Panitza Library

Guest lecture: “Traveling concepts: Reflection on the ‘folk’ as a historiographical trope”, by Avishek Ray

February 05, 2019

Traveling Concepts: Reflection on the ‘Folk’ as a Historiographical Trope 

This talk uses the concept of ‘folk’ in Bangla literary historiography as a case study to illustrate how concepts travel across continents, and, as Edward Said (2000) insists, give rise to a diverse range of discursive meanings, contingencies and implications when domesticated regionally. It points to how the imaginative articulation of ‘folk’ as a heuristic category emerges anew in the nineteenth century literary spectrum, while being totally improminent in other times or other historiographic models, not because of reasons entirely aesthetic/literary, but rather due to the change in epistemic paradigm(s). Pointing to the contestation on the ‘literary’ worth of what has been canonized as ‘folk literature’ by two rival schools, spearheaded respectively by Dineshchandra Sen and Sukumar Sen, I argue that the concern about ‘folk’ in the case of Bangla literary historiography manifests itself only during the transition to (colonial) ‘modernity’ because the category was contrived within the historiographic trope set forth by the West, that of English literature to be precise.  

Bio-note: Avishek Ray teaches at the National Institute of Technology Silchar (India). He has earned his PhD in Cultural Studies from Trent University, Canada. He is interested in intellectual histories, and works on issues concerning travel and migration. He has edited a Bangla anthology on Religion & Popular Culture, and published in reputed journals like Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (Routledge), Canadian Journal of Comparative Literature, Journal of Human Values (SAGE), among others. He has held research fellowships at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (India), University of Edinburgh (UK), Purdue University Library (USA), Centre for Advanced Study, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Pavia University (Italy).

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