There have been several attempts to redefine what ‘strange’ means and how to map and understand it in terms of cognizance and emotions in Chinese and Indic philosophical schools. These were in dialogue with each other and the questions and the methods of looking into the ‘strange’ remained the same. However, the ‘strange’ was invariably discussed as a singular category, which did not do justice to the Chinese philosophical tradition. In the discussions of the master philosophers, the knowledge of the ‘strange’ comes through an emotion or a way of perception, out of which the emotion rises. Zhuangzi or the Daoist schools, especially delved deep into such a knowledge structure. With Daoism, the knowledge of the unknown and the known were distinguished and repeatedly explained. This abundance of knowledge is something that has been associated with the ‘strange’ and especially those knowledge systems which are beyond the socially accepted norms. In the Indic/Sanskrit intellectual tradition it was mostly an effort to elucidate on what gives rise to the best kind of taste (rasa) and emotion whilst dealing with the complexity of those emotions. This tradition recognizes the ‘strange’ as the creation of ‘strange’/’fantastic’ on stage and it is theoretically done through dramatic application of emotions – a complex process that includes aesthetics of rasas and how to perceive it and by whom. The speaker argues that ‘strange’ is not merely a common and overused category in the philosophical traditions, but refers to a kind of knowledge production that relates to the systems beyond those socially and historically accepted parameters. This discussion (which is a work in progress) is also a way to search for an appropriate method and a theoretical base for its further elucidation.
About the Speaker
Barnali Chanda is a Visiting Research Associate at the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi. She completed her PhD in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Barnali’s PhD thesis is a comparative thematic study of selected strange and fantastic narratives of Pre-Modern China and India. Currently she is a China Studies Post Doctoral Research Fellow at Ashoka University. Since 2014 she has taught Literature and Chinese Language in Jadavpur University, Techno India University and Christ University. Her field of interests includes comparative literature, travelogue studies, Chinese and Indian literary transactions in the classical period, reception of Buddhist ideas in the Chinese and Sanskrit ‘marvellous’ stories and translation of Chinese classical and vernacular literature into English and Bengali. Barnali has co-authored two books, Of Asian Lands: A View from Bengal (An Annotated Bibliography of a Century of Travel Narratives to Asian Lands in Bangla) published by Jadavpur University in 2009 and Tellings and Retellings: Strange tales of Medieval China, published by Jadavpur University in 2015. She published articles in Journal of Comparative Indian Language & Literature and Asian Studies Journal of Netaji Institute of Asian Studies.
About the Chair
Sabaree Mitra is Professor of Chinese and Chairperson of the Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies in the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University; an Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, and a member of the Editorial Board of China Report. Her teaching and research have spanned the fields of contemporary Chinese literature and criticism, Chinese cultural history, gender issues, and India–China cultural relations and regional interaction. Her publications include books and research articles including, Literature and Politics in 20th Century China: Issues and Themes (2005), “From ‘Popularization of Culture’ to ‘Popular Culture’: Discourse & Praxis in China” (JSL, Spring 2008), and numerous book chapters. Her latest publication, an edited volume titled, China's May Fourth Movement: New Narratives and Perspectives, was published by Routledge earlier this year as a global edition. Sabaree Mitra was the Chairperson of the Indian Expert Group that compiled the Encyclopedia of India-China Cultural Contacts (2014) under the aegis of the Governments of India and China. In 2017, she was honoured with the Special Book Award of China for her contributions in introducing, translating, and publishing books on Chinese culture as well as in promoting cultural exchanges.
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