INTERFACE OF CULTURAL
Universal and Unique in Cross-cultural Interaction
A Paradigm shift in Development Ideology
Lachman M. Khubchandani
In introducing the programmes of Janapada Sampada, the IGNCA points out to a general dissatisfaction amongst Indian scholars with Western methodology to explore the functioning of the society: "Until now each discipline has arrived at a totality, by aggregating or multiplying a single dimension, giving a fragmented picture of a society, failing to present a total view of life."
It reminds us of the parable of the blind men and the elephant. The blind men determined the reality from hasty examination of only one or more parts (identifying them as pillars, walls, fence, etc.) but missed the organic whole. In this regard, a noted philosopher has succinctly observed:
Dimensions of Language Development
(In a 'Centre - Periphery Frame Work)
|Dimension||'Developed' languages||'Underdeveloped' languages|
|Utilization||Wider communication ‘world’ languages||Languages limited to a region (national, local languages)|
|Population strength||Dominant ‘majority’ languages||Dominated ‘minorty’ languages (often treated as dialects in policy-making)|
|Legitimization||Standard languages (acceptable to the elite)||Non-standard varieties, substandard languages (slangs, hybrids)|
|Domains of use||Full-fledged ‘autonomous’ languages||Languages with restrictive use(vernaculars in diglossia situations)|
|Graphization||Written languages||Unwritten languages|
|Literature||Literary languages||Colloquial ‘bazaar’ languages|
|Medium of instruction||Advanced ‘cultivated’ languages||Prepartory ‘ethnic’ languages|
|Technologization-||Languages suitable for typing, shorthand and telecommunication purposes||Languages not extended for technological tasks|
Source: Khubchandani, 1983, p.21
In the pursuit of knowledge, particularly in physical sciences, the isolation of a phenomenon under study by controlling its variables, ceteris paribus all other things being equal, has long been recognized as a legitimate means of enquiry, but when it comes to introducing drastic changes in human behaviour deliberately, then we must consider the issue with an integrative holistic approach. We cannot ignore the complex interactions between the targets of change and the rest of the universe.
In the post-World War phase, the multi-faceted concept of development has evolved over the years from a materialistic base to a more people-centred perspective. The ‘centre-periphery’ hypothesis of politico-economic development tends to use economic indicators and other material factors to measure the quality of life (Dutta and Agrawal 1992). In this context, the author discusses elsewhere (Khubchandani 1983) certain dimensions of development that stress demarcating ‘developed’ languages from ‘underdeveloped’ languages (see Table 3.1).
Guided by such models, the languages of newly-emerged nations are considered to be deficient communication systems with all "the unprecedented disadvantages of the late-comers" (Fishman 1974). According to the evolutionary scale of development, it is assumed that newly-independent societies are to strive for ‘secondary’ modernization by trailing behind the path already taken by ‘advanced’ societies. Consequently, many of the transformations sought through modernization in these societies (such as the targets of language learning, language standardization, coining technical terminologies, devising new channels of communication and other human relations) are ‘externally’ induced, rather than ‘internally’ generated, unlike the classical European modernization processes stimulated during the Renaissance and the Reformation. Hence in the programmes of language development in most of the developing countries, Western norms and values are projected as a further intensification of modernization based upon both methods and substance overtly borrowed from successful models.
New networks of ‘knowledge industry’ and ‘culture industry’ are becoming key components of the twentieth century societies. A borrowed technology, acquired in a ‘package’ along with the imported exogamous know-how and the organizational ethos, cannot escape creating ‘disturbance’ in the prevailing ethos till it gets internalized in the recipient society; it runs even the risk of getting rejected in the long run. In this context, it will be relevant to draw attention to the shape and the meaning of borrowed items in a language. Their functional diversity and intensity in the target language generally determines the degree of tadbhavization from the original tatsama items in the source language. Such a process of grass roots adaptation signifies the cultural vitality of a plural society.
Critically assessing the development discourse of the last four decades, a radical thinking has been seeping from many scholars throughout the world that "development is a trap designed by Western powers to perpetuate colonialism in the post-Independence era". A recently published study The Development Dictionary (Sachs 1991), tracing back the ideological underpinnings of colonialism, calls this act of civiliszing the poor as ‘transformative intervention’: "The evangelists of development have inherited the missionary idea and have secularised the message of salvation". Donor-recipient relationship in the area of human resource development has further vitiated the scene.
