Note from the Board of Editors

In the midst of yet another year of living with a pandemic, we are happy to release Volume V of the journal. Shantanu Chhawchharia’s cover design is a nod to the parable of ‘The Blind Men and an Elephant’ from the Panchatantra, and the journal’s goal of bringing together interdisciplinary perspectives in an attempt to offer a better understanding of our world. 

Several of our authors this year have been preoccupied with history and its representations. The distinct conceptions of the nation of India in three series of Class VI NCERT history textbooks, the chasm between historical scholarship on the tawaifs of Mughal India and Hindi cinema’s portrayal, and regional expressions of nationalism (distinct from the “pan-Indian phenomenon,”) that emerged in early 20th century Malayalam literature, have all found expression in Volume V.  Shifting focus from written history, another author traces the evolution of myths as instruments of resistance, by inquiring into Anansi and associated myths of the Akan people of West Africa. That history matters for the present is also a lesson from a review of Durba Ghosh’s 2017 book Gentlemanly Terrorists: Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919-1947, an insightful account of anti-colonial insurgent movements categorised as “terrorist,” “revolutionary,” or “militant”, which reshaped the politics and laws of late anti-colonial nationalism, and that continue to impact politics in contemporary India. 

Other authors in this volume have argued for the need to revisit and redefine old categories, for example, the rape-revenge genre of Hindi films that have evolved to reflect recent events and newer sensibilities. An analysis of the Polish melodrama Cold War (2018) elaborates different ways in which the body of the female protagonist is portrayed, monitored, disciplined, and controlled. An examination of Dothraki and High Valyrian, languages constructed for the television adaptation of G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, suggests that we consider the implications of their orientalist leanings, emphasizing that language reflects biases. Through three case studies, another author identifies trends and attitudes underlying practices of Carnatic fusion music as distinct from those of Carnatic classical music, and provides insights into reasons for the popularity of the fusion form.

Prime among concerns facing our society today are those relating to the role of technology in modern lives, the impact of human activities on the environment, and the rise of divisive rhetoric. Related to the first concern, while the first co-authored article in the short history of the journal identifies the need to examine the concept of solitude in contemporary times when, an individual, alone with their device, can still be connected to the world, the commentary on empathy and Artificial Intelligence (AI) proposes a set of thought experiments to help readers think about a future that features empathic AI. Of the two pieces of writing related to the environment, one is a research article that studies climate change induced-migration from the ecologically important Sundarban region, while the other is a commentary that contextualises the environmental protests in Goa in November 2020.  The final commentary in the volume discusses divisive rhetoric in India through an analysis of incendiary speeches by politicians. 

The journal not only publishes research by students, but also provides opportunities for them to communicate their work in other ways, and receive feedback from different audiences. This year, we organised an online poster exhibition for authors whose work was shortlisted for publication. The exhibition was hosted on our website and also allowed for live interactions between visitors to the exhibition, and authors. The intern team of Aishi Mitra, Isha Mahajan, Keifer Lobo, Maanvi Khurana, and Shantanu Chhawchharia began a podcast series ‘The CJIDS Podcast’ in March 2021. Each episode in the series hosts an author whose work has been previously published by the journal. In conversation with the podcast hosts, authors discuss their experiences with research and publishing. We hope that through these efforts, we encourage more students to communicate their research.

Although this volume carries only 14 of the many manuscripts we received for review, the diverse range of topics on which we received submissions was noteworthy. We are thankful to our reviewers from across disciplines who contributed their time, and not just helped us identify the best research to feature, but also provided detailed and thoughtful comments. We would also like to thank our dedicated group of interns — Aishi Mitra, Araniani Acharya Cabral e Sa, Disha Doshi, Gunjan Periwal, Isha Mahajan, Keifer Lobo, Maanvi Khurana, Muskan Aggarwal, and Shantanu Chhawchharia — who have worked tirelessly to ensure that copyediting and proofreading are completed on time. They were mindful not just of deadlines, but also of the nuances of academic writing. Many of the articles in this volume have benefitted from their careful reading and sharp copy-edits. CJIDS has particularly depended on Isha Mahajan who is not just meticulous with her work, but also extraordinarily resourceful. Finally, we are ever thankful to Dr. Anita Patankar, Director, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, for her continued support as we experiment with the possibilities of a journal’s role.

Sumithra Surendralal
(on behalf of the Board of Editors)