Sunday, March 3, 2013

The presence of English in India at the crossroads chapter 1

Probal Dasgupta

Kumud Chandra Dutta Memorial Lectures 1997 (Dibrugarh University, Assam)

Published as ‘The presence of English in India at the crossroads’, pp 1-132, in Probal Dasgupta, Udayon Misra, Amaresh Datta (2002) English at Crossroads: The Post-Colonial Situation: Kumud Chandra Dutta Memorial Lecture Series, 1997-98. Guwahati: Students’ Stores.

Posted here chapterwise; this is the first of six chapters. In the text itself I call the chapters ‘sections’ and the sections ‘subsections’.

1. From National English to Cognitive Welfare

1.1 Preamble

In the argument I present here, I address a question of knowledge. Many people in India know English. What do they know in and as English?

The argument I propose to construct addresses this issue at a conceptual level at which one is asking more generally what anybody knowing any language can be said to know. The question takes a significant form for English in India for a variety of reasons. One is that the use of this language here is at a crossroads and this conjuncture raises issues that might otherwise lie dormant. Another reason has to do with the open and visible mediations whereby English is supported and surrounded by inter­ventions and knowledge systems in other languages that make its continued presence in this country both appropriate and, paradox­ically by the same token, something of an embarrassment.

As a consequence, much of the argument offered here is a matter of methodology. I propose that knowing a language means knowing that certain types of conversations have taken place, that certain things have been said in more or less memorable forms and contexts. Hence the irreducibility of a literary com­ponent in one's knowledge of language. Neither linguistic nor literary study has been able to find ways to cope with this elementary fact, certainly not in university departments of English or linguistics; obviously the public needs to cope with it first to make an academic second coping possible. I propose further that knowing a language means knowing that one can crea­tively continue these conversations in extended contexts, and that these continuabilities are themselves embroiled in other knowledges, for all knowing is a matter of action continuability.

This methodological enterprise becomes paradigmatic in that the argument presented here shows, though it has no occasion to turn this into an explicit saying in the sense of the old opposi­tion between saying and showing, the following point: The types of reality which language ‑‑ and languages exist in and as knowl­edges ‑‑ provides examples of need to be viewed not only retro­spectively, but also prospectively or potentially. Retrospective terms are often seen as physical; and prospective or potential terms are frequently viewed as "conceptual‑mental" terms if we stick to the body‑mind stand‑off, or as "perceptual‑cognitive" terms if we can move towards a richer view of the materiality of mental action.

I suggest further that the wider class of actions involved need to be perceptually and conceptually unhooked from what I characterize as a monumentalist paradigm, which I shall often call the Olympian approach. This focus on performance alone, worshipping as it does the human ability to create huge or tall or otherwise record‑breaking structures, is able to  detect achievement only in concentric circles coming out of the Olympic games or other prize giving and record keeping activities. These methodological issues appear, for us, in the context of a partic­ular phenomenon: the use of English in our country.

Many of us view the issues raised by the presence of English in India as a matter of language form or function. A formal approach asks how much and how this English mixes with the other languages of the land. A functional approach might ask what various people use their various vocabularies for, how happy they seem to be with all this, and what one proposes to do about the patterns of unhappiness. One strategy of functional inquiry is to juxtapose English with Hindi, supposedly a rival language, and raise questions of power and feasibility. Another is to distrib­ute this issue into the states, conflating the notions of state language and Regional Language, and to ask, again, questions of power and feasibility.

An obvious second option is to explore certain intersections between these familiar debates and relatively new questions of decolonization, economic or cultural. This territory remains uncharted. But its agendas are overdetermined by cognate work that does exist in cultural studies. It is a priori clear what compulsions will drive one to the study of the form and function of languages as ideologies, with English as an imperial ideology cast as an unsurprising special case.

I agree with those who root for that second option that the use of English is India is primarily instrumental. And surely ideological studies are one way to get a grip on this or other instrumental uses of cultural resources. But this method of in­quiry looks at the matter purely externally. It leaves obscure and undeveloped our understanding of the content of a language as part of a mental landscape. To develop our perceptions, it seems to me, we need to push the debates on English and other languages in India in a cognitive direction, which has  been severely neglected by theoreticians, linguistic or otherwise.

The question for those of us who wish to develop this third option is: what is the form and function of the content of a language? How does one study it? How do we go about connecting this inquiry to more familiar topics and methods? What does English in India mean that, say, Marathi in India does not? This internal question leads us to look at the way people think in a language, not just what they think about it. Thinking, or knowl­edge, is a resource embedded in a language, if you see it as readily transferable from one vehicle to another. If you look at the whole ecology differently, recognizing the difficulties of access across vehicles, you prefer to see languages as cognitive resources within which knowledge‑ecological mechanisms set up and sometimes sustain certain kinds of contexts.
        Why should this third option pit itself against the first? That part seems clear. The first approach, studying as it does the form and function of languages in a general linguistics, is trapped in a widely discredited liberal humanism. Why, however, should one see this third approach as needing to be distinguished even from the second approach that characterizes much avant‑garde thinking in the humanities and the social sciences? This may need some clarification.

Sheila Rampersad (p.c., 1997) points out that creative writing and its commentarial accompaniment in the English‑speak­ing Caribbean responds vigorously to regional work in the same language, but has had considerable trouble ‑‑ postcolonial radicalism notwithstanding ‑‑ surmounting the language barrier and learning from or with cognate minds in the Dutch, French, Spanish speakers of the region. I take this as a prototypical example. If even people with as much vigour, creativity, a desire for change, and mutual goodwill as the new writers in the An­glophone Caribbean are hampered by language, it seems to me that one must assume language provides the context for action and knowledge. Transmission and free traffic are not a foregone conclusion. They have to be fought for and, as I would like to emphasize, thought for. It is that thinking that I am identifying as the less often tried third option. The fact that English provides access to a world of knowledge has been the real basis for its continued power. Debaters normally take this for granted and ask what one can do about the power equations. I would like to ask in some detail how the terrains of knowledge set up spe­cific equations between languages, and whether one can do any­thing about this traffic and its consequences.

In other words, the point is not to simply continue various debates about English and its presence in India, but to ask, at what is clearly a crucial juncture in this continued presence, how the debates might be usefully redirected. If the cognitive forms part of the social, then a spectrum of serious sociolingu­istic inquiry should include what one might call a cognitively based linguistics. By this I mean not the assembly of considera­tions from psychology, philosophy, computer science, and linguis­tics that is explored under the rubric of cognitive science. Rather, I mean an ecologically accountable linguistics of the contexts of language use that looks at certain factors that throw various contexts up ‑‑ and down ‑‑ taking the pragmatic and cognitive baggage carried by these contexts into account.

My principal emphasis, in these explorations, will be against the culture of measurement that has dominated our age. It was a classical thought that the unexamined life was not worth living. The modern period, in its usually unexamined classicali­ty, has turned this into the thought that the unmeasured life is unbearable because it is unspecified as to worth. For worth too, this measured century asks you to see, is always a measurement. It follows, on this reasoning, that before you ask what anything is worth, you must first measure everyone and everything in sight.  As a metonymic symbol of this ubiquitous measurement, I choose the Olympic Games. Accordingly, I will think of English as the Olympian language which India puts to certain uses. A sociol­ogist of labour might have preferred to focus instead on the fact that this century began with the time and motion studies of the actual work processes of labourers that enabled the creation of assembly line procedures or Fordism, gave rise to industrial psychology and management science, and greatly deepened the control that the nation‑state, ever since the setting up of national medical systems, exercises over the working life of individuals. I prefer to choose a symbol that stresses the hold of these systems over people's playing life as well. My decision to see English as an Olympian rather than an Olympic language casts a side glance at the patrician attitude that the owners of English as a knowledge resource share with the Greek gods on Mount Olympus. But the main concern is with this Olympic specifi­cation of what counts, literally Counts, as a conceivable system of knowledge and of knowledgeable or mature action.