The gap between North and South, between urban and tribal, is getting wider year by year. According to a recent survey, the existing technological gap between developing and developed countries at the present rate of development will triple by the end of the century. In this cruel illusion, the idea of development stands like a "ruin in the intellectual landscape" (Sachs, ibid). It debases everything it touched like pastures, with the entry of goats, turn into a desert. Many such programmes, initiated under the aegis of State or with the patronage from world bodies, have given birth to a body of experts, a class of development brahmanas, who serve the interests of ruling classes. "It has created in each state an economy profit-friendly for its mentors" (Constantino 1992). In this regard, Mahatma Gandhi has rightly cautioned: "On this planet there is enough for everyone’s needs, but it is not sufficient for everyone’s greed."
Concerns of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ pose many questions relating to issues of communication and community at the socio-political level. How to avoid lapsing into irreversible dependency in having access to global resources that are not infinite? According to this ‘elite-directed’ development, the term progress is applied "only to what the self-designated First world has already achieved. . . which was not yet available to the rest of the world" (Sbert, ed. Sachs 1991). This type of development thinking still continues to predominate that the developing countries should reach the same level of well-being by simply copying and adapting here and there the forms, criteria, the mechanisms through which the rich world had reached affluence (Somavia 1983). Such developing discourse has succeeded in making the hope of ‘catching up’ with the North, the principal aspiration of the peoples of South. In the Indian scenario, the international terminology of development associated with the North and the South can be applied to the metropolitan and the rural. In a way, such an approach to socio-cultural development depicts the futile race of trying to keep up with the Joneses.
So far the development scene in many ‘poor’ countries has been dominated by the global concerns of the quality of life (often measured in quantitative terms). This has resulted in the imposition of metropolitan values of ‘affluent’ countries leading to the homogenization of cultures:
The abstract conceptual models, pronounced by the affluent society, and their distortions and delusions become the official versions of the happenings around the globe (as experienced from the CNN coverage of the Gulf War). The utilization of space communication for international contact (through the simultaneous beaming of programmes to cross-cultural audiences) is likely to add whole new dimension to the life and experience of the masses and radically affect their communication faculties. Worldwide dissemination of communication networks pose the risks of cultural alienation, and of growing ‘drab’ uniformity in human relations, erosion of cultural vitality through ‘hypnotic’ stereotyping. The overbearing levelling effect of mass media can threaten the quality of variation and pluralism in human communication. How to assert the authority of ‘personal’ as opposed to ‘public’ or general experience?
One of the dominant issues of conflict between tradition and modernity is that in most of our planning efforts we have, by and large, construed change as the replacement of values, instead of as an increment in the existing order. The programmes of language development in the Indian context will illuminate this point. Language planning theory at this stage seems to be largely concerned with language problems, paying little regard to the language assets in traditional speech communities. Many studies seem to assume the handicap model to achieve the determined targets of development. One general concern of language planners seems to be to adjust the speech behaviour of a community to the demands of modernization. Language studies, being heavily biased in favour of elitist written cultures, put a high premium on highbrow values of speech, and assume without question that characteristics like uniformity, precision, elegance, purity of form, allegiance to literary tradition, elaboration of language through coining terms from the tatsama stock (mainly loan translations based on Sanskrit or Perso-Arabic vocabularies), and other such standardization devices of ‘sophisticated’ communication are essential paths for development. No serious attempt is made to justify these elitist values in the realm of human communication.
Developments in exact sciences during the past two centuries, because of their overestimation of precision and confidence in a too rigid and narrow scientific method, have led to scepticism with regard to the concepts defined in a rather fuzzy manner in the natural language. But the reality appears to be otherwise, as is lately being realized among natural sciences as well:
Modern knowledge is uncritically equated with development and progress. Traditional knowledge, on the other hand, is associated with primitiveness and backwardness. With the result, there has been vast devastation of traditional knowledge in all parts of the world, including the Western hemisphere. The great enormity of the conse-quences of annihilating traditional knowledge are yet to be assessed. In our own midst the shastri tradition of Sanskrit pandits is rapidly declining. Recent controversy over the intellectual copyright is also confined to modern knowledge; the heritage of cultural wisdom is not counted as ‘authentic’ knowledge. Restoring traditional knowledge does not rule out the adaptation of new ideas to fit intellectual and cultural needs of contemporary societies.
