The Brotherhood of Dissent

Quite apart from the fact that our physical location is in Katwaria Sarai, we do feel kinship with Sarai, the intensely vital program at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The fellowship that they offer artists and mediapersons is highly coveted, and when one sees what it enables, one can understand why....

Their manifesto explicitly includes "a commitment to critical and dissenting thought and a focus on critically expanding the horizons of the discourse on development, particularly with reference to South Asia. [They are] a coalition of researchers and practitioners with a commitment towards developing a model of research-practice that is public and creative, in which multiple voices express and render themselves in a variety of forms."

The Annual Sarai Readers do give a flavour of what is possible in the Sarai environment with this level of dissenting thought. A summary of the work that their fellows have carried out is available in their recent publications. Working Questions: Independent Research and Interdisciplinary Practice summarises what happened at Sarai from 2002-2007. Its easiest to use the text from one of the introductory articles, by Vivek Narayanan, on how to use the book, which gives "an indication of the range and variety of the projects, as well as showcase some of the projects that we have grown fond of. ... we do expect that, as with a book of poems, many lay readers will not read this section from start to finish, but dip in here and there. All the same, as with a book of poems, we have arranged and ordered the pieces for the reader who, in fact, may well desire to read the book from beginning to end, as a kind of fragmentary novel of our times. What we have done in the catalogue is to try to produce a set of narrative arcs, a rough argument in the ordering. Quite certainly, this is, in many ways, an imposed narrative. Other equally valid viral or rhizomatic leaps between entries in different sections of this book can and should be made by active readers. Narratives are always multiple, and connections are endless, they constantly emerge. We have put together the book in one way just so that different projects might spark more connections and, moreover, show each other off. Readers who are interested in a more conventional classification of the texts by discipline, approach, practice, etc., should consult the thematic index given at the back of the book. Readers who would like to go straight into fascinating and in-depth representative accounts of individual research could do no better than to read the excerpts from the interviews and to follow these up with their complete texts online."

I'm not quite sure what rhizomatic means here, but all the same the book is wonderful dipping material for the lay reader, which most definitely is what I am.

In fact 312 pages of good stuff in paperback. In our Media Section, Rs. 250, US$ 20, Euro 15. ISBN 9788190585385