Indian Institute of Technology Madras has launched the ‘Indian Network for Memory Studies’ (INMS), the first formal national network in the field of Memory Studies in India and Asia, which has been formed under the aegis of the international Memory Studies Association (MSA), Amsterdam.
The INMS will coordinate complex engagements with ‘memory’ from different institutes including cultural studies centres as well as neuroscience laboratories and industry research on AI and related fields. The Network was inaugurated virtually on Wednesday (16th June 2021) in an event witnessed by around 600 participants from India, Iraq, Finland, France, Germany, Mauritius, Sweden, U.K., and the U.S.
The Indian Network for Memory Studies is founded by Dr. Avishek Parui and Dr. Merin Simi Raj, Assistant Professors (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, who will also be its Chairpersons.
Dr. Parui is also a nominated member of the Advisory Board of the International Memory Studies Association. The Indian Network for Memory Studies has emerged from the Centre for Memory Studies, IIT Madras, which has been funded by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. The other funding to the current projects in this research cluster comes from XR Lab, TCS Chennai, and Anglo-Ink, Chennai.
Addressing the inaugural event, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “. I wish this effort a speedy success. This Network has already built a commendable critical mass which reflects its relevance and reach Success in this case will be to get the activities going, establish lot of collaborations, conferences, workshops and form a community of people working in this field. For India, memory studies can be very important, for a lot of historical developments are captured only in memories and not on documentation.”
Further, Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi said, “The fact that there are so many participants from India too has shown that this network has not come a day too soon. There is enough work going on in India to warrant the creation of such a Network. There is a good base for creating this network in India and it can plug into the huge global network.”
The vision of Indian Network for Memory Studies include:
Ø Offering an India-centric model of memory studies departing from the established Eurocentric models in theory and practice.
Ø Producing and promoting an innovative interdisciplinary engagement with the complex cognitive, cultural, and machinic modes of memory.
Ø Examining the processes of encoding and effacement that simultaneously inform acts of remembrance and re-construction in private as well as shared orders, and how such processes may be recorded as well as represented by a range of fields such as fiction, history, media, urban geography, and technology.
Ø Producing exhibitions, conferences, workshops, and special journal issues on a range of themes in Memory Studies, in collaboration with partners from academia and industry.
Ø Academically accentuating as well as promoting the rich research on imperialism, Partition, and post-colonial identities through the interdisciplinary lenses of memory studies.
Ø Re-creating Indian and South-Asian pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial events and identities using the model of memory as reconstruction, foregrounding the textuality and the technology informing processes of remembering.
Speaking on ‘The Pleasures of Memory Studies,’ Prof. Astrid Erll, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Director, Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform, identified the pleasures of memory studies in its ‘internationality,’ ‘interdisciplinarity’ and ‘ongoingness.’
Commenting on how INMS synthesises the tools of literary studies with newer forms of technology, Prof. Erll said, “My definition of Memory Studies would be an interplay of present, past and future in socio-cultural contexts. Memory is a biological, social, material and cultural phenomenon and increasingly a technological phenomenon.”
Further, congratulating Dr Avishek Parui and Dr Merin Simi Raj on the efforts made towards the creation of Indian Network for Memory Studies, Prof. Astrid Erll noted, “What has happened in the last two decades is that Memory has become more and more instutionalized. In 2016, a group of memory scholars realized that they needed to have a global platform. Hence, for the past five years, we have an International Memory Studies Association to facilitate this global collaboration. MSA India is the latest entrant to this association.”
Dr. Hanna Teichler, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, Acting President of Memory Studies Association and Co-Director, Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform, delivered an address on ‘Transoceanic Entanglements in Memory Literature: M.G. Vassanji’s The Inbetween Life of Vikram Lall and Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies’ highlighting memory genres and transnational narratives during the event.
The Chairpersons Dr Avishek Parui and Dr Merin Simi Raj formally inaugurated the official INMS website, membership form, and the newsletter.
Sharing their vision for this network, Dr. Avishek Parui, Chairperson, Indian Network for Memory Studies, and Assistant Professor (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, said, “We are moving away from the Big-event model of memory studies, and instead examining the dailyness of remembering and forgetting through the innovative incorporations of the literary as well as the technological lenses. At the INMS we are particularly interested on researching the Indian landscape of memory studies, and in so doing integrate the immediate, the local, and the international through an interdisciplinary theoretical lens.”
Further, Dr. Merin Simi Raj, Chairperson, Indian Network for Memory Studies, and Assistant Professor (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, added, “The internship and the research opportunities that INMS offer will bring about a paradigm shift in humanities research in Indian academia in collaboration with the top international bodies in the field. A number of initiatives including new courses, training workshops, and interdisciplinary programmes are already in the pipeline.”
Dr. Avishek Parui and Dr. Merin Simi Raj have already established partnerships for the Indian Network for Memory Studies with the Memory Studies Association, Amsterdam, Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform, Germany, Memory Group, University of Warwick, U.K., Cultural Identity and Memory Studies Institute (CIMS), University of St. Andrews, U.K., XR Lab, TCS and Anglo-Ink, Chennai. They have also facilitated a MoU with the University of St. Andrews.
Mr. Rajendra Prasad Narla, Chief Archivist, Tata Central Archives, spoke on the topic ‘The Genesis of an Archive.’ Prof. Jyotirmaya Tripathy, Head, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, also spoke during the event, foregrounding the need for incorporating Indian frameworks in memory studies.
The INMS through the research conducted at the Centre for Memory Studies, IIT Madras, would facilitate departures from Eurocentric approaches in terms of theoretical framework and worldviews. It will also open up research and internship opportunities for Indian students as well as international scholars through an annual membership programme in collaboration with the International Memory Studies Association.
Dr Avishek Parui and Dr Merin Simi Raj aim to offer an entirely original perspective on studies in national memory, history, and cultural identities, drawing on theoretical models from humanities research as well as innovative tools of technology.