncanny” and the Lacanian knot, he argued that psychoanalysis can be a bridge to ecological thought as the real unconscious—like materially embedded beings and nonhumans—is beyond language and is non-oedipal. He drew analogies between Morton’s concept of nature as a romanticized phenomenon posited as an object out there to be appreciated from distance and Lacan’s notion of “sinthome” or symptom that can apply to a surrounding space. In this manner, he argued that thinking about the environment in the age of Anthropocene has psychoanalytic resonances, with reference to the unconscious enjoyment of climate change deniers in not doing anything about it as well as to the anxiety and trauma produced by environmental disaster. In the concluding part of his talk, Dr Chattopadhyay interpreted the ecological unconscious through Wyl Menmuir’s The Many (2016), which does not straightjacket climate change in literature with genre-fiction but evokes an environmental affect of the uncanny that permeates both ecology and inter-subjective unconscious.

The Case of Exploding Hindi Paperbacks
Friday, 28 January 2022
Dr Aakriti Mandhwani
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Shiv Nadar University

Focusing on boom in north Indian commercial publishing in the 1950s and 60s, Dr Aakriti Mandhwani talked about the inception of Hind Pocket Books in 1957 and the pivotal role its proprietor D.N Malhotra had in setting a new paradigm for middlebrow literature in Hindi. She argued that Malhotra’s publishing strategy of providing readers with multiple genres encapsulating general reading and maintaining decorum and seriousness around pleasurable reading strengthened the basis for middlebrow readership. The inclusion of literature for everyday consumption with innovative schemes such as the Gharelu Library Yojana defied the inspirational or nationalist preoccupations of the 1920s and 40s, while cheaper paperbacks and multiplicity of genres made Hind Pocket Books a household name amongst the Hindi readership. Dr Mandhwani also pointed out that Malhotra’s trajectory from a printer to an established publisher was made possible through his canny identification of opportunities, whether they were with publishers in the West or with authors and readers at home.

Integrating Psychology and Economics: On Works of Richard Thaler
Friday, 25 February 2022
Dr Namita Ruparel
Guest Faculty
WILP Division, BITS Pilani

Focusing on the works of Richard Thaler in Behavioral Economics, Dr Namita Ruparel discussed how Behavioral Economics incorporates insights of human psychology into the models of economic behavior and helps us understand why some models fail to make the correct predictions. The audience was asked to pick choices from given options to demonstrate the “framing effect”, and how it impacts the decision-making of humans. She continued analyzing the concerns of systematic departures from rational choice and elaborated on five biases of human behavior responsible for the incorrect predictions of economic models along with the concepts of Bounded Rationality and Mental Accounting. Exploring the importance of the rational choice model, the speaker seeked evidence from Psychology and Behavioral Economics that put emphasis on testing economic models with real data, enabling them to understand the biases of human behavior and move towards rationality through experimental economics. The speaker concluded her lecture taking insights from the awareness of irrational behavior and rational motivations behind the popularity of the discipline of Behavioral Economics.

Languages of Inequality: Some Thoughts on Practices of Disciplines
Thursday, 07 April 2022
Prof Sowmya Dechamma C.C.
Centre for Comparative Literature
University of Hyderabad

In order to examine inequalities amongst languages in terms of power structures, Prof Sowmya Dechamma discussed Comparative Literature as a discipline which unpacks the relationship between literature on one hand and other areas of knowledge and belief - such as the arts, philosophy, ethnography, and history - on the other. She commented on the interdependence of translation and Comparative Literature, observing that translation cannot exist without comparison and vice versa. She also suggested that the association between culture/knowledge and power between translation and imperialism can be illuminated through a renewed awareness of the link between transfer of learning and transfer of power. National cultures at large have been consolidated through this process, and the making of Comparative Literature in postcolonial nation-states and its relationship with numerous ‘minor’ languages and ‘minoritized’ people that are made visible within nationalised cultures needs a self-representation and a self-translation that is yet to be done. Prof Dechamma also problematized translation itself and underlined the importance of questioning our everyday use of language by asserting that no text is entirely original because language itself, in its essence, is already a translation.

Impact of Governance Institutions on Foreign Direct Investment Inflows: Evidence from a Global Sample
Thursday, 29 September 2022
Dr Jagadish Prasad Sahu
Assistant Professor of Economics
Indian Institute of Management Kashipur

In order to understand the importance of institutions on economic growth, Dr Jagadish Prasad Sahu explained on the impact of economic and political theories postulating on how good quality governance institutions in recipient countries affect Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows. To further explain the argument, he referred to the quality governance institutions and their use of a different form of panel data regression model from data set for 2002-2019. In this regard, he also analysed some important findings related to another control factor apart from the choice variables. The varying inflows of FDI on the basis of political institutions, has become statistically significant for heterogeneous groups of countries with other control variables being natural resources, trade openness, polity and others. Moreover, this lecture mostly focuses on the economic growth of the host countries, trade openness, and resource availability influencing the FDI inflows. Countries with less-capital and/or fewer technology has come up with their economic growth having a clear policy imperative to boost the quality of governance institutions in their jurisdictions to attract more FDI inflows.