Defining the Reality
Lately the champions of indigenous development, in their quest for Indianness, have been contesting this mad chase after secondary modernization. It is being advocated that the adaptation model which takes into account the given assets as well as handicaps in meeting the new challenges. Barring some half-hearted attempts in this regard, the nation is still guided by the Western models which do not provide meaningful answers in tackling the South Asian reality.
In re-examining the priorities of human resource development, it is necessary to focus attention on autonomy in defining the reality by which the so-called ‘universal’ concepts and categories (that are virtually drawn from Western experiences) could be made relevant to the Indian socio-political reality, such as the role of highbrow standard languages, emphasis on coining technical terminologies at the cost of communicability, imposing coersive homogeneity of communications through dominant languages, dichotomy of majority/minority languages, developed/developing languages, and so on.
Gandhiji realized the vitality of culture-bound concepts when communicating with the Indian masses and brought into currency terms from the Indian reality, such as swadesi, satyagrah, ahimsa, Harijan, Ramrajya. In a scientific discourse such cross-cultural distortions become more transparent: e.g. dharma is narrowly interpreted as ‘religion’, jati, varna, gotra as ‘caste’. Similarly the notion of ‘secularism’ is beyond the reach of an average Indian mind, and its translations in Indian languages are not very satisfactory. The Sanskrit coinage dharma nirpeksata ‘religious neutrality’ appears to be a hollow term; a metaphor like vasudhaiva kutumbakam ‘all universe is a family’ will be better understood in the context of Indian reality. To some extent, the variation in Nehru’s understanding of secularism from Gandhiji’s Ramrajya can be accounted for in terms of the dilemma of terminology.
Due to the overwhelming political and economic pressures in the pursuits of development and the elitist orientation of Indian academia, limitations of this kind at the cognitive level have not yet been fully realized by the society at large. "A conceptual system is a coherent system of metaphorical concepts" (Lakoff and Johnson 1980). One understands or experiences reality through metaphors, by drawing upon associations and imageries in a coherent manner from one’s cultural, intellectual and rhetorical traditions. It is, in a way, a metaphorical device of "relating one kind of things in terms of another". "There is a more subtle form of reality involving both time and eternity" (Prigogine and Stengers 1984). Language user internalizes these abstract concepts unique to his/her tradition. To understand a conceptual scheme through its metaphorical links is an empirical science, an anthropological exercise, not necessarily bound by any rational paradigm.
As an illustration, let us reflect on values associated with English terms such as work, action, activity. In everyday discourse, the term work implies an ‘apparent’ activity; it is related to an observable product with apparent benefits (mostly socio-economic). Whereas, the Sanskrit term karman (Hindi kam), based on Sanskrit root kr ‘to do, to make’ and its extensions karta ‘doer, maker’, krta ‘deed, completed (task)’, kriya ‘making, doing’, carries with it quite a different series of expectations. The term karman can be referred as ‘a thing made/done’ in English; it incorporates all acts, including many sorts of thinking (i.e., mental activities). According to the Sanskrit conceptual system, every activity, apparent and not so apparent, is considered as kriya ‘making’ (Vatsyayana 1939). In English, thinking compassionate thoughts, or faithfully thinking of God are not regarded as spontaneous ‘doings’. Notions such as ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ are regularly counted as mental acts in Sanskrit, whereas in English I do not need to act to hear the noise (Potter 1988).
In the metaphysical context, the Theory of Karma has emerged from the domain of ‘mental acts’. Karman is extended to samskara ‘traces’ where something is made, someone is benefited and some purpose leads the activity to a series of constructs to satisfy expectations; the body is retained beyond one’s birth for the bhoga ‘experience’ of sukha/duhkha ‘satisfying/frustrating experience’ (Potter 1988). In the light of this, the term niskama karma, outside the paradigm of dharma, varna and punarjanma (rebirth), can be distorted in literal translations as ‘selfless act’ or ‘an act without expecting any fruit’.
