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Anant Maringanti

Suicide as provocation:Reflecting on affect, populism and engaged scholarship in Telengana

Suicide as provocation:Reflecting on affect, populism and engaged scholarship in Telengana
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Starts on 18 February 2010 Suicide as provocation:Reflecting on affect, populism and engaged scholarship in Telengana


Abstract of the paper: The current phase of the Separate Telangana movement in Andhra Pradesh virtually brought everyday functioning of the state to a grinding halt since early December. The movement is remarkable if only for one reason - over 250 people are said to have committed suicides in less than three months in its name, a significant number of them by self immolation and many of them leaving suicide notes stating that they were dying for Telangana. These voluntary deaths in the course of a political movement stand out against a long history of extra judicial killings by the police and retributory killings by Maoists in the same region which used to claim no less than 600 lives annually in this region.While spokespersons for the movement initially tended to celebrate the dead as martyrs, they are increasingly reading them as indications of the depth of despair and disappointment at the central government's refusal to 'grant' them a separate state. Skeptics dismiss the suicides as either misatributed by vested interests to frustration over delyas in Telangana or at best as a case of large numbers of misguided youth resorting to easy posthumous glory. Other commentators suggest that a tradition of celebrating death and martyrdom, histories of farmer suicides may all be contributing to a mass hysteria. In this talk, I will weave togeher three interrelated themes that have engaged me in the course of the past three months. First, I take these suicides as a provocation to contemplate on what I call the dystopias of neoliberal populism. Rather than attempting to establish causalities, I suggest that we should first understand these suicides as an indication of multiple falures - of the state, of intellectuals, of activists, or artists and of the mass media. Second, I will briefly explore two conceptual framings -affect and emotion as potential entry points into an analysis of cultures of protest. I will argue that while these ideas at first sight promise some intellectual traction, they come to us with considerable baggage from continental philosophy. The intellectual and political challenge that stares us in the face, I suggest is one of trying to refract these ideas through sensibilities derived from intellectual traditions of democratic movements in post emergency India. Thirdly, given the diverse manners in which suicide has come to confront us in recent years in India, I offer some thoughts on whether suicides in contemporary India might actually offer us new opportunity to make significant empirical research as well as cross some extant boundaries between intellectual work and activist work, structuralism and post structuralism.

Short bio of the speaker: Having taken an itinerant attitude towards career early on in life, Maringanti nearly two decades after an undergraduate degree in engineering to get to a PhD program in human geography at the University of Minnesota, which is home to a number of critical geographers. Maringanti is currently a postdoctoral researcher with the Amsterdam School of Social Science Research in a collaborative research project titled “Provincial Globalisation: The impact of Reverse Transnational Flows in India’s regional towns."




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