Contact Journey to Kolkata

Reports from Kolkata:

Meeting with Dr Victor A van Bijlert, Management Centre for Human Values, at the Indian Institute of Management, 16 March 2002

Web page: http://www.iimcal.ac.in/faculty/courses.asp?FacultyGroupID=12

Staffan had met Victor A van Bijlert in 1998 at NIAS, Copenhagen, where he was a guest researcher for six months. After that he was attached to IIAS at Leiden. He started off as an sanskrit scholar and then became an indologist, and knows a lot of languages – Greek, Hindi, Bengali, etc. He is married to a Bengali lady, who is a PhD in history and now works as a teacher in Kolkata. He himself got the job as associate professor at MCHV one and a half years ago.

The Indian Institute of Management, IIM, at Joka, southeast of Kolkata was established in 1974; and the Management Centre for Human Values in 1992, by Prof. S K Chakraborty. The latter has frequently been invited to countries round the Globe, including Sweden, to deliver lectures, keynote addresses, or to offer seminars/ workshops to managers, and presented papers at international meets in Psychology, Philosophy, Values, Ethics etc.

IIM as a whole (web page: http://www.iimcal.ac.in/) is a prestigious institution, training people to become business executives. There are many exchange students and much co-operation with Western universities.
MCHV was started to give ethical consideration to Indian business. It is funded by private and public companies, like Tata, BPLC, etc. It teaches modern Indian philosophy based on the teachings of Vivekananda, Gandhi, Tagore, and Sri Aurobindo. It emphasises the synthesis, not their divergent views (like the conflict between Tagore and Gandhi in the twenties, when Tagore was more ready to adopt the best of the West and the East).
Dr Bijlert himself is doing research on early Indian modernity, and the freedom struggle, along Weberian lines.

Meeting at the Centre for Studies in the Social Sciences, CSSSC, at Patuli, Kolkata

• We first met the Director, Prof. Partha Chatterjee. Staffan had met Partha before in Sandberg Manor, Denmark, somewhere in the mid-nineties. He is the director since five years, but now also Guest professor each fall semester at Columbia University, in the U.S.
He thinks the co-operation with Roskilde University (Preben Kaarsholm and Bodil Folke Fredriksen) and the Centre for Basic Research in Kampala, Uganda, has worked out very well. This co-operation has been funded by DANIDA and is now in its final phase, with two more years to go. Two students from Kolkata has gone to Roskilde, one of them has finished and is now working as a teacher in Kolkata. Four students from CBR has studied here and taken their PhD, among them Murindwa Rutanga, who once came to Lund under the SMS programme.
He is very positive to our plans of to build a network, and would welcome a co-operation with SASNET.

• Discussion with Dr. Anjan Ghosh, Fellow, and Professor Pradip Kumar Bose.
Anjan knows Stig Toft Madsen very well from the time he worked at JNU in New Delhi, and Stig was in Meerut writing his M Phil. Stig’s article in Anthropos has been translated into Bengali, and Stig’s thesis about Human Rights in South Asia is also well known to them.
They are also very positive to the Danida financed Roskilde programmes, ENRECA, for the enhancement of local research capacity (presently there are three ENRECA programmes, all in Africa). (The ENRECA project initiated in 1990 closed down in 2004).

They are also into a South-South Exchange Programme for Research on the History of Development, funded by SEPHIS, a Dutch development funding programme. CSSSC gives a one year researcher training course programme, in which the student has to choose 6 courses out of 12 options and also write a term paper. Mostly Indian students from Kolkata have attended, but they are now thinking of going international with this programme. A 6-7 days cultural studies workshop is one of the courses. The students from Uganda attended these courses.
CSSSC has gone from emphasising political economy and poverty, to putting more weight on the one hand Trade and Finance, and on the other hand Cultural studies, in which History, Sociology, etc. all merge into one inter-disciplinary programme where they see things as much more interconnected. The programme declaration can be found in the magazine Seminar, No. 446, October 1996, edited by Anjan Ghosh.

Staffan suggested that there might be a networking with the Cultural Studies School that Ron Eyerman is planning to set up with Margareta Bertilsson at Copenhagen, with Staffan at Lund, Jeff Alexander, and others. Staffan promised to send the proposal.