International Workshop on The Politics Of ‘Doing Culture’ Entangled India and the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War


Dates: Decem­ber 21–22.12.2018.

Loca­ti­on: Depart­ment of South Asi­an Stu­dies, Insti­tu­te for Asi­an and Afri­can Stu­dies, Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin.
Inva­li­den­stras­se 118, 10115 Ber­lin
II Floor, Room 217

Introduction:

The Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic (GDR) was offi­ci­al­ly reco­gni­zed by the Indian sta­te in 1972. In the absence of offi­ci­al diplo­ma­tic rela­ti­ons pri­or to reco­gni­ti­on, howe­ver, the Tra­de Rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ons, estab­lished in 1956, beca­me the ‘offi­ci­al mouth­pie­ce’ of the GDR in India. Almost par­al­lel to the increa­sing role play­ed by the Tra­de Rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ons in fur­the­ring poli­ti­cal, eco­no­mic and cul­tu­ral rela­ti­ons bet­ween the two coun­tries was the emer­gence of nume­rous Indo-GDR Fri­endship Socie­ties across dif­fe­rent parts of India. In the field of cul­tu­ral rela­ti­ons espe­ci­al­ly, ent­an­gle­ments came to be inten­si­fied through a myri­ad of media like thea­t­re, art, film, docu­men­ta­ries, music, radio etc. The diver­se activi­ties of the Fri­endship Socie­ties, uni­ver­si­ty intel­lec­tu­als, diplo­mats, thea­t­re play­w­rights and filmma­kers– with actors from both sides of the spec­trum– pro­du­ced a vibrant atmo­s­phe­re of ent­an­gle­ments which were at the inter­face of both poli­ti­cal and cul­tu­ral diplo­ma­cy.

Though the­se ent­an­gle­ments have been rese­ar­ched indi­vi­dual­ly from various direc­tions [1], and through the lens of mul­ti­ple tro­pes, they have rare­ly recei­ved sys­te­ma­tic aca­de­mic atten­ti­on wit­hin the ambit of an over­ar­ching frame­work. This is espe­ci­al­ly becau­se his­to­rio­gra­phy on the lar­ger sub­ject of India-GDR rela­ti­ons is also lar­ge­ly scat­te­red and scan­ty. This work­shop seeks to unpack the domain of “doing” cul­tu­ral poli­tics by actors from India and the Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic during the Cold War years.

Whe­re­as the Ger­man term Kul­tur­po­li­tik sug­gests the for­ma­li­zed ambit of sta­te-led ent­an­gle­ments and soft power, the poli­tics of cul­tu­re reflec­ts how such poli­tics of ‘doing’ cul­tu­re per­co­la­tes the ever­y­day life of public sphere(s), wher­e­by ent­an­gle­ments acqui­re their own after­lives bey­ond the for­ma­li­sed sphe­re of sta­te poli­tics. It will focus, on the one hand, on how the GDR was re-pre­sen­ted for an Indian audi­ence and how India came to be pro­jec­ted and con­su­med as an object of inte­rest in the GDR. On the other, but more import­ant­ly so, it aims to trace the life tra­jec­to­ries of indi­vi­du­als, litera­ry works and objec­ts that were at the cusp of inten­se indi­vi­du­al exch­an­ges. Such his­to­ries, embed­ded in com­plex rela­ti­ons­hips among actors from both the coun­tries, also call for a rea­ding bey­ond the limi­ted and limi­t­ing voca­bu­la­ry of “pro­pa­gan­da poli­tics”. The work­shop will look at mul­ti­ple sites of “doing cul­tu­re” that actively con­tri­bu­t­ed to pro­du­cing an inter­face bet­ween sta­te-led cul­tu­ral ent­an­gle­ments, cul­tu­ral diplo­ma­cy, par­ti­ci­pato­ry demo­cra­cy and the poli­tics of resis­tan­ce. Art, lite­ra­tu­re, poli­ti­cal thought, thea­t­re, film, radio then beco­me per­ti­nent as spaces of col­la­bo­ra­ti­on that open a hither­to less explo­red archi­ve of fri­endship.

Rather than pro­jec­ting India as the pas­si­ve play-field of Cold War “pro­pa­gan­da”, the objec­tive is to elu­ci­da­te how actors from India, who were at the heart of the­se ent­an­gle­ments, were active and mutu­al co-shapers of the­se rela­ti­ons. Papers will con­tri­bu­te to a nuan­ced rea­ding of the com­pel­ling Cold War con­texts, though wit­hout ren­de­ring India sole­ly as the “object” and recei­ver of Cold War block poli­tics.

How did mutu­al pre­sen­ces get mate­ria­li­sed in the eclec­tic field of “cul­tu­re”? How can we trace ent­an­gle­ments by diver­ting our gaze to the con­tent of the medi­um, but also the mate­ria­li­ty of the very medi­um and the inter-crossing lives of the actors from both the sides? What do the­se ent­an­gle­ments tell us about the field of cul­tu­ral poli­tics and the poli­tics of cul­tu­re in a Cold War con­text? How do the­se ent­an­gle­ments open the pos­si­bi­li­ties of tra­cing trans­na­tio­nal ties? The workshop’s main objec­tive is to bring tog­e­ther diver­se sites of ent­an­gle­ments under one over­ar­ching theo­re­ti­cal and the­ma­tic focus and the­r­ein con­tri­bu­te to his­to­rio­gra­phy on India-GDR rela­ti­ons.

