Web talk on Colonial Knowledge Production

Aligarh: Dr Javed Majeed, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, King’s College London delineated multiple axes, conflicting strands and productive paradoxes of colonial knowledge in a web talk on ‘Convinced About Knowing Little: Colonial Knowledge Production in Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India (1903-1928)’ organised by the Department of Linguistics, Aligarh Muslim University.

Engaging participants with multiple perspectives and intellectual exchange, Prof Majeed raised questions such as ‘What do the terms ‘India’, ‘Survey’, and ‘knowledge’ mean in the Linguistic Survey of India (LSI)? In what sense is the Survey ‘colonial’? What is the relationship between superintending and authoring in the Survey? What role does ignorance, doubt, and loss play in the Survey’s generation of knowledge in relation to the failure of the planned Linguistic Survey of Burma? And what to think about the LSI’s postcolonial legacy?’

Elaborating a wider range of rational and academic discourse, he pointed out at various limitations of the Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India with critical assessments.

Prof Majeed also presented a comparative analysis of the linguistic surveys in India and Burma to manifest how the survey collapsed in Burma, while surviving in the Indian context.

“Grierson’s Linguistic Survey of India was transcontinental and Indian, but demi official,” said Prof Majeed.

He shed light on how activists of the period legitimised languages through communication with Grierson and elaborated that the Grierson survey at the time brought the concept of multilingualism and prestigious languages in question.

In the welcome address, Prof M J Warsi, Chairman, Department of Linguistics described Prof Majeed’s work on LSI as a milestone in linguistic history.

He pointed out that Covid outbreak has been the biggest challenge for the world since the second World War, affecting university activities in a way that has no parallel in the recent past.

We had to conduct all centenary celebration programmes in the virtual mode to ensure health safety of students and faculty members, said Prof Warsi.

Prof Imtiaz Hasnan moderated the question and answer session, while Dr Nazrin Lasker initiated the web talk. Dr Shamim Fatima extended the vote of thanks.


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