The three-day Online International Conference on “Language Ideologies and the “Vernacular” in South Asian Colonial and Post-Colonial Literature(s) and Public Sphere” organized by the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) and South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany concluded on 17th March 2021. The conference was supported by the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research collaboration (SPARC) initiative of the Ministry of Education, GoI. The much-anticipated valedictory address titled “Who wants to learn languages?” was delivered by Prof. Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak, University Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University.
In her lecture, Prof. Spivak responded to the intellectual exchange that took place over the three days of the conference. Drawing from her own location and experiences of teaching she engaged with the ideas of language and the vernacular. She deliberated on the conference theme through the perspective offered by Garmsci who as Prof. Spivak argued knew that: “Written normative grammar . . . always presupposes a ‘choice’, a cultural tendency, and is thus always an act of national-cultural politics”.
Her lecture elaborated on the best way to present the ‘choice’ and the ‘tendency’ in order to get them accepted willingly.The richness of Prof. Spivak’s valedictory address and its thought-provoking arguments invited many comments and questions from the attendees. Answering a question, Prof. Spivak said that Creolisation is the affirmative sabotage of heritage.Prof. Najma Akhtar, Vice-Chancellor, JMI gave the inaugural address where she appreciated the goal of the conference to engage with issues related to language and vernacular.
The keynote address was delivered by Prof. GN Devy, Author, Cultural Critic, Public Intellectual and Former Professor of English, MS University of Baroda.The three days of the conference hosted academic stalwarts like Prof. Sudipta Kaviraj, Prof. Javed Majeed and Prof. Francesca Orsini who through their detailed addresses contributed to the discussion of the conference theme. The debates on language ideologies and vernacularity were also discussed in the plenary lectures by experts such as Prof. Charu Gupta, Prof. Veena Naregal, Dr. Torsten Tschacher, Dr. Anjali Nerlekar, Dr. Baidik Bhattacharya, Dr. Margrit Pernau, Dr. Arian Hopf, Prof. Ruth Vanita, Dr. Preetha Mani, Dr. Neilesh Bose, Dr. Ravikant, and Gautam Liu.
Other sessions of the conference included paper presentations by 26 scholars from national and international universities on wide ranging approaches to the language, ideologies and vernacularity like study of Gaon desk calendar, Indo-Fijian poetry, science fiction, caste and language, trauma and the vernacular, and standardization and vernacularisation of Hindi, amongst many others.All three days of the international conference were well attended by students and scholars from across the globe and time zones.