There are problems of indeterminacy in translation from one culture to another which can lead to ethnocentric parochial interpretations. It will, therefore, be more rewarding that in a scientific discourse, when debating conceptual systems across cultures, the total connotation of a term is explicated by retaining it in original along with its metaphors that are shared by the society.
Self-image and Identity
Culture locates man in time; it links man with his lineage and heritage from which he picks up various primordial traits such as mother tongue, faith, customs and rituals, characteristics of social ethos. In societal terms, man shows special attachment to his ‘tradition’; in mental terms, it is identified as the ‘psyche’ of a person or a group.
According to Toffler (1984), "Part of today’s vast revolution in both science and culture is a reconsideration of time." He points out to Braudel’s division of time into three scales —‘geographical time’, in which events occur over the course of aeons; the much shorter ‘social time’ scale by which economies, states, and civilizations are measured by the even shorter scale of ‘individual time’ — the history of human events:
Each culture and each person tends to think in terms of ‘time horizons’; some think only of the immediate — the now (e.g., politicians are often criticized for seeking only immediate, short-term results). Each society betrays its own characteristic ‘time bias’ — the degree to which it places emphasis on past, present, or future. But as today the social sciences have developed little in the way of a coherent theory of time (Toffler, ibid).
One notices many contradictions among different groups in projecting self-image, identity, and relationship with organized polities (such as, state vis-à-vis centre and the nation as a whole). These projections are realized in everyday life at different levels. Self-image originates from the concerns of an individual’s perception — the self and others; it is primarily guided by the ‘perceived’ reality, whereas, identity belongs to the societal domains; and it is shaped on mutual consensus, a ‘collective’ reality. State or national is conceptualized in terms of a specific space — a ‘normative’ reality.
Self-image can be regarded as mostly intuitive, found through the total impression of the reality, as the illusion of bending pencil in water. It is very much like stereotypes available to individuals; it can be highly tentative. Identity acquires some permanence through cultural and communication ethos; it provided guidelines for selection, creativity, and propreity in one’s behaviour in specific contexts.
Self-image can be highly individualistic and private, in a way, it comes close to being ‘spiritual’, finding within oneself. "When we look within ourselves, we find that the other or others are directly experienced within ourselves. I am continuously aware that others are looking at me, just as I am looking at them. My consciousness of my self, my self-image and my self-respect are inextricably bound up with the respect in which I am held by others, of which I too am conscious" (Chatterji 1989). Cultural identity is charged with primordial loyalty; it helps organizing the ‘ingroup/ outgroup’ notions in relating oneself to different sections of the heterogeneous society.1
Any definition of one’s self implies, necessarily, a definition, explicit or implicit, of the other, and in a reciprocal manner. Issues concerning the ‘distortions’ of the image one has of the other (at home/in one’s own societies) are relative in the geo-political sense.2 This phenomenon is most evident in contact zones between groups, communities, societies, cultures and civilizations.
A Mexican intellectual has aptly described culture as "man’s capacity for reflection on himself. It is what makes us specifically human, rational and critically and ethically committed. Thanks to culture, we discern values and make choices. Because of it, man becomes aware of his incompleteness, he questions his own achievements, constantly seeks new meanings and creates works that are greater than himself" (Solana 1982).
Universal and Unique
The interplay between man and environment produces distinct, very often unique, imprints in different areas. Variation is intrinsic in nature, including human nature. Variation is a significant contributing factor to the richness in verbal and non-verbal skills. Speech variation in everyday settings is explicated as an instrument of an ongoing redefinition of relationships.
In the verbal repertoire of an individual or a group (namely, speech community, first language/second language speakers), there are many speech varieties identified as native speech, mother tongue, dialect, register, standard language, inter-group language for wider communication, pidgin, patois, and so on. Diverse profiles of speech communication in different countries and at different times makes us realize the futility of pursuing goals of universal order in the name of ‘efficient’ communication.