As will become somewhat clearer at the end of this document than it can be now, my submission is that truly mature patterns of action and knowledge need to evolve towards sustainability, and it becomes clear, when one examines the Olympian ethos, that the present order of knowledge, not being sustainable, is moving into a transition that we need to understand if we are to guide ourselves through it.

Let us now touch base with certain obvious empirical start­ing points.

Independent Indian society has been operating on the basis of a division of cognitive labour on the language front. We do the bulk of our literary, cultural, expressive activities in the Indian languages. And English is in the driver's seat. It drives industry, science, business, intellectuality: in short, the whole apparatus of our nation‑state and its dealings with other commu­nities and with its own modernity.

We have distributed our cognitive resources in this fashion for long enough that we now see the patterns emerging. And we are not entirely sure we like what we see. So the nation is in the throes of a slow reorganization. It is the responsibility of thinking men and women to help this process along. Hence our task. What are we going to do, in order to try and understand that the presence of English in our country is at a crossroads, and to sort out the intellectual traffic jam we have gotten into?

The problem is not the real but harmless spillover of Eng­lish into our creative activities and languages. On the contrary, I shall argue that we need to welcome and streamline this spillo­ver. What we face is, above all, a question of cultural, cogni­tive, linguistic health as a factor in human welfare, not an issue of anybody's inherited wealth seen as a pure commodity. What does harm the health of our languages is not the supposed impure admixture with foreign words, but the stultifying confine­ment of our languages to the expressive and cultural sector of this nation's knowledge system. This confinement stunts the growth of our mental core, and makes our relaxed discussions stupid. That we as individuals continue to have active access to a sophisticated intelligence that operates in English does not help. Our personal and social relation with that intelligence becomes unsustainable. For we restrict it to a language in which we don't conduct our relaxed private discussions. And the way out is not to move our entire life into English and become simply an Anglophone nation, obviously, but to expand the scope of our own languages as carriers of all the knowledge we have acquired.

Right now, only the educational and journalistic dishing‑out of what we know is conducted in the Indian languages. We produce and sustain our knowledge system in English alone. As a result, our discussions in our own languages are seriously curtailed in scope and depth. This unstable state of affairs is going to force us to move towards a set‑up where we possess, even if we do not consistently use, the same capabilities in our own languages and in English.

The practical question is, who is going to bell the cat? After we address this issue, we shall place our proposals in a theoretical context that may be of some independent use.

1.2 Reflections on a Negotiated Rationality

People used to rule by wielding legitimate terror, as in warfare and other activities where games must end in victories and defeats. It is now normal to regard negotiation as a more legitimate method of securing stable arrangements for interna­tional boundaries and other disputed matters. I would like to propose that knowledge systems and conceptions of rationality are also going to have to give up their tyrannical and terrorist regimes in favour of negotiation with the informal regional knowledges that any formal knowledge system must do business with. English is one site of this struggle between the waning legitimacy of terror and the waxing legitimacy of negotiation.

As part of our reflections on the best way to improve the style of this negotiation, we may usefully focus on the conversa­tions between the literate and the illiterate. There is a reason for the choice of this topic.

General illiteracy has been described as a reliable guaran­tor of the continued existence of less powerful languages. A low literacy population that speaks many languages is compelled to run its national equation between elite and subalterns on paral­lel tracks, as linguistically differentiated regional equations. Elites have to speak to subalterns in the several languages in which the informal speaking continues to take place. And, elites being what they are, this process spawns literatures in regional languages as a byproduct of these necessary conversational sys­tems. The systems do not gear their existence to the satisfaction of literary desires, however. They exist to ensure the give and take of the necessary "instruction/s", in both directions and in all senses of this slippery term. The question is how this con­tinuous negotiation between elite and subaltern in societies like India can evolve, now that literacy is growing, without destroy­ing the cultural health of a multilingual population, precarious­ly perched on ad hoc branches of a poorly understood tree of knowledge whose fruit we upanishadically refrain from eating.

Clearly we need to find a way that knowledge resources, plenished and replenished in a sustainable cycle, become the basis for a less obscurely managed preservation of our communi­ties, defined languagewise or otherwise. If we do not make friends with our knowledge resources, they turn poisonous and pollutive instead of serving as resources. In other words, I propose to shift the debates about language on to the terrain of the discussion of knowledges, seen in the plural.

If warfare is no longer acceptable as a real arbiter of disputes, a general demobilization into civilian life must fol­low. Alas, we have yet to learn how to do this. For civilian life can only function on its own if its citizens learn mutual civili­ty. And this ingredient has been lacking in all known civiliza­tions so far. I would submit that one cannot learn manners unless one is also simultaneously learning the matters that matter, in other words, that the necessary civil style can only co‑evolve with the cognitive content of civilization. In other words, we can replace the mobilized methods that characterized warfare only if we develop sustainable methods based on taking the cognitive content of our cultural resources entirely seriously, at all levels of cognition and culture.

Any developing takes time, of course. But one must ask whether the time one is spending is being well spent. My reading is that we have sacrificed a lot of time on the altar of the false god of excessive industrialization. English is a prime case in point. English has been to language what overdevelopment has been to life in general: an industrial hijack of the cognitive. And in both cases, the struggle to regain the ascendancy of life over the forces that threaten it must take an environmentalist form. In the case in point, we need to learn how to retrieve the cognitive from the industrial hijack. This learning will happen as part of the struggles within the domain of knowledge that will now increasingly replace the disputes that used to erupt in the old‑fashioned military form, seeking permanent victories over enemies that would accept permanent defeats and go under. And one knows in advance that cognitive debates never get "settled" in quite that fashion, as they can never seriously seek such an end.

All this sounds rather utopian, needless to say. The present industrial organization of our knowledge resources easily out­shouts any voices that might plead for a rational revision of rationality canons to maximize cognitive negotiation and minimize tyranny. Why then should we not realistically envisage a scenario where grievances against this and other tyrannies remain tooth­less and shrill?

I shall take the position that agendas that target a partic­ular kind of tyrannical imposition of asymmetry acquire teeth and seem generally relevant only when the general perception of compulsions ‑‑ of what is a public necessity and what a private option ‑‑ makes that particular anti‑tyrannical cause seem more real and less remote. Such a process of the generalization of the relevant grievance brings that utopia down to the earth of a practical debate about who gets to do what and where the energies are going to come from.

In our postmodern period, characterized as it is by regional and new‑regional movements, there is at last a general agreement that one is going to dismantle centralizations and devolve power to both the old, geographical regions and the constituencies that I find it convenient to call the New Regions of a nation: catego­ries such as Women, or Dalits, or Aboriginals, or Refugees, or Inhabitants of Less Developed Rural Districts, or even, under certain transitional conditions, Students.

