July, August, September 2020
[. . .] People are born into their versions of truth. They live them, every day, in the confinement of their solitude. Single, even troubled truth. Some do it with a degree of magnanimity about other truths, existing, breathing, living what we call our lives, not in a singular manner, plural, regardless of our unpalatable lives. These breaths, these existences may be, others are distressed, agitated, angered by the presence of parallel truths in their lives and in the lives of others.

Other, always the other, hinting, condoning, pointing at exclusion. There is the truth of us. Therefore, there is the lie of the other. Because, this will not match their own frames or ours for that matter, you must arrive, arrive I say at an understanding of what works best for you, and like Lear learn to live with difference.

-Naveen Kishore, excerpted from the keynote address for The Idea of Culture, 2018
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Dear Readers,

Three months into an unprecedented lockdown in living memory, the need to remember that physical distancing does not need to be at the cost of social solidarity, is ever important. The anti-racist protests that have swept across so many parts of the world in the aftermath of the brutal police killing of George Floyd have brought inspiration, but with it the urgent need to introspect, question and address our own convenient silences and everyday unseeing of injustices we as a society are complicit in. This edition of our newsletter is a reflection of these deliberations.

First, we'd like to announce a new direction for our digital readings, and introduce 'Between Borders and Margins', a thematic 4 part series.

We've developed two fresh multimedia and interdisciplinary teaching/learning resources on understanding racism and closer home, casteism. Along with this, we bring you from our Resource Pool, Teaching Divided Historiesa module exploring the fractures left by the partitions in this subcontinent's past century, on identities and mindsets in contemporary society.

Next, we've put together further related educational resources in the form of conceptually relevant talks from the History for Peace archives, as well as a curation of related arts-based teaching tools from across the web.

In our educational 'trivia' section This & That, we bring you glimpses into two thought-provoking stories that locate the arts in the projects of racism and casteism, and quite literally, all that jazz.

We conclude with a brief glimpse into our interactive engagements over the lockdown.

Between Borders and Margins
These two words really are synonyms in the very literal sense. Yet, they invoke deeply different social power structures. While borders primarily refer to the territorial closing off of space and inter national political differentiation, margins invoke the intra socio political and surely economic, power structures—most often, one feeds into the other in deciding who occupies these spaces. So what does it mean to exist in both simultaneously, as is usually the case? Where and how do these power structures intersect? 

After two months of weekly Digital Readings@Seagull, on Saturday, 11 July, 2020, we bring you the first of our four part monthly thematized readings: Between Borders and Margins. Follow us on our social media pages for further updates!
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Into the classroom
Racism is hardly news to India.

While conversations around racism in the context of our colonial imperialist history have entered mainstream cultural discourse, others conveniently continue to be brushed under the carpet. With the #georgefloyd protests having swept across many parts of the world centering in the US, many in and from India have registered their virtual solidarity with the movement. While this in itself is a positive move, it does beg a few questions about our silences. How often does dialogue about caste meaningfully take place in the classroom? Leave alone the classroom, how much do we talk about or recognize the violence of discrimination people from the states of North East India for instance, are subjected to in the rest of the nation? Or, even the racial discrimination meted out to people of African origins in India?

These are some of the questions that have been on our minds, and so we bring you two teaching/learning resources we developed to help you begin to uncover these silences with your students. Apply them as they are or in whatever way works best for you!
Teaching Resource #1
Unpacking Systemic Racism in the Global Context
'There are no gentle slaveholders', writes Arlen Pasa, creator of this virtually defaced John Trunbull 1818 painting featuring the USA's 'founding fathers', The Declaration of Independence. This was made in August 2019 in response to 53 deaths in one month from mass shootings in the US. Sourced from openculture.com
How does one define someone who assumes an identity different from yours? This could be in terms of race, caste, class, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and most importantly culture. One would usually call them the Other—other nations, other cultures, other genders, and the list goes on, as long as the power structures live on. The term ‘othering’ was coined by Gayatri Spivak for the process through which imperial discourse creates its ‘others’ as subjects to be mastered upon by the colonial ruler. How would the process of ‘othering’ then be understood and translated in everyday discourse?

This is exactly the question we hope to help you address with our multimedia lesson plan.
Teaching Resource #2
Shades of Resistance
Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism with his followers, excerpted from Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability (Navayana, 2011), via The Comic Journal.
The notion of superior and inferior colours both racial and caste discrimination— a link social reformer and educator Jyotirao Phule wrote about as early as the second half of the 19th century. In light of this link, what questions does the current renewed momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement illuminate for caste?

This forms the basis of this two part teaching/learning module. 'Shades of Resistance' attempts to introduce high school students to specific significant moments and movements from the 20th century against racial and caste discrimination, through interactive multimedia activities that encourage critical thought and engagement with the ideologies of these resistances.
Teaching Divided Histories
Talking about race invokes many other concepts, conflicts. Of seeing and being seen, of identity, belonging, displacement and of histories—remembered and hidden. In this context, it seems relevant to share a resource we developed years ago that focused on using moving image, literature and art to look at the impact the partitions of the sub-continent in the 20th century have left on mindsets today.

Teaching Divided Histories is a resource that introduces moving image and digital pedagogies into the teaching of History and Citizenship to make a strategic impact on current approaches to the teaching of history, culture and identity.