A pluralistic world-view and the relativist approach in interpreting heritage and culture have been characterized as the essence of oriental life. Often different roles in a setting or different identities or cultural legacies from one generation to another transmit some prominent values of interaction — ways of interpreting and sharing experiences. That common way, that sort of general framework is called ‘communication ethos’ (Khubchandani 1986, 1992). In a plural society, although on surface these identities may show differences, the Indian masses through sustained interactions and common legacies have, by and large, developed a common way to interpret, to share experiences, to think. Sharing the same ethos does not mean that the existing differences are to be eliminated. Kroeber (1948) describes ethos as "the direction in which a culture is oriented, the things it aims at, prizes and endorses, and more or less achieves." Different socio-cultural traits get integrated through super-consensus in the process which contributes in the enrichment of the Indian society.
Modern languages of India belonging to four different language families (Indo-European, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic, and Tibeto-Burman) represent a striking example of the processes of diffusion, grammatical as well as phonetic, over many contiguous areas.3 Many speech groups in the region associate diversity of speech (styles, dialects, languages, etc.) around it with differential values in social interaction. In the context of culture, the traditional concept of region, that is ksetra, covers a wide spectrum of linguistic and cultural variation in everyday life performance. It helps fostering the feeling of oneness among diverse people in the region, creating in them ‘a sense of collective reality’.4
In the context of the internal world of man, several Upanisads, the Gita, the Epics and the Puranas refer to such a synthesis of diverse manifestations as the ‘Advaitic’ visions, i.e., the non-dualistic understanding. It is like "a thread that runs through all the flowers in a garland. The flowers are all different in colour or shape, but the thread unites all of them" (Ranganathananda 1987). The socio-cultural ethos of ancient and medieval India, characterized by non-exclusive fuzziness in day-to-day milieu at the grass roots level, fluidity in verbal repertoire across languages, discontinuities in its beliefs and religious practices — a mark of syncretism (cf. Chandra 1990), and diverse world-views depict the intrinsic respect for variation and integral relation of its components in an organic whole.
Indian plural ethos is an apt illustration of organic pluralism by which different groups attempt to retain and preserve their unique cultural attributes while developing common institutional participation at the national level (cf. ‘Plurality Square’ Khubchandani 1983, 1991). Organic pluralism in the Indian subcontinent is, by and large, supported by differentiating characteristics of heterogeneity, federality, and so on. Some of the salient characteristics namely, relativity, hierarchy, instrumentality, out of which the edifice of linguistic plurality is built over the ages in the Indian subcontinent, are discussed in socio-linguistic accounts (see Khubchandani 1983, 1989, 1991).
Different identity groups signifying lineage, language, occupation and religion criss-cross in more than one respect. These groups are involved in a complex web of relationships with one another, presenting a kind of mosaic, and are averse to their being rigidly identified with a particular insulated group. Diverse groups, thus related to as an integral part of the whole under the label ‘we’ can be characterized as
(1 × 1 × 1 = 1): multiplication (×) signifying an integral relation.
Indian heterogeneity in speech, marked by implicit ‘etiquette’ and flexibility, can best be viewed within an overall organic unity of communication (Chatterji 1943). Multiple identities are strengthened by a measure of fluidity in their manifestation. These identities are simply two sides of the same coin.
In this framework India, as a socio-linguistic area, is not a collection of fragments which the State holds together, but it presents a series of mosaics — religious, linguistic, regional and covering other socio-cultural dimensions — which fit together in a whole as in a jigsaw puzzle, and no single constituent, however small numerically, is viewed as marginal (Khubchandani 1992).
Such a situation can be regarded quite distinct from the structural pluralism as found in some European countries, notably Switzerland, Belgium and erstwhile Soviet Union, where different linguistic groups are proportionately balanced in a structural whole sharing the same space and/or some interests, and are delimited in separate regions with marked boundaries within a political unit. Such identity groups, when combined under the umbrella of a common structure, characterize the label ‘we’ as
(1 + 1 + 1 = 3): addition (+) signifying a combined relation
In such societies, harmony among diverse groups is sought by containing their rival aspirations through safeguards provided within the parameters of equality and social justice (Gordon 1981). Pluralism in many contemporary societies is largely based upon the co-existence of different primary groups structurally separated by ethnic/ nationality boundaries insulated through traits such as colour, religion, and language territory (in the case of migrants, their ancestral languages).