Women, Violence and Work: Threat of Sexual Violence and Women's Decision to Work
Friday, 14 October 2022
Dr Tanika Chakraborty
Associate Professor of Economics
Indian Institute of Management Calcutta

Analysing the role of sexual violence in workplace on how it affects the participation of women into the workforce Dr Chakraborty critiqued sexual violence against women as a significant deterrent to women’s liberty in all countries arguing that it affects their social choices, and is a contributor in diminishment in their participation in the workforce. Investigating the extent to which the low workforce participation of women can be explained by growing instances of reported sexual crimes against women outside the home in India, Dr Chakraborty established with empirical evidence that for every additional sexual crime in a district, approximately 75 women are deterred from joining the workforce. She found some evidence of heterogeneity across regions and religions, but overall the deterrent effect seems to affect women equally across all economic, demographic and social groups. The lecture also involved analysis of the policies that state and central governments have implemented to increase women’s participation in the workforce, ranging from maternity benefits, childcare support, and tax incentives in employment to protection against sexual discrimination at workplace and alcohol prohibition laws enforced in various states.

Exploring well-being in the Indian context
Friday, 13 January 2023
Prof Kamlesh Singh
Professor of Psychology
Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT Delhi

Analyzing well-being in the contemporary context, Prof Singh started with a wide range of definitions of happiness and well-being across the globe. She focused on the indigenous aspects of well-being in India, mainly referring to the Low Arousal Positive Affect and the Sat-Chit-Anand model. Discussion evolved around choosing the right combination of tools for giving interventions to introduce well-being and happiness as per the context and various aspects of the population. These include intervention studies addressing character strengths, stress management, and yoga-based courses in enhancing relevant well-being indicators among college students. Digital intervention program on Mental Health Literacy among the rural residents of India and its effectiveness were also reviewed. Prof Singh also gave a glimpse of how rural India has a “we” approach rather than “I” approach to subjective feelings of happiness. The lecture provided students and faculty of the institute many pertinent insights on inculcating happy habits and orienting themselves to positivity in their everyday lived experience.

Comprehensive Theory of Life Projects: Main Assumptions and Empirical Evidence
Thursday, 24 August 2023
Dr Vinicius Coscioni
Assistant Professor
Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University

Speaking on the Comprehensive Theory of Life Project, Dr Vinicius Coscioni introduced the main assumptions and empirical evidence of Life Projects. He started with the scoping review that focused on the theoretical contribution of articles that referred to the word ‘life project’. Then, he described six theoretical dimensions of his theory: volitional-strategic, biographical-identity, teleological-existential, dialectical-contextual, historical, and developmental. He explained various theoretical perspectives that have been included and analyzed in the process of building the Comprehensive theory of Life Projects. He mentioned developing and validating the Life Project scale on various cross-cultural populations. The session incorporated useful perspectives on life projects and self-orientation to discover future life goals.

Love's Labour Lost: Social Reproduction Theory and the Politics of 'Work'
Monday, 6 November 2023
Prof. Suchitra Mathur
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

In her talk, Prof. Mathur engaged with the question of women’s labour in the household through the lens of social reproduction theory. With the understanding that capitalism is a system that fundamentally separates production and reproduction, she explored the gendered definition of ‘work’ that devalues reproductive labour in the context of the home. Labour power is maintained by three interconnected processes regeneration of workers, maintenance of non-workers and production of new workers. Social reproduction theory, therefore, argues that reproductive work that sustains life is essentially connected to the production of goods and services. With reference to two Hindi films, Nil Battey Sannata (2015) and English Vinglish (2012), Prof. Mathur examined the role of the domestic worker and the housewife within the dichotomy of the private and the public. She explored how social reproduction theory redefines the valuation of women’s domestic labour and the politics of care in everyday life. The talk emphasized the need to reconceptualize the larger question of individual rights in terms of the relationship between the personal and the political, the family and the State, and the local and the global.

Sustainable Development: Dimensions and Intersections
Monday, 15 January 2024
Prof. Pritee Sharma
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Indian Institute of Technology Indore

In her talk, Prof. Preeti Sharma foregrounded the intricate interconnections between economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development and provided valuable insights into evolving knowledge systems for harmonious co-existence. The discussion focused on the accomplishments of the Sustainable Development Indicator System as an effective tool for comprehensive innovation in this field. She argued for the necessity of constantly creating new skills, concepts, and tools to navigate the complexities of multiple knowledge systems. Prof. Sharma also emphasized how this knowledge is fundamental for developing holistic approaches to sustainability. The session provided a comprehensive overview of sustainability, offering a roadmap for future co-existence that integrates economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental stewardship.

Message From Director

I am pleased to extend my greetings to students and their parents as well as colleagues near and far. IIT Bhilai was established on 7 August 2016. We are located in Chhattisgarh, the rice bowl of India, in a state rich in natural resources as well as cultural memory and heritage. Read More


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