These social movements exist. I take it that this is a mandate for those of us who wish to root for the old and new regions they speak for. Both in the politics of new parties reflecting these aspirations, and in the civil social processes of NGOs serving or exploiting some of these categories, many of us are busy articulating the self‑interest perceptions and evolv­ing negotiating styles of regions and new regions. I take this for granted. The question I am trying to bring into focus is: How can we do all this with some theoretical comprehension of what all this means and where it might take us? To put it more useful­ly: Okay, we are rooting for regions old and new. What do we root for them as? As victims of a traditional injustice to be set right by activist judges and their various non‑wig‑wearing equiv­alents?

I shall hazard the guess that we need to redefine terms of knowledge the way victims of the global economic order want terms of trade redefined. And here there is an intentional pun on the term Terms. You redefine terms of knowledge by working on how technical terms live and move and have their being.

Technical terms exist at one level in an umbrella language like English where official technicality finds a home. At another level, technical terms are mediated through regional languages spoken by the population that needs to operate with the terms. Technical terms embody a certain trading equation between an industrial English and an operational regionality. The regional language ‑‑ and I mean this with some consciousness of the di­versity of regions, and thus the heterogeneity of what will count as regional codes and discourses ‑‑ may be given some token or real responsibility of harbouring its own technical terms. These will then be subject to translational control from English. Or the regional language is supposed to merely explain the English to the silent majority. On any arrangement, the regional discourse must mediate between the technical terms of an English and the operative population actually living in the regions. And you have to work on this regional discursive mediation whenever the regime of technical terms is modified in any way. Which it continuously is.

The issue, then, becomes: How does one root for regions as one watches and takes part in the terminology‑renegotiating process that continuously redefines the terms of trade between an industrial English and the culturally deforested regions?

My tentative answer is that you root for regions by visual­izing them as interlocking sets of milieux where real life is spelled out as serial action networks that nurture. This formula might use some unpacking. A serial action is an activity that involves a series of acts with some repetition. Typically, serial actions pass from earlier actors, some of them masters, to later actors, some of them apprentices. And some of this passing is handled by an actual relation, typically in the apprenticeship model, though other dyads such as parent‑child are not always most usefully seen as apprenticeships. A serial action network is a network of such relations, call them overlapping apprenticeship groups in the absence of a more representative or accurate way of visualizing the whole business of the cultural self‑renewal that is normal in such groups. To unpack the last term in the formula, nurturing is the way that cultural self‑renewal of this sort looks when the impositions always present in any intersubjective labour do not take the driver's seat and formally define the whole network in terms of power or codification.

I must continue my tentative answer by noting that mutuality of relational definition holds not only within a region, but across regions under an umbrella (national or otherwise). In other words, we conceive of regions as a way to think about mutualizing or relationalizing the negotiation process. That way, negotiation is no longer seen as a fragmentary, ad hoc preamble to real settlements, the way it used to be. Instead, we take the view that negotiation is the real thing. The final settlements are going to be permanent negotiations, always on‑going, and from that point of view one will retrospectively see earlier versions of negotiation as the best that a prehistoric, war‑mongering period could do to approximate to the art of negotiating of our period seen as the beginning of a serious and lasting culti­vation of peace as the supreme arbiter of disputes.

Notice that I did not say: of differences. Peace is the art of preserving differences and yet preventing the disputes that differences may give rise to from leading to warfare. And it is important to notice at the outset that such management of differ­ences cannot be based on telling everybody that all players in the game are equal. They aren't, and this is going to count as part of the game. The point is not to deny this reality, but to face it without evasion and without manipulation of perceptions.

In the context of English in India vis‑‑vis regional lan­guages, this means that if you take the point of view of warlike struggle then it is going to look as though one is accepting permanent second class status for these regional languages under a paramount English. Is this undesirable? Only if and when users of regional languages find this form of survival unacceptable.

I shall take the position that, at our conjuncture, regional languages in India exist as side shows to a principal spectacle constituted in English. They are side shows as far as their spectacle value is concerned. This appears to be a defeat. But scrutinize this appearance. And you find that it is in the re­gional languages that the communities quietly, and almost unob­servably, negotiate the decision to stage a spectacular show in English, and other important overall decisions. This looks like a long‑term fact, doesn't it? It is the conversations in the re­gional languages which continue to call the shots, on this read­ing, don't they?

Some of us will see this as a sour grapes reading. But watch the impulse that makes us see things this way. We root for re­gional languages in the mode of wanting them to come out Victori­ous. And we feel sorry for them if they look secondary under a paramount Master English. Now, that is a problem only for the game of winners and losers which envisages a single victor. English does work in the context of that game. But that game is the spectacle itself. If we are capable of seeing the way the spectacular show is set up, that puts us in a position where we will stop wanting victories, and start asking what is sustainable and where the sustainability is built and rebuilt by negotiation. Which sends us to the regional languages as the sites of such negotiation ‑‑ now recast, remember, as the real thing, not as a preliminary that paves the way for our future victories.

The scenario that we see emerging, which though encouraging does need some doses of comprehension and insightful action, goes as follows. The Indian network of regional communities does keep English as the spectacular, principal knowledge clearing house. Our regional literate elites may even choose to shed the usual lexical purism and ‑‑ following a useful tradition initiated in Kerala by Joseph Mundasseri in the fifties ‑‑ give specific legitimacy to certain types of English loans in the careful or rigorous forms of Indian languages. For surely we need not invent indigenous‑sounding technical terms every time the metropolitan terminological system sways to the dance of fashion. It makes better sense for us to simply take that hype as ephemeral adver­tising, thus leaving pieces of English jargon untranslated and unassimilated in our languages. This self‑restraint would leave our term creation energies free for the more important work of conceptual accommodation and reinterrogation.

In other words, shedding some of our purism would help us to preserve our languages as effective tools for the regional bases they build for us. English is not our existential base. English is something we do, a virtuoso performance.

One might accuse this analysis of denying agency to Anglophone Indians who do all their work in English. It is true that those of us who work at the interface of the expressive and the industrial in the national knowledge network are making decisions in English. It is true also that these decisions take part in shaping the configuration of knowledge networks. So our analysis must pursue the issues into the Anglophone minority of India's population. There we find the possibility of a certain climbdown, a chutnification of English as knowledge that might meet the regional languages half‑way. To employ a metaphor that cancels the deforestation that the industrial knowledge system working in English has been guilty of, we might argue that Eng­lish‑carried knowledge today seems to feel compelled to go in for a full‑scale detechnologization or greening, passing on the intellectual leadership of the knowledge enterprise from the scientizing to the humanizing sector of the system. This takes a complex form, on my reading. The narrative wing of this sector employs tools from a basket that I shall call Metafiction to cover a vast range of techniques including magic realism, meta­fiction proper, and related material. The conceptual wing of the knowledge sector has begun to use a repertory that emphasizes the need to augment perception rather than concepts, and which in­cludes critical and postmodernist theoretical devices in the service of rethinking the representations.

Representations of what? Of the constituencies in the popu­lation as it has been reconfiguring itself. If this takes a regional form, it thus becomes inevitable that this country's serious practitioners of English‑driven knowledge will be driven past the usual hang‑ups, to the point of having to relearn the regional languages themselves. In saying this, I am merely re­peating A.K. Ramanujan's prediction (personal communication, 1992) that the Anglophone thinkers of India are going to find it necessary, by the logic of their own impulses, to relearn region­al languages. The point is not only about language, but about knowledge: India's Anglophones are going to find it necessary to learn from the regions to meet half‑way the forces of the regions learning from them.