Further Resources
From the History for Peace archives
While we are on the subject of systemic oppression(s) and power structures that determine the reach of historically marginalized narratives, here are two talks from our archives we'd like to share.

In the first, Afsan Chowdhury explores the possibilities of teaching beyond margins, specifically, the almost sacrosanct pedestal assigned to 'political borders' in the area of history teaching. In the second, Janaki Nair discusses the uniquely redundant position of the 'text book' in a context where suppressing a plurality of voices beneath the weight of an approved singular 'objective' voice is both obsolete and unacceptable.
Teaching History Without Political Borders
-Afsan Chowdhury
'The state has two parts: government and society. My interest is more about society and people. But most conventional history books focus mostly on the deeds of a small minority or the ruling class. Their history becomes everyone’s history and we end up studying a past where ordinary people barely seem to exist.

This situation is somewhat inevitable. Conventional history studies are conducted primarily on the basis of written sources—religious texts, manuscripts, land-grant records, and religious myths, among others, that have been generated over time by the literate class. But literacy was also largely limited to the upper classes of the past. Thus we end up teaching the history of a narrow band of people, or the rulers.

History can be a like a cup of a heady brew, an intoxicant, to make us feel ‘glorious’ about our past—real or imagined. And we need such ‘pasts’ for many reasons, particularly political ones. Thus teaching history can become an exercise in glorifying our past and not in studying it critically. An ancient king’s history of invasion, a politician’s manipulations for power becomes everyone’s narrative.

So whose history do we teach anyway?'
What Can Take The Place Of A Single, Teachable, Usable Past?
-Janaki Nair
'The textbook has become—I was going to say an "embattled object", but I will change that and say—an "endangered object". The love of the past in India today is the stuff of battles in courtrooms, streets and movie theatres rather than seminars, classrooms and journals. Historical knowledge is something that everybody passionately and deeply engages with, especially in India—I would say that this is a particularly sub-continental affliction. So the professional historian is himself/herself something of a bit of an endangered species too because the historical method seems to have no place in this ‘love of the past’. So I can end my talk right here by saying that maybe we should all only teach English history, Russian history or Chinese history because it is no longer safe to try and attempt to teach Indian history—but I won’t [. . . .]Instead, I would like to say something on which I do not expect agreement—a single, teachable past in India is no longer possible. '
Teaching Resources
curated from around the web
Two illustrations showing a slave being sold as punishment for crime, before the Emancipation Proclamation, and an African-American being whipped as punishment for crime in 1866, original title: 'Slavery Is Dead', from Harper's Weekly, engraving by Thomas Nast, 1867. Credit: © Courtesy: Everett Col.
Unsure about the practicalities of discussing caste in your classroom? Educator Tulika Bathija's insights on how she went about it, as part of the Education for Peace initiative at Prajnya, could be helpful.


The European renaissance is much spoken about—the writing, paintings, architecture that this period brought forth are deeply etched in memory from early years at school. But have you heard of another renaissance of critical significance—the Harlem renaissance? 

An assertion of what it meant to be black, an American and an artist, and all of those at the same time in a modernizing America, discover more about this movement through this podcast by NPR. Curious how the Harlem Renaissance could be taught in the classroom? Here's an excellent collection of classroom activities based on some of the art the movement produced. If this is too distant for your syllabi, perhaps you could use the ideas in these resources to teach about something closer home, like the Bengal Renaissance? Here's a historically contextualized collection of works from the Bengal School of Art that you could shape your lesson idea with.


Want to better acquaint/re-acquaint yourselves with the histories of slavery in the USA? Teaching Tolerance created this fabulous 2-season podcast series, Teaching Hard History, specifically made to cater to school teachers. For something more directly implementable in the classroom, here is a library of multigenre, multimedia texts to explore slavery and racism, for grades ranging from 3 to 12.

This & That
Is art political? Can one's art be another's oppression? Can art be used to embed a sense of identity-based inferiority? Here's a visual essay that looks at the ways in which photography was used to justify the European colonial project(s) in Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.
What do Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk have in common? Apart from the fact that the course of jazz and listening might have been unrecognizable, and much poorer for their absence: their race. Watch this video to know how a small rectangular piece of paper, the Cabaret Card, was used as a tool by the police to racially discriminate against these musicians, causing immense damage to their minds, lives and livelihoods.

Closer home, does caste affect accessibility and practice of the arts? Read this excellent EPW Engage interactive piece 'Does Art have a Caste?' to explore a response to the above question in the context of carnatic music.

April to June: A Glimpse
Digital Readings@Seagull
Here's a window into the diversity of themes our digital readings have been around, over the lockdown period.
Talking Discrimination in Primary School: The Anne Frank House Video Diary Blog Project
Was Hitler a great leader or a dictator? How are the events of Anne Frank’s life affected by the fact that she had a diary to write to—did it create any difference? Why was Anne Frank’s story so famous when there were other war heroes too?

These were but a few of the questions that a group of 30 11-12 year old students from Pathways World School asked Priya Machado (Taskforce India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, Educational Projects, Anne Frank House) and Meena Malhotra (Director, PeaceWorks). This interactive session concluded the Pathways World School's engagement with the Anne Frank House Video Dairy Blog Project that engaged students in addressing key issues such as discrimination, scapegoating, the impact of making choices, and freedom, over the period of lockdown.

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