Though the­se ent­an­gle­ments have been rese­ar­ched indi­vi­dual­ly from various directions1, and through the lens of mul­ti­ple tro­pes, they have rare­ly recei­ved sys­te­ma­tic aca­de­mic atten­ti­on wit­hin the ambit of an over­ar­ching frame­work. This is espe­ci­al­ly becau­se his­to­rio­gra­phy on the lar­ger sub­ject of India-GDR rela­ti­ons is also lar­ge­ly scat­te­red and scan­ty. This work­shop seeks to unpack the domain of “doing” cul­tu­ral poli­tics by actors from India and the Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic during the Cold War years.

Rather than pro­jec­ting India as the pas­si­ve play-field of Cold War “pro­pa­gan­da”, the objec­tive is to elu­ci­da­te how actors from India, who were at the heart of the­se ent­an­gle­ments, were active and mutu­al co-shapers of the­se rela­ti­ons. Papers will con­tri­bu­te to a nuan­ced rea­ding of the com­pel­ling Cold War con­texts, though wit­hout ren­de­ring India sole­ly as the “object” and recei­ver of Cold War block poli­tics.

How did mutu­al pre­sen­ces get mate­ria­li­sed in the eclec­tic field of “cul­tu­re”? How can we trace ent­an­gle­ments by diver­ting our gaze to the con­tent of the medi­um, but also the mate­ria­li­ty of the very medi­um and the inter-crossing lives of the actors from both the sides? What do the­se ent­an­gle­ments tell us about the field of cul­tu­ral poli­tics and the poli­tics of cul­tu­re in a Cold War con­text? How do the­se ent­an­gle­ments open the pos­si­bi­li­ties of tra­cing trans­na­tio­nal ties? The workshop’s main objec­tive is to bring tog­e­ther diver­se sites of ent­an­gle­ments under one over­ar­ching theo­re­ti­cal and the­ma­tic focus and the­r­ein con­tri­bu­te to his­to­rio­gra­phy on India-GDR rela­ti­ons.

[1] Attempts to trace the natu­re of some of the­se intert­wi­ned tra­jec­to­ries come pri­ma­ri­ly from Thea­t­re Stu­dies, Film Stu­dies, Arts and Aes­the­tics, Litera­ry Stu­dies, his­to­rio­gra­phy on uni­ver­si­ties and Cold War Stu­dies, but rare­ly have they infor­med a sys­te­ma­tic his­to­rio­gra­phy on India-GDR rela­ti­ons bey­ond the realm of diplo­ma­tic histo­ry. 

Workshop Programme

Day 1 (21.12.2018)

09:30 – 09:45

Wel­co­me and Intro­duc­tion
Micha­el Mann (Depart­ment for South Asi­an Stu­dies, Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin)
Hei­ke Lie­bau (Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent, Ber­lin)
Anan­di­ta Bajpai (Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin and Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent, Ber­lin)

09:45 – 11:30

Chair: Joa­chim Oes­ter­held

Tra­vel Wri­ting on India in the GDR: Bet­ween Cul­tu­ral Diplo­ma­cy and Popu­lar Edu­ca­ti­on
Anush­ka Gokha­le

Brecht in Mara­thi: Cold War and the emer­gence of Cul­tu­re as ‘Pro­blem’
Vaib­hav Dil­ip Abna­ve

11:30 – 11:45

Coffee/Tea Break

11:45 – 13:30

Chair: Anan­di­ta Bajpai

Cri­ti­cal Pedago­gy in the Thea­t­re Stu­dio: The Prac­tice of Fritz Ben­ne­witz
Anu­radha Kapur

Col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve Dia­lo­gues across the Thea­tri­cal Public Sphe­res: ‘Invin­ci­ble Viet­nam’ in Cal­cut­ta and Ros­tock, 1967
Bish­nu­pri­ya Dutt

13:30 – 14:30

Lunch

14.30 – 16:15

Chair: Hei­ke Lie­bau (Leib­niz-Zen­trum Moder­ner Ori­ent)

Socia­list Ger­ma­ny and India: Ent­an­gle­ments in Car­to­gra­phy and Archi­tec­tu­re 1949–1989
Chris­toph Bern­hardt

The Sound of Fri­endship: Warm Wav­elengths of Radio Ber­lin Inter­na­tio­nal in India during the Cold War Years
Anan­di­ta Bajpai

16:15 – 16:30

Coffee/Tea Break

16:30 – 18:15

Chair: Micha­el Mann

India at The Leip­zig Docu­men­ta­ry Film Fes­ti­val
Vee­na Hariha­ran

A Wit­ness to Histo­ry: Pro­duc­tion of Images of India in GDR News­re­els
Rey­a­zul Haque

18:30

Con­fe­rence Din­ner

Day 2 (22.12.2018)

10:00 – 11:45

Chair: Anan­di­ta Bajpai

The Noti­on of ‘Expres­si­vi­ty’ in the Art Collec­tives of India: The Rea­lists and The Radi­cal Pain­ters and Sculp­tors’ Asso­cia­ti­on
Rahul Dev

Matri­ces of Exchan­ge: Poli­tics of Cul­tu­ral Exchan­ge and Moder­nist Print­ma­king in India.
Jyot­hi­das KV

11:45 – 12:00

Cof­fee Break

12:00 – 13:00

Wrap Up/Final Dis­cus­sion

Plea­se find detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on about this work­shop and the pro­gram­me here.