Such learning becomes possible as the equations that set knowledge up as knowledge modify themselves, recasting the re­gional discourses as legitimate and self‑conscious cognition networks that our Anglophones, addicted as they are to recogniz­able formalities, will be able to construe as knowledge, and therefore to learn. In the postmodern period, the struggle over language is an ecological struggle over what counts as knowledge. All ecologies are shaped by negotiations: the niches are not fixed a priori, but sites of co‑evolution. Negotiations involve cooperation, but they have competitive goals too; subcommunities in any ecosystem struggle for advantage, and sometimes some of them also strive to attain a system‑steering position if that seems advantageous.

The subcommunities in an ecosystem combine cooperation and competition in this way even in the organic world. And human ecology, involving the cultural process of representing our modes of participation and handling these representations in terms of affective stances built around cognitive cores, is that much more complex while retaining the fundamental properties of any ecosys­tem. As humans get used to this, we begin the hard, uphill trek to sustainable ways of cooperating. It took us thousands of years to evolve the various methods of competing: tribal battles, national wars, commercial throat‑cutting, subtler forms mediated through banks and stock markets and insurance, and cultural politics. We are now self‑consciously beginning to develop for cooperation the full range of methods that we have already devel­oped for competition, now that the competition‑maximizing period of history seems to have been played out.

To bring the argument to a head: we are able to see the need to not only negotiate, but even discuss the nature and course of the negotiations intelligently to help these processes along. Questions now arise about conceptual tools that are going to be helpful for those of us who are trying to go in for such a dis­cussion. Hence the next section.

1.3 Tools for the big negotiation

The work that English has done in India that has shown seri­ous continuity is that of focusing our analytical and translative abilities on the task of negotiating between indigenous narrative spaces, as reconstituted during the mediaeval mutation, and the vectors of modernity. This negotiative work has been primarily conceptual‑cognitive and secondarily perceptual‑expressive, for reasons we need to explore more carefully for real and not just academic understanding. Such exploration must not ignore the real perceptual and expressive powers of the Indo‑English literati, of course. These authors present and represent the predicament of the generation we shall call Translation's Children. These child­ren are compelled by their closeness to the urban squalor of the unsatisfactory negotiation so far between our lives and modernity to find new ways to tell their stories. Translation's Children are the people who have to, and therefore will, bell the cat.

But no writing, including Indian English literature, has been able to speak for the heterogeneity of the interests and cultural self‑interest perceptions of Translation's Children. What about the nativist opposition to the hegemony of English that expresses itself aggressively in the Indian languages? It tends to get trapped in the role of a 'romantic other produced by the industrial apparatus', to use a felicitous characterization due to Susie Tharu (seminar intervention, 1990) ‑‑ but it also does slide into the really distinct part of the continuum of self‑expression. Will a comparative literature or a history help an English studies discipline to rescue us from the disarray of this composite space?

The disciplines as currently constituted know how to deal with these praxes as opacities, not as self‑rule‑giving praxes in a state of mutually transparency‑seeking exchange ‑‑ not as respectful freedoms, that is. They lack a common currency and can at best work towards a cognitive habeas corpus. One needs a Universal Lexical Mediation notation so that the perceptual can meet the conceptual, the regional practice can meet the inter­practical theory, in the renewed negotiations. This mediator can work only if it serves as a currency of theoretical coinage as well as practical visibility. The Anglophone discursive systems on which Indian academic efforts normally rely have developed no such Universal Lexical Mediation notation on their own. But the planned international auxiliary language Esperanto is available as a metaphor for the work such a notation will have to do when one becomes generally accepted. It will useful for us if we get into the habit of reading each medium as an esperanto.

Why cannot the disciplines of English studies and historiog­raphy in their existing forms simply take on the job of belling our cat? Why should we not expect them to provide analyses, if they have not already done so, to satisfy our specific needs as well? It is not a matter of the laziness or nonperformance of particular practitioners, but a problem about the way these disciplines are constituted. English studies and historiography as they stand are designed for the study of perceptually scrutin­izable codes, which the public can perceive as codified and can try and inspect as to whether they are valid representations. These disciplines cannot directly deal with conceptually account­able discourses. Nor can they help us install or enforce stan­dards of such accountability. These disciplines use concepts as a common currency for the purposes of public perceptual scrutiny. They are not in the business of fashioning concepts as part of their own work. If we force them to get into that business, we are asking them to be something that they are not. The results of such an exercise are unlikely to serve anybody's purposes!
It is in this context that we have to begin to see, and act on the realization, that linguistics can help us all, together, to do an important job that few other disciplines are currently willing or able to take on. Namely, linguistics can provide a negotiating space and appropriate tools for the forces represent­ing the industrial fortification and expansion of English and the forces working for the cognitive enrichment and strengthening of India's regional languages to theoretically encounter each other. Such an encounter will help us to make sense of the practical stalemates that mark the presence of English in India. And pro­duce a new reading of what the regions are and how they reconsti­tute themselves, the notions of autonomy, and the possibilities of choice in the newer integrations taking shape in today's coalitions.

This task is urgent because there is a sense in which this presence is now at a certain cross‑roads. To see this, we shall go over some points of departure, and then try to really depart from them.
The presence of English on the Indian scene, we often as­sume, mainly serves the network of articulate national knowledge. On such a portrayal, the service it renders leaves regional and local populations unharmed. One supposes that this service leaves unimpaired the capability of regional populations for self‑ex­pression in their own languages.
I would like to argue here that this portrayal is seriously unhelpful and needs to be modified in terms of a very different and spatialized, actionized notion of what counts as an articula­tion of knowledge. On my way to this argument, let me make two observations about contemporary Indian usage. First, we make a distinction, at the level of unexamined custom, between what we call the Language Press, of the Indian languages, and a so‑called National Press, which operates in English. The second point of usage is that English literature departments in our universities are often described as departments, not of English or of English Literature, but simply of Literature.
These two points of usage, like many other little signs that some of us must have noticed and that would serve equally well as signs of the times, mark our decision to allow English as a systematizing apparatus to occupy most of our mental space in a way that leaves only an unprocessed cud of Indianness for the so‑called Language Press to chew. For convenience of reference and examination, I shall describe this occupation of India's knowl­edge and literature systems by English as an industrial hijack of the cognitive.
Such a description is of course fruitful only if we embed it in lines of thought that point to a possible exit from this hijack. Otherwise it remains merely shrill.
Must such thinking take a nativist form, as is commonly believed on both sides of many contemporary debates? I don't see why it must. Continuing and extending certain themes explored in my monograph on what I have called the otherness of English in India, the present analysis directly and non‑nativistically pursues the systematizing imperative that drives the presence of English in our period in general and our India in particular. You will find that this path takes us past the hijack of language by English. More specifically, the information technology /cognitive science revolution, now under way under the aegis of English, compels us to revisualize the scene of global competition and the terms of the liberal commentary accompanying it. Under such a revisualization, I argue, we will need to reverse this hijack. And the social negotiation for which linguistics provides space and tools can work out the terms of this reversal.

