Opening the second edition of the LILA PRISM lecture series, Malaysian puppetry conservationist Eddin Khoo had reaffirmed cultures, history and memory as the subversive forces to political shortsightedness. In this second event, ecology activist Vandana Shiva forwarded the confirmation of cultures as the main force of continuity. In fact, Vandana Shiva’s response was but inevitable: it is only in the last four centuries that the word ‘culture’ shied away from its initial meaning – cultivation, growing soils – to the establishment of a cardinal metaphor: human culture as the cultivation of the mind, of manners, of practices. Not only could humanity sprout through agricultural innovations, but the very elaboration of cultures, traditions, customs also followed the paradigm of nature. And at the heart of culture, of cultivation, is food. Food is life. In Sanskrit, Pran means rice, and life.
Richard Mahapatra’s lecture was a veritable mine of associative thinking on development; it was potentially explosive. He traced the changing modes of ‘globalisation reporting’ since the early nineties, when the media was torn between the temptation to give more space to the Miss World pageant, than, responsibly, to the starvation in Kalahandi. Richard argues that India’s second partition happened with the introduction of the Below Poverty Line ration card. Richard showed how many local stories have global plots, around the emergence of a new geography of the media, and patronage determining the nature and length of news stories. He mapped for us the hidden roads between the cluster beans in Rajasthan and the energy crisis in the US, deforestation in Africa and the rising middle class in India, our tribal economy and European recession, farmers’ suicides and the rise of WTO, the tribal struggle in Odhisha ad the stock market in the UK. Kaushik Dasgupta, Richard’s colleague at Down to Earth, served as chair.