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Kapila Vatsyayan

There can be no real exploration of the artistic experience, its diverse expressions and its power of communication without investigating the nature of the cultural fabric which ignites the creative energies. It was with this intention that the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts initiated a number of dialogues on the cultural fabric in its Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies Programme. It endeavoured to measure the immeasurable under the aegis of Unesco-sponsored International Workshop on "Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies with Multimedia Computerizable Documentation", which brought forth very complex issues of measure, indicators and categories which would establish norms for comparison of cultures. It was recognised that while analytical studies could be done and should be done, it was necessary to recognize the very nature of the fluid dynamics of a culture. In the next seminar, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts went a little further in exploring what constituted Cultural Identity and Development. Undoubtedly, this is a world-wide debate and many conferences have been held both under the aegis of Unesco and independently. The IGNCA’s Conference was different because it focussed attention on the nature of Cultural Identity through a discussion on the findings of actual pilot studies conducted in different parts of rural India. The proceedings of this Seminar constituted the First Volume, entitled Interface of Cultural Identity and Development. A stage had now been reached not only to speak of the Interface of Cultural Identity and Development, but also to suggest positive strategies for integrating all that could be understood by the term ‘Indigenous Cultural Knowledge and Skills’ into the processes and programmes of, what is called, ‘Development’. These seminars brought together theorists as also people who had worked at the field level in different parts of Asia as also different domains of human activity. It was clear from the discussion, as is also evident from the papers included in this Volume, that most participants were of the view that there was need to re-think and, therefore, design appropriate cultural information models which could be used by the policy-makers and planners. Many amongst the participants were clearly of the view that some of the most creative aspects of human endeavour relating to his or her immediate environment, rearing of families, indigenous skills and techniques, were not fully used or positively employed in the programmes of socio-economic development. Thus, the indigenous cultural knowledge and the indigenous knowledge of skills become marginalised. Consequently, often the authentic Self of a culture is uprooted, alienated and disempowered. The experience of many Asian countries — Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Korea — has brought to the fore the unnecessary tension which has been created between the dynamics of a uniform monolithic model of development and world-views and lifestyle as evident in the multiple models of social order still extant in many parts of Asia. The participants were also clear that a sizable body of information and knowledge regarding environment, natural resources, agro-techniques and much else is transmitted through verbal and non-verbal modes of communication. All this is either negated or not cognized in the evolution of policies on development by nation-states. There was unanimity on the view that the notion of development could not be restricted to measures of GNP and GDP or only economic development measured in terms of surplus money and power of purchase, but, had to include human-development so that the creative potential of each individual and community could be exploited to the fullest. No longer was it advisable to count human beings as economically-disposable units.

Many papers in this Volume refer to the need for integrating indigenous and modern technologies, modern science and ancient wisdom and practically all cautioned against the risk of deculturisation and cultural alienation.

Several authors in the Volume have suggested the evolution of plural models for a programme of sustainable development for diverse parts of the world. ‘Decentralisation in planning’, ‘plurality of models’, ‘inclusiveness’ of all sections of population were the key words of this discourse.

At a more fundamental level, these papers also ask the question: Can a world-view based on man’s domination over nature sustain this Earth? These papers also question the very principle of uniformity of cultures or growth patterns of the human species. The recognition of diversity and of plurality within a universality of approach and possibilities of dialogue is the running-thread. The adoption of the principle of complementarity in its most scientific connotation and not conflict and linear progress, was recommended by all. A conclusion which was evident from the discussion, was that in most countries of Asia, the notion of viewing developmental sectors separate from non-developmental sectors was both illogical and counterproductive. All dimensions of the human constituted development. A socio-economic man could only be truly productive if he or she was also a harmoniously balanced person recognizing difference and diversity. He could be creative only within a milieu of mutual interdependence and inter-connections and not in the competition of the market place.

The discussion at the Seminar, naturally, concentrated then on what constitutes modelling societies and how a society can be modelled? Many suggestions were put forth. Most advised against acceptance of derived uniform global models based on linearity on the one hand, and freezing of cultures as museum pieces in specific historical situations, on the other. There was a very lively discussion on what constitutes ‘creativity’,‘cultural heritage’, ‘empowerment of gender’. The participants pressed the need for the establishment of more meaningful networks of information and cultural communication within countries, nations and the world. Prof. B.N. Saraswati has touched upon the details of the discussions and the distinctive perspectives of many distinguished people. I hope that we have been able to bring together the different but important voices on a global issue. The moot question remains whether there is the inevitability of a global village and globalisation on the basis of homogenisation or whether each unique human being, individually and collectively, should have a global consciousness while being deeply rooted to his specificity with a respect of diversity.


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