1.4 The road to active abdication

What do I mean by "we will need"? On the way to an answer to that question, let us go over some basic considerations. We give in to the pressures of a systematizing apparatus only because we think it will deliver social order, which we think we need. And we believe in such an order as long as we can see no other alter­native to a chaos that repels us. But we have now been learning that any order that depends on industriality comes with a price tag attached. The price we pay is a polluted environment and an underemployed, malaise‑ridden repressive reordering of society in the name of liberal principles. In other words, such a social order cannot be sustained. What can?
As we pursue this question of sustainable alternatives, we find that we have to build a durable social peace. It is folly to imagine a lasting victory of one side over another enshrined in some social order. Any victory reflects a sense of war which is precisely what we will have to overcome. Now you see why we will need to reverse hijacks of all kinds. And English is as clear a starting point as any other.
For the English studies enterprise offers exceptionally favourable circumstances for the struggles called for. This enterprise can, more easily than other disciplines, mobilize intellectual energies for a postmodern formulation of the diffi­culties we face and of the options we must choose from as we cope with them. And a postmodern formulation has become necessary.
For all the modern articulations had postulated a final victory, and it is now clear to us all that such a victory is not only not in sight, but can no longer be formulated or understood. Let us consider this problem clearly.
All modern thought has assumed that some identifiable com­munity that gives priority to rationality and knowledge, some We, can take up an enlightenment project on a war footing. Such a community of inquirers, it was thought, could struggle against the mystification of priestcraft in society. It was believed that this struggle would build on and employ the results of our grap­pling with the mysteries of structures and processes in nature. One hoped that such a confrontation would place intellectual inquiry in the vanguard and allow technology to apply inquiry's breakthroughs to what the working population, aware of these rational breakthroughs, would see as reasonable practical purpos­es. This sustained confrontation, it was hoped, would lead to the Enlightenment's ultimate triumph over all social adversaries opposing the rise of rationality, and a final victory over all natural adversities afflicting the human species. There was perhaps an assumption that such a victory would come about through the efforts of, or could at least be foreseen and under­stood by, concerned and thinking individuals in modern societies.
Such a struggle for independence, in a generalized sense, is no longer seen as a way of organizing one's energies. Why? The notion of a common war, waged by a unitary global community of inquirers, no longer makes sense. What we have instead is a deeper understanding of what is involved in the new struggles that are becoming necessary. Let us take up some examples of the new or postmodern struggles to understand how and why this is so.
Women, for instance, have found it necessary to ask us all, but men in particular, to change our habits of thought and action in order to increase the rationality in the way we go about organizing our grasp of thought and feeling in our daily lives, in theory as well as in practice.
Environmental activists, to take another example, offer arguments for drastically altering our systems of industrial production, commercial advertising and distribution, and domestic consumption. In so doing, they seek to change our equations with the forest resources, with water, with the air, with paper, with our needs, with our greeds.
Marginalized subpopulations such as tribals in India or indigenous peoples elsewhere have been waging life and death struggles directly connected with the environmental demands. They too have a vital and direct claim on our attention.
In all these cases, it is not just a matter of some identi­fiable public listening to the pleas of some pressure group and paying attention to that group's position on the issues. Rather, many of us have to change our habitual assumptions about what attention itself is supposed to become, about how issues of any kind are formulated and addressed. Most importantly, those of us who do not feel addressed by what is said in the relevant move­ments ‑‑ like smokers left unmoved by the environmentalist argu­ments ‑‑ are often those people whose habits of thought and action most crucially need to change if the core messages of these movements have any point at all.
This is a new type of problem. For the postmodern movements to succeed, and we all agree theoretically that they have to, it has become a necessity for those of us targeted by these move­ments ‑‑ men targeted by feminism or smokers targeted by environ­mentalism, to take two obvious examples ‑‑ to change ourselves. It has become a social necessity, not an option whose exercise would make the scene brighter and us individually more virtuous. And we must change ourselves, for we will not be compelled by the brute force of some external agent. The movements targeting us can at most help us to see and face the difficulty of thinking our way ‑‑ or our various ways ‑‑ out of the not always identical traps we are caught in. For good or ill, the one‑issue movements for women's rights, for a clean environment, or for a non‑consumerist culture cannot defeat us in the sense of classical victory /defeat warfare.
There are two consequences of this. These consequences make the problem postmodern. One, the enlightenment's We is now divid­ed, which means the politics of an omnibus coalition called The Community of Inquirers, a polite name for the community of Intel­lectuals Seeing Themselves as General Purpose Teachers, has to give way to a strategy of plural and purpose‑specific caucuses focused around would‑be learners  rather than would‑be teachers. Two, what we need is active abdication rather than naive disman­tlement of systems. The would‑be learners actively abdicate as they move into the accountable exercise of power. Their power itself cannot be expected to be eliminated by any lasting defeat or humiliation. Such expectations would take us back to the military‑outcome mind‑set of the modern period. It is the impos­sibility of thinking those thoughts seriously that places us in the postmodern predicament. And I am arguing that the appropriate thoughts for today include that of active abdication.

1.5 From Victimhood to Reciprocity

In this argument, I am assuming that active abdication is one possible response to the following predicament.
There has been a power relation involving some Agent A and some Victim V, perhaps mediated by the fact that A and V belong to certain categories (white A non‑white V, non‑tribal A tribal V, male A female V). Agent A has begun to realize that the rela­tion as it stands is inequitable and A wishes to act on this realization. But A and V also know that simply dismantling the power relation is not an immediate possibility. How does Agent A respond to this situation?
Let us quickly rehearse two acts of the standard modern re­sponse, which we cast as a rather stereotypical drama.
In act one, Agent A does not respond. Some centralized bu­reaucracy tells both A and V to stand up, to have their heads counted, to get their advantage levels measured, and then to take their rations. The bureaucracy then doles out to A less than A used to get, doles out to V more than V used to get, and then orders both V and A to go and be happy.
In act two of this soap opera, this bureaucracy is disman­tled, since all the Agents A feel this is a raw deal. Bureaucra­cies give way to a neo‑liberal proposal that the even more even‑handed new god, the market, be allowed to distribute goodies to A and V on the basis of the idea that a little bit of inequality peps up the production system, thus promoting social welfare, and therefore providing real justice.
While we worry over our private tastes vis‑‑vis these ster­eotypes, it may be useful to note that the bureaucracy cartoon and the market cartoon both exemplify the same modern logic. Some Community of Enlightened Teachers, who run either a bureaucracy or a market, tells Agent A and Victim V exactly what they should get, reducing both to the status of victims in the process of trying impersonally to restore a fairness that A and V cannot restore on their own.
It is possible that these methods can maximize equality, under socialism, or productivity and therefore the generation of social wealth, under the market. My contention is that these methods uniformly victimize all parties to the earlier conflicts by subjecting them to the tender mercies of either the bureaucra­cy or the market, and thus do not resolve the conflicts them­selves. These methods uncomprehendingly suppress the agency of A and V, which therefore goes underground and becomes irrational, instead of graduating to the mature stage of facing each other, as agencies must, and evolving towards insightful reciprocity.
In other words, modern methods cannot maximize reciprocity. For reciprocity can only come about if regional subpopulations dealing with each other on the ground realize each other's diffi­culties better and if people are willing to act on these realiza­tions. Reciprocity cannot be brought about by central committees or managerial systems tinkering with demographic indicators over entire populations.
The predicament that active abdication or other postmodern methods need to face, then, is not just that Agent A's subcommun­ity has been oppressing Victim V's subcommunity and Agent A now wants to stop this oppression but wants to continue to be useful to Victim V in some of the old ways, and thus both to preserve and to change the relation between the subcommunities and the persons involved. The predicament as we now find it is also one specifically shaped by the interventions of the modern state, as in the two acts of the soap opera indicated above. Active abdica­tion is one response to this predicament.
What does it take for Agent A to count as an active abdica­tor? I take the following view of the matter. If Agent A under­stands where Victim V stands, and if A and V agree that the crucial perceptions have changed, then the unjust asymmetry that has marked their dealings can be cancelled by reciprocity of perception ‑‑ provided that understanding does not stop at tears or words but leads to action.
The active abdication strategy is thus theoretically superi­or to the bureaucracy and market methods of removing injustice. For it ensures that both A and V take active charge of the pro­cess of changing the dynamics between their subcommunities at least in their personal instances, and for monitoring the du­rability of this change. Thus A and V theoretically become partn­ers in the work of leaving behind their past victimhood, their shared experience of having been trapped in an unhealthy dynamics which they understand and are consciously cancelling, without pretending to simply forget it or erase it.
But neither this nor any other postmodern strategy will break out of the potentiality of theory and work as a superior method in practice unless the strategy can tap whatever seems to control the way we actually do or don't direct our energies.

