Its been a year since I started this blog. At this juncture, I would like to recall my mission,
add to our understanding of contemporary India as it goes through a period of rapid change.
The forces changing India are so varied and working towards such different goals that it is often hard to see things clearly. But standing on the shoulders of scholars does give one access to their knowledge and analytical capacities. Academics may have their biases but their work is for salary and satisfaction, not profit.
But on the other hand, academics, with its emphasis on rigor and verifiability makes it very hard for lay-people to comprehend many of the papers published.
No one can deny the dangerous distance between India’s intellectual communities and its emerging middle classes. This blog is a very small attempt to bridge that gap. The relation between a social scientist and a society has to be very different between that of a physics professor and society. Society may not need to know what the latest advancement in quantum physics is but it does need to know why a party was elected or removed from power, why a riot occurred and why people still vote along caste lines.
But in many papers that I have read, I have noticed an even more alarming distance, that between the scholars and the masses. Only four of the seventeen papers I have discussed here, actually had a research component where the author actually spoke to and directly engaged the masses. Far too many papers rely on indirect, unreliable sources (particularly the English media) to gather information and assess sentiment.
In the past social scientists relied (and they still do) on their books, magazine articles and newspaper editorials to make contact with the broader society. But today, technology and especially the internet allow scholars to publish their findings and analysis directly on the web and get feedback from readers. In this regard, social science journals have to take the lead and make their contents publicly available to read and comment on. The EPW has taken the right step in this direction and other journals need to follow.
An academic view of society may only be worth the number of people it actually reaches.