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IKS Meta Retreat: Making Sense Of Cultural Differences A Report

IKS Meta Retreat: Making Sense Of Cultural Differences A Report

We are pleased to share that we completed our fifth offering of IKS MetaRetreat at Vilvam Foundation, Tiruvannamalai. Ten IKS Changemakers from across Bharat met under the leadership of Prof. MS Chaitra, Director, Centre for Study of Cultures to discuss “Making Sense of Cultural Differences” from 21-23 June 2024.

In the 20th Century, different cultures came into a higher order engagement with each other. However, this discourse was controlled, manipulated and distorted by the Colonial Powers. Post World War 2 several nations have achieved political independence. However, Colonialism continues to have a hold on other nations. The world view of colonial powers continues to live as colonial consciousness in colonised societies. This asymmetry generated between cultures, though is understood as an impact of colonialism, is also foundationally the product of cultural differences. How we think of Culture and Cultural Differences suffer the same situation as we know today in case of colonialism and the asymmetric relationships between colonised and the coloniser.

Post globalisation, societies are engaging with each other at a much higher rate than during the colonial times. There is significant migration and movement of people across different cultures either temporarily  or permanently. Societies are not able to characterise the complex nature of this engagement and prepare for consequences. In this light, it is necessary to develop a scientifically strong theory of culture and cultural differences that does justice to all societies in general and Bharat in particular.

In this light, the Meta-Retreat was organised to explore, appreciate and characterise cultural differences. Prof. MS Chaitra gave a raising start to the discussion on Day-1 which was subsequently anchored by Research Scholar, Soham Deshmukh, Chanakya University.

The discussion helped us bring about several questions such as below and explore

  1. Is Culture nothing but Learning to Learn or Meta Learning? Can we equate Learning to Learn ie., Meta Learning with Culture itself? Is Meta Learning a part of Culture or wholly that? Where does Learning Configuration come from? What is the role of Shraddhaa in realising this learning configuration? What is the role of Ontology in the Learning Configuration of a society?
  2.  What is the difference between a Society and Culture? Can we articulate the difference between them as a function of Culture itself? Is this a System or an Institution? Is there a System or Institution at places like Dharmasthala? If not, what is it? How do we characterise them? Do we need new Categories or Theories?
  3. Can cultures be distinguished based on their approach towards belief and believing? Can this help us articulate cultures and cultural phenomena? Does this distinction lead to different knowledge paradigms? Can we understand the Axiom/Model vs Sutra proposition of Dr. Roddam Narasimha from the Learning Culture stand-point?
  4. Is the Notion of Knowledge the same in all Cultures or are they different? How do we characterise this difference? How do we characterise Action/Performance itself as Knowledge? Do we have our theories, categories, vocabularies ready for it? Why would or why would not a society not have Performance primed over Theory? Is being a Performative Culture giving us any cushion wrt cultural assaults?
  5. How do we characterise artifacts/texts exclusively as matters of Study vs Matters of performance? Are our Texts ‘performative’? If we are not ‘performative’ do we have the ‘adhikara’ to use such texts for ‘explanatory’ purposes? Why don’t we have as many explanations/explanatory models in our culture independent of performative texts? Why were we as a Culture more interested in ‘How’ rather than ‘Why’? If we didn’t need explanatory theories so far, why then now? Do we need explanatory theories to protect ourselves?
  6. Why problems that seem to be linguistic are not merely just that? Are Translation problems really that of a language? Why did we not have as many Translations as Retellings in Bharat? Is Translation a Proselytising Enterprise? How do we understand Soli Sorabjee’s statement on Supreme Court’s proceedings exclusively needing to be in English? Are Bharateeya Bhashas incapable of representing law terminology developed in English? What is their concern – Jurisprudence moving from one philosophy to another? Is this a language problem or a Cultural Problem? What are some problems in AK Ramanujan’s Essay on ‘Is there an Indian way of Thinking’? How do they help us think about Culture?
  7. How do we use texts generated by the colonial powers to know more about them as a Culture? Why is this essential? Why can’t we simply ignore it as irrelevant or impose intentionality to dismiss them as false knowledge? How do we use these texts to ask questions that can productively help us decide a future course of action to know more about ourselves too
  8. How several modern ideas are merely secularisation of abrahamic ideas? Are Institutions universal in their modern conceptual framework? When the Europeans recognised the existence of institutions such as schools, were they truly similar institutions? Dharampal’s insights about creation of new so-called indigenous institutions during the colonial times. How did European interventions alter our cultural entities into their modern institutional versions? How do we characterise our socio-cultural entities that served us organised units? How do we take forward Dharampal’s insights and build our own categories and theories around it?

The IKS Changemakers who were part of the Meta Retreat cohort are

  • MS Chaitra – MetaRetreat Leader, Director, Centre for Study of Cultures, Chanakya University
  • Soham Deshmukh – MetaRetreat Co-Anchor, Research Scholar, Chanakya University
  • Yugank Goyal, Associate Professor, Co-Founder Centre for Knowledge Alternatives, FLAME University
  • Pankaj Saxena, Co-Founder, Director Cultural Research, Brhat
  • Anish Gupta, Assistant Professor, Delhi School of Economics; Secretary – Institute for Educational and Developmental Studies, Noida
  • Srinath Mohandas, Assistant Professor, Chinmaya VV
  • Purva Bhatt, Research Scholar, MNIT Jaipur
  • Mahendra Pandey, Research Scholar, BHU,
  • Vinayak Hampiholi, Independent Researcher, Bengaluru
  • Shivakumar GV, Director IKS Changemakers, INDICA, Bengaluru

IKS Meta-Retreats are immersive intellectual explorations spanning 2-3 days, led by an Acharya in the ambience of a Gurukula and conducted with an attitude of Shraddha. Acharya, is the subject matter expert (SME), seeking to explore a specific topic, discipline, or domain along with a cohort. 9-12 participants who possess shradda and the right experience in the chosen theme form the cohort. This cohort then comes together with an upanishadic attitude of learning through immersion at a location that echoes the ambience of a Gurukula.

At INDICA, we seek to work closely with IKS Changemakers of Bharat like you and be a part of their journeys to fulfil your potential, passion and purpose. Immersive experiences and transformational programs such as IKS MetaRetreats are our offering in this regard. We look forward to championing their work, connecting them with other like minded IKS Changemakers and creating learning/coaching opportunities for them. We look forward to contributing to your work, collaborating with you on mutually beneficial programs and celebrating successes together.

We look forward to this being the starting point of a long journey together.