Which brings us to our next topic.

1.6 English as an Olympian Language

The use of English by Indians is, among other things, a performance in both the Sports Page sense and the Entertainment Section sense of the term. Now, one of the major unexamined features of the modern period that shows no signs of abating has been its massive investment in national and international sports. Not only have public and private sectors everywhere invested money. Crowds everywhere have also cheered them on and invested their emotion. I maintain that examining this side of modern life will take us to a practical understanding of the language scene that may suggest a sustainable solution to some of its ills. For the energies that keep sports going will also make the methods we propose viable ‑‑ if we are on the right track, notice my choice of metaphor.
Since about 1890, give or take a decade, most human activi­ties have been measurable. They have been so completely measur­able that the activities of measurement and score‑keeping became pleasurable. This pleasure did not remain an exclusive preserve of the business classes. It spilled over into a general public interest in how quickly or how improbably or how far up or down the heroes of the human race can perform various feats. The public has found it easiest to express this interest by cheering for their nation pitted against other nations in contests that are staged as wars between national teams. This dramatic inter­est, so managed, provides the necessary continuing support for the storing of global records about what are taken to be spectac­ular achievements. These records provide the context for Competi­tion as a category.
Much of the public's hero‑worshipping investment has gone into placing on various pedestals a particular nation's cricket­ers, or baseball players, or Olympic runners or swimmers, or Wimbledon tennis players.
When we consider chess, there is a cross between physical prowess, the basis of the older kinds of hero worship, and the new intellectualization of prowess. This intellectualization of the basis of military conquest requires more than passing men­tion. It is one of the factors that made it possible to make the public in the metropolitan countries accept and endorse the nineteenth century white project of imperialism. Notice that this project was withdrawn only because it failed to seem cost‑effec­tive. It did not exactly involve any active abdication on the part of any substantial number of white role models. For active abdication to become an option, its theory and practice will have to be invented now, I'm afraid. So colonization was a matter of earnest chess playing. The chess players changed the board when they found that the game was not going their way. That was called decolonization. And the domestic public in the white countries has been cheering for the overall strategic policies that their governments pursue vis‑‑vis the southern countries, during and after the colonial period. They found decolonization a smart move and cheered when it happened. We need to remember this background as we try to understand the intellectualization of prowess.
My thesis is that people cheer for strategic success, not for brute force alone, and that this is where the sports arena engages the national energies of every modern public. The public would like to believe that it cheers for the bravest and most intelligent performers in all spectatorial domains, from sports through entertainment right upto politics.    
This leads to a particular reading of the undeniable fact that many Indians right now are cheering for English. I maintain that this cheering responds to the perception that our champion users of English, especially our international stars who win fiction prizes or beauty contests (where the contestants are now required also to out‑talk their rivals), have what it takes to keep us all going, even those of us who are going to choose to stay where we are and not use very much or very good English. I would urge you to read this claim in the context of my more general claim that people are cheering, in all contests, for the candidates they see as the bravest and the smartest. And please meditate on the complex word Smartness, with its suggestion that presence of mind can be a reliable indicator of that quality of understanding which yesterday's psychology used to call intel­ligence and define as the ability to learn.
To summarize this analysis, English is India's Olympian lan­guage, its language of performance in the arena of Smartness. If we make any proposals that ignore this reality, we are confining ourselves to a preachy and inapplicable exercise.
Now for an expansion of the analysis so summarized. English is not what you would call neutral. The business of America is business, and England is a nation of shop‑keepers, to remind us of stereotypes which inhabit or inhibit the language at least as much as your Shakespeare or your King James' Bible ever did. The big kick that contemporaries are getting out of English has to do with a certain celebration of the rise of the arena of competi­tion as a hegemonic principle.
Why is it that this spectacularization of all activities can require the critical attention of thinking people at all? Mainly because the market so conceived, though a poor paymaster, is at least paying lip service to the general exercise of human intel­ligence under conditions of democracy and other prerequisites for reciprocity. This public return to the principle of intelligence, even if it is compelled to dress up as Smartness, needs to be construed in the context of a certain strategic assault on the free exercise of the intellect under colonialism, fascism, com­munism, and other militaristic or bureaucratic regimes. In such a context, I construe it as a Good Thing. Don't you?
To the extent that English, a carrier of industriality and the open market if it is a carrier of anything at all, has thus become a sponsor of an exercise of intelligence that could con­ceivably result in a maximization of reciprocity, to that extent I find it possible, in the perspective of my own agenda, to welcome and even to join the cheering for our country's English performers.
But, if you are at all smart about it, you will see that this Smartness show is going to fall apart as soon as the world puts it on the spot, if I too may talk the language of this business arena for half a second. One smart question to ask is whether to wait until the whole business crashes and spends a decade or two picking up the pieces. The smart person's other choice is to take a piece of the action right now that looks like Your Piece and stash it away where it will still be yours when everything comes crashing down.
To my way of thinking, the piece of the action that looks like My Piece is a question of lasting importance that has come out of the recent experiences of Indian writing in English: what are we cheering for?
We seem to want brave and intelligent representatives to give our realities some memorable, durable form that is continu­ous with the sharpest edges of contemporary human knowledge, whence the interface with English. We want this form to reflect some usable understanding that corresponds to the understanding of the people one is claiming to speak for. Right now, we seem to find some of the Indian performances in English endowed with these properties, as far as our criteria will take us. But we really want to keep making sure that we are getting the best, most knowledgeable representations possible of a real understand­ing, both on the ground and in the aerial views that English seems especially well equipped to provide thanks to its jet‑setting exponents.
Only as long as we keep getting the best views are we going to use English as one of our serious viewing devices.
Those of us who continue to believe that English is giving us good service now and for ever will, no doubt, pay attention to some I.T.‑related reasons for wondering if this global competi­tive order is a permanent arena for assessing human performances. These reasons occupy us during the next section of our exercise.

1.7 Cognitive Welfare

Notice that I am not proposing that we stop assessing any­thing. I am suggesting that we continue to assess all the indica­tors that we view as important. As we continue to think the way we think, if we only follow all our lines of effort and logic to the end, then this serious endeavour will in my opinion lead us to modify widely held perspectives in the direction that I am recommending.
Thus, I do agree with my principal interlocutors that we should all be trying to maximize welfare, for all communities and subcommunities. But please notice that the problem of assessing welfare needs to be freshly visualized in the light of the rapid­ly changing scene on cyberspace. Thanks to Information Technolo­gy, I.T., we can no longer compete for quite the same goodies, or in quite the same arenas. Our division of labour has been chang­ing on many fronts. They often change in their organizational reality faster than our perceptions can cope with these changes.