In a plural society such as India, one need not share everything; you feel you are a member of a plural group if only you share a core of universe. Different partial ‘universes’ of the groups within co-exist in the region in a state of mutual accommodation. Individual identity groups in such milieu do not necessarily co-terminate within the bounds of the same religious or linguistic ‘order/institution’. Often such groups operate across religion or language boundaries as delineated by the dictates of the clergy or grammarian and other custodians of these traditions. The cases of Mazhabi Sikhs (in West Punjab), Labana Sikhs (in Sindh), Sindhi-Amils and Sufis claiming Sikh, Hindu and Muslim identities as per the relevance of the context, brings home the point of discrete cultural groups marked by their fuzzy traits — a significant characteristic of plural society. Such discrete groups are conceptually different from the insular nationality groups in Europe, marked by congruent identities amenable to a clear-cut categorization by their convergence in the same territory. Non-congruent characteristics of plural society in the Indian context are elucidated elsewhere (Khubchandani 1983):
The constituents of this mosaic fit together to form an integral whole (accounts of Hindi-Urdu-Hindustani amalgam, and of Punjabi and Sindhi diasporas illustrate this point, see Khubchandani 1991). One finds inherent contradictions on the Indian language scene concerning different aspects of speech behaviour in meeting the demands of contemporary institutions: namely, patterns of language use, levels of competence, unconscious attitudes/images (that is, what people think they do with speech), language assertions/postures (that is, what people claim they do with speech).
The intricacies of language behaviour in the Indian context reveal apparent ambiguities in defining the concept of mother tongue itself (Khubchandani 1972). The posture toward, and the image of, a mother tongue do not necessarily claim congruity with actual usage, and these again are not rigidly identified with specific language territories, as is the case of many European nation-states.
In everyday reality one locates oneself in the midst of different socio-cultural, religious, civic, political and professional identities, making varying demands on the individual: (i) the Indian cultural ethos membership of a particular primordial identity is ascribed (i.e., given by tradition); (ii) observance of specific traits associated with the identity is generally left fluid (subject to the sensitivity to the group or to individual goals), such as the observance of five kakkas among Sikhs — kesa, kada, kaccha, kangi, and kirpan; and (iii) commitment or loyalty to a particular identity is relative to the context (and not absolute); at times, it could even be voluntary. The non-exclusive nature of primordial identities allows one simultaneously to belong to multiple identities.
When examining civic identities (such as, citizenship) on the same scale, one finds that (i) its membership is regulated by one’s origin, birth or domicile and it can be renounced or newly acquired; (ii) the duties and privileges accompanying the membership are conditioned by the laws of the land, and their adherence is usually mandatory; and (iii) the demands of loyalty are obligatory and exclusive. One cannot simultaneously claim multiple national identities against the interests of a particular territory. Primordial identities, in contrast, generally transcend the bounds of political and administrative institutions, and are usually fostered through the strengths of ‘diasporic’ solidarity, biradari, such as the spread of the Jewish diaspora throughout the world.
In a plural nation primordial identities with diverse ethnic attributes are essentially cultural; these remain amorphous, illusionary, and irrational by definition. Such identities can enrich nation’s creative faculties in the cultural realm, but it will be hazardous to explicit them as a legitimate political force, such as making a particular identity as a defining characteristic of a specific territory.
A Participation Paradigm
It is essential to work out a new paradigm to development by recognizing the principle of diversity within an interconnected world. A more humane and people-oriented approach to development promotes the dictum "People cannot be developed, they develop themselves." Peoples’ participation is not something which can be mobilized or created from outside. "Human actions are seen as the process by which persons collectively maintain and create social reality". (Narula and Pearce 1986) It is a way of humanizing development as a total social process.
The model of redevelopment, presented by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, pays more attention to cultural preferences. The new approach recognizes human dignity and relates to the satisfaction of ‘basic needs’ of the human being who is to be properly considered as the subject, object, centre and primary beneficiary of development activities. The new concept of social development is defined as: "Change towards patterns of society that allow greater realization of human values, that allow a society greater control over its individuals to gain increased control over themselves" (Inayatullah 1982).
Such a democratic process leads to the participating people searching for solutions to their problems of development as perceived by them. In this context 1990 African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation (passed at Arusha, Tanzania) very eloquently proclaims: "As an instrument of development, popular participation provides the driving force for collective commitment for the determination of people-centred development processes, and willingness by the people to undertake sacrifices and expend their social energies for its execution."