Let us take a look at certain divisions of labour which are unlikely to survive the I.T.‑related changes in the global land­scape. In independent India, typical of much of the contemporary planetscape, our society has been running and in fact taking for granted a linguistic division of cognitive labour. We do most of our literary, cultural, expressive activities in the Indian languages. And we use the English of Olympic performance, to encapsulate the argument of the previous section, to run all the dealings of our nation‑state apparatus with others and with its own modernity, in business, industry, science, even religion.
The problem is not the phenomenon which strikes our nativ­ists as a real danger, the phenomenon of English words being added to the resources of Indian languages or of English writing finding a niche in our literary system. What does harm the health of Indian languages is the stultifying ghettoization of Indian languages which stunts the growth of our mental core as Indian persons, and makes our relaxed discussions stupid. The way out of this trap is not to move our lives into English, obviously, but to expand the scope of our own languages as carriers of the serious knowledge we have acquired. The question is how to do this. And as we try to get there, we have to find a way around radical proposals to find new homes in regional language comfort for the entire Indian intelligentsia, higher education plus scholarly publication apparatus and all. Such relocation scenarios are non‑starters. Our nation will wish to keep Perform­ing, since the Olympics in business, science, defence are not exactly optional.
In other words, for the regional languages to give us the strength we want from them, a way will have to be found to add them to our strengths, not to subtract for their sake other strengths we have. Our search for this new way will have to begin by noticing that the current stultifying ghettoization of our regional language activities macro‑abridges the knowledge system of our society and micro‑abridges each of us as a thinking per­son. We are cut off from our hinterlands. This is a massive deficit of welfare.
Let me put this welfare problem in terms that may be widely intelligible. Right now, only the educational and journalistic dishing‑out to the masses of what privileged Indians know is conducted in the Indian languages. But we produce and sustain our knowledge system in English alone. As a result, our discussions in our own languages are seriously curtailed in scope and depth, making real and even imaginary participation impossible, and turning the apparently free discussions upstairs into a mock‑parliamentary shadow‑theatre, given that everybody knows and understands the consequences of the fact that Downstairs has no access to this Upstairs except on the dishing‑out terms imposed by Upstairs.
Some of you surely think that I am making a formal point without teeth and that nobody excluded by such a system can express dissent of a kind that the system will ever have to take seriously. In response to that thought, I would like to provide some reasons for believing that the present superalterns cannot keep the present subalterns down. For those left out include figures like the noted scholar S.B. who has published important critical work in Bangla on Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, the author of _Pather Paanchaali_. S.B. remarks that her own work or that of her colleagues like R.S. who have been writing about Bibhutibhushan in Bangla goes uncited when Anglophone stars like P.C. write about these issues in English for an all‑India "radi­cal" audience. S.B. argues that Anglophone stars will have to change their citation practices which currently frown upon citing work that is not in English. I am using acronyms to mask the personal identities of those involved as this is not an attempt to be catty, but evidence that the present order is being chal­lenged by people who cannot be ignored. Similar figures are easy to find who will make work done in Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, or Oriya hard to ignore.
This unstable state of affairs, then, is going to force us to move towards new goals ‑‑ on the basis of a new visualization of what counts as the welfare that we work and fight for. We might set ourselves the personal goal, say, of possessing, even if we do not consistently use them, comparable capabilities in our own languages and in English. This goal would make a certain kind of sense in the context of a new social goal ‑‑ that of redefining appropriate capabilities for these languages relative to their users now viewed as producers of globally relevant knowledge, as cooperative colleagues in a seriously global endea­vour of producing and exchanging various types of knowledge. In such a context, one would view competition only as a means to­wards the  globally acknowledged goal of giving a sharp edge to this cooperation to keep it serious.
Global acknowledgement of such goals will have to rest on an associated conception of cognitive welfare as a basis for cultur­al health. I will omit a fuller demonstration that such a concep­tion is not too remote from standard contemporary preoccupations. Such exercises can be carried out in other contexts. I shall focus only on some of the essential themes for the moment. The new practical work that is unavoidable is going to need some theoretical preparation. Hence our theoretical turn.

1.8 Some pieces of the action

We therefore turn now to some methodological considerations in the evidently crucial task of theory construction that has to form part of the response to the challenge facing all rationali­ties. Our normal routines include some respect for the formal accountabilities of a mathematics or a logic or a rhetoric. If we need to speak of a postformal accountability as well, this is because one must face the increasingly important fact that ac­tions speak louder than the words, the facts, the figures of a rhetoric, a logic, a mathematics. Our actions have to become accountable to future actions and action potentials. To clarify this point, I shall make three more.
        Modernity's Postmodern Punctuation: The formalism of modern­ity, to continue its formal custom of accountability past the customer right into the context where the customer will have to live with the fact that s/he must consume the wares of modern markets, must watch the oscillation between our two accountings. Watch the way we punctuate our modern, parsimonious explanation‑maximizing days‑of‑conceptual‑progress with postmodern, visuali­zation‑adjusting nights‑of‑conceptual‑settlement. It is during these nights that tents are set up and the silences that must intervene between discourse and counterdiscourse become real practices.
Knowledge‑Flows Constitute Locations: Consider the local‑cognitive equation

Action ‑‑> action ‑‑> = Mutual Guesthood of Teacher and Learner

This cognitive equation, which characterizes the flows of knowl­edge that make old and new Locations tick, is already in practice learning to, and needs to teach itself in theory/formulation how to, find its way to a healthy dialogue with the centripetal equation due to Foucault:

Action/action = power‑knowledge

It is well‑known that that equation describes the way that local forces surrender to a centralizing whereby power/knowledge usurps all the local dignities in the name of sovereignty. I am arguing that the process of local resistance to this process, both in geographical locations and in the new regions that drive post‑nationalist social movements like feminism, calls for a theory of the knowledge‑dignity, typical of locations, which renders intel­ligible the basis of the struggle against centralization.

Towards a Round‑the‑Clock Metacognition: A theory of knowl­edge needs to do business not only with familiar moves in day‑time debating transactions between opponents. Those moves deal with material that in principle appears clearly and distinctly to both sides, in what one might call broad daylight. A real meta­cognitive enterprise must also concern itself with the shared stage on which such sparring takes place, and the shared screen on which both sides see the agreed clarities projected. This screen, which comes into its own only at nightfall, as poetry, is seen during the day only obscurely, as a background, but it too is seen. And an epistemology must deal with such seeing as well. This seeing, expressed at what we are calling night in the poetry that embodies a location or a region, is also material for meta­cognitive reworking.

To the extent that we plan to base an epistemology on the priority of such poetic expression of background preperception rather than prosaic moves made with foreground percepts, our philosophy will be accountable to the regional realities as directly as to the supposedly more precisely accountings we customarily demand.

Such a plan can be a basis for renegotiating the terms of the game of knowledge. Renegotiating with whom? With the current owners of that game and its standard arenas. Negotiations begin when we get our act together and get around to challenging the industrialized world to prove that what they claim in their intellectual moments to know can stand up and accept inspection on the terms of a serious epistemology. I mean this quite liter­ally, in case some of you think this is a piece of humour or chutzpah. I would like to ask if there is any currently held theory of language in the ateliers of analytic philosophy, for instance, whose pursuit of use rather than meaning or whose assumption that only what is not obvious in the context can be meaningfully said can survive scrutiny on the basis of, say, the characterization of language use by a Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa who notes that prayer, to a deity who by hypothesis already knows what you are saying, is nevertheless meaningful as deictic reidentification of the familiar qua familiar? It is the pursuit of questions like these that I have in mind when I speak of renegotiating the terms of the game of knowledge.

However, direct confrontations between people unfamiliar with preexisting theories on both sides serve no purpose. I will therefore in the present context develop tools for the study of day‑time prosaic knowledge and night‑time poetic knowledge in the terms of familiar metropolitan concepts used unconventionally to set up a dialogue with a more round‑the‑clock epistemology of the sort available, say, in the Indian tradition. Hence the study, in a later section of this argument, of the relation between the pragmatic and the utopian, which here stand in for the prosaic and the poetic embodiments of knowledge respectively.

1.9 Three Cheers for a Real Challenge

The considerations we have gone over take us to the shape of a general challenge. Let us specify it for particular challengees relative to whom it begins to look real. The challenge for our literary theory establishment is: Do you have the intellectual guts to face up to this theoretical articulation and either to call my bluff if I make no sense or to act on whatever part of this you end up agreeing with? The challenge for the science establishment is: Will you put your money where your mouth is? Will you prove that what you advertise as science ‑‑ as replica­ble, criticism‑inviting public knowledge ‑‑ is capable of stand­ing up to real tests, when your hypotheses are restated in the crucibles of a sufficiently rich spectrum of languages as cogni­tive systems? If you refuse to attempt such a proof, will you then publicly admit that your regime is one of brute force and rests on the commercial viability of the technologies you spawn and sell? Will you frankly admit that you are a technology serv­ice and stop falsely claiming to be doing "science"?

Such talk is of course akin to Nehru's old chestnut about hanging the blackmarketeers from the nearest lamp‑post. Neither the mafiosi of the black money system nor their academic brethren are going to react to this with their brains; they have enough brawn to deride, silence and/or ignore this discourse. However, some of their children occasionally develop strange tastes, even a taste for facing real challenges. These words are for those children, not for their brazen, corrupt elders. One is inviting the children of today's English studies and science establish­ments, with some bitterness and anger I'm afraid, to face these challenges if they dare.

Such courage will deserve a non‑Olympic three cheers.

1.10 Theoretical underpinnings of a practical agenda

These challenges are only an 'entertaining' side‑show, to be read ‑‑ with an ironic look at our sense of spectatorial excite­ment that makes us look for this kind of spice to make our chal­lenges sufficiently interesting ‑‑ in the context of the real practical task that faces our nation at the cross‑roads that we are addressing. The task is to find an optimal redistribution of the functions of the various knowledge resources we live by. It is the optimalizing side of this practical task that makes it relevant to do some theoretical work on our perceptions and what we can do about them.

In earlier work I have argued that English manages its presence in India as a naturalist‑classical language. In the argument I am developing here, I am trying to make this more precise in terms of the Olympian function of English world‑wide. The Olympian discourse characteristically plays up the monumen­talist imperative. On the one hand, this logic revives the clas­sical delusions of grandeur of a Roman Empire or a Sanskrit of purity. On the other hand there is the sense that one is precise­ly measuring what human Nature can do. The idea is that this culture of measurement brings about such a close fit between the classical power‑giving knowledge and the humans who both possess this knowledge (as its subjects) and are characterized by it (as its objects) that the Natural and the Cognitive coincide in this supposedly human, supposedly down to earth and no‑nonsense, look‑Ma‑no‑assumptions empirical game.

It is this idea of a close fit that leads the industrial empire of Anglophony, English‑speakingness, to produce also a quasi‑regional nativism as its Romantic other. This supposedly localist celebration of particular languages is however a compan­ion to Anglophony and not a true regionalism in the sense of the argument being developed here. It is an incipient nationalism of the kind that English knows how to contain and co‑opt with no effort. 
Indeed, industriality has grown up with, or if you prefer given shape to, these nationalisms, creatures of war and other forms of mobilization. And recall that the whole point of our quest is to find a general demobilization, an alternative to the unending cycle of victories and defeats that pretend to settle all issues by preempting all future negotiations. Serious regio­nalism is a matter of facing the realization that evading the necessary negotiations will never get us anywhere. Nativism labours under the same general monumentalist illusions as the English umbrella. The only difference is that it constitutes a defiant little nationalism. Little, because it accepts defeat beforehand, not being in the same league as English. Defiant, because it too sets up an ego and has to then defend it by in­flating its territorial claims.

To summarize: we are dealing, then, with a naturalist clas­sical presence of English in India. This takes both the sovereign sheltering form of an English running the entire knowledge system of industriality and the location‑bound sheltered forms of native languages governing their specific satrapies under orders from that global mobilization. At both the sovereign and the satrapic levels, the enterprise combines a classical with a naturalist emphasis. Modern monumentalism offers a heady mix of a quasi‑Roman classical claim to monumenthood with a naturalist belief that there is a precise, literal, documentable fit between preci­sely this civilization and no other in human nature, no less. To pull ourselves out of the apparent naturalness of this view, we might usefully compare it with the belief in eighteenth century France that French was such a rational language that it directly embodied nothing less than logic itself!

This naturalist string on this classical bow is in a state of tension that is unlikely to be able to stand still. To my mind, this tension appears as a question. I ask the question in the form of wondering what the vectors that constitute the ten­sion are going to do next. Are they going to go overboard with the naturalist emphasis? Or with the classicalist one? I set up the present reflections around this question, so posed.

Both vectors will be active, of course, on any imaginable scenario. But I wish to argue that there is an identifiably intelligent and optimal direction in which thinking men and women can push the logic of this process. This telos is: towards an Esperanto visualized as a cognitive reclothing of a planet denud­ed by the predatory early history of industriality.

The sections that follow provide material for one possible unpacking of this idea. If some details of my own unpacking are not made fully explicit, this is mainly a device to help various readers to redevelop this material in directions compatible with their own interests and beliefs. With this proviso, here is the way the following sections of the overall argument are arranged.

The section Against Denudation offers general epistemologi­cal tools. It conceptualizes the current shift from nations as the dominant umbrella category ‑‑ and the concomitant imperative of industrializing the nations that places a certain precision‑essentializing science at the heart of the intellectual enter­prise ‑‑ in terms of an anti‑essentialist, anti‑puristic planet‑reclothing that undoes the old denudations by replacing global characterizations of explanatory accounts with principled, non‑economistic and therefore local parsimonies.

The section Against Essentialism continues this theme by linking the Esperanto praxis ‑‑ as an embodied Universal Lexical Mediator currency ‑‑ to the ongoing replacement of all abstract universals with concrete bridging and translating actions. This section makes specific tools available for studying the link between languages as the only possible theoretical characteriza­tion of meaning and reproducible truth available after essential­ism.

The section Against Industrality deals with some details of the presence of English in India. It argues that this presence and by extension the presence of English in many other societies represents an industrial hijack of the cognitive and that recog­nizing this has to be part of any recovery of our cognitive health in and outside India.

The section Against Naturalism places our enterprise in the context of a reconceptualization of the naturalist theory of languages as codes. It provides the metalinguistics that holds the whole story together.

The final section, on the Narrative Basis of Cognition, investigates the implications for the humanities of a cognitive resource oriented approach to knowledge in general and linguistic knowledge in particular.


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