Profiles of tribal cultures provide us many insights into probing questions such as, how to channelize the concerns of ethnic identity of small groups in a positive and sublime manner to enrich the nation’s heritage, instead of treating them as underprivileged ‘powerless’ minorities and allowing ‘small’ cultures to submit to the pressures of assimilation within the dominant culture under the compulsions of joining the mainstream. (cf. a recent study on tribal identity, Khubchandani 1992)
Most of the developmental programmes for tribals are influenced by the perspective we inherited from the ‘colonial’ anthropology. With such a world-view the tribals are often looked upon as ‘museum specimens’ to be cherished for the exoticness and to be clinically observed and analyzed before their extinction — a sort of pre-mortem (instead of the post-mortem). Under such compulsions we ignore the sociological fact that all human conglomerations, so-called ‘primitive’ as well as ‘contemporary’, acquire a unique, space-and-time bound ethos. It is the synthesis emerging from the interaction of people that can bring the fruits of development to tribal society without causing physical, social or psychological damage.
In the context of resolving the socio-political aspirations of the tribal people, we need to consider the questions: How to gear the political system to promote the prevailing patterns of cross-cutting dynamism and fluidity in intra-group and inter-group relation and to check the growth of insular tendencies through which the centres of power monopolise controls over natural resources, trade and industry, mobility and domicile, communication and educational needs, and even on the socio-cultural identities of the population within the insulated bounds symbolizing the maximum distinction from the next door.
In this regard, Gandhiji rightly explains the interdependence of individual units in a society through an analogy of ‘concentric circles in an ocean’; these circles keep on widening to the outer periphery but never ascending like ‘a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom’. In such a pluralistic pattern, the ‘inner circle’ forms an integral unit of the ‘outer oceanic circle’, and will not be crushed by the overwhelming power of the outer periphery. On the other hand, each should give strength to the other (Kripalani 1958).
Traditionally science has dealt with universals (atemporal view of classical sciences) and humanities with particulars (based on time-oriented world-view). The holistic approach to science can bring a slow merger of physical sciences with social sciences and humanities (Khubchandani 1993). "The convergence of science and humanities gives us a glimpse of the road that leads from being to becoming" (Prigogine and Stengers 1984).
A convergence of perspectives that other groups of people may have a different basis from our own allows the ‘openness’ for all kinds of concepts (as implied by the term glasnost in Russian). This plurality consciousness, in the words of Heisenberg (1959), raises the hope that in the final state of unification many different cultural traditions may live together and may combine different human endeavours into a kind of balance between thought and deed, between activity and meditation. Scientific pursuits, instead of being used as tools for competition and dominance, can be utilized as devices for complementarity and cooperation.
In recent years Prigogine’s work at the Brussels School has presented a comprehensive theory of change. It suggests that most of reality, instead of being orderly, stable and equilibral, is seething and bubbling with change, disorder and process. While a small part of the physical universe forms closed systems (which may operate like machines), most phenomena of nature are, in fact, open systems, exchanging energy or matter (and information) with their environment (Toffler 1984). Development, like biological and social systems, is open. Till recently most of the development experts have been evaluating in mechanistic terms which is doomed to a failure.
In classical sciences, basic processes of nature were considered to be deterministic and reversible; processes involving randomness or irreversibility were considered only exceptions. Today we see everywhere the role of irreversible processes, of fluctuations. In Prigoginian terms, all systems, close or open, contain subsystems that are continually ‘fluctuating’. In the context of debates surrounding chance and determinism, Toffler (1984), commenting on the range of options available to the human decision-maker, remarks: "Free will downstairs operated only within the limits of a menu determined upstairs."
These debates are crucially linked with the issues of the reconstruction of reality and the issues concerning the quality of life in the rapidly changing environment. In the scientific endeavour there is an objective goal to aspire for the ideal of ‘getting out of one’s own skin’. In the light of this, one can hope that the transcending interest of mankind will not allow to lose sight of our cherished goals of bringing harmony through bio-diversity and cultural plurality on the regional, national, and global scene when framing development and communication policies for the future.
©1996 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi