In holding the International Memory Studies Workshop, IIT-M becomes first to do so in Asia
Before the launch of the Indian Network for Memory Studies (INMS) in mid-June 2021, Indian Institute of Technology Madras’ Centre for Memory Studies from 26th to 30 April 2021 hosted virtually Asia’s first International Memory Studies Workshop. INMS will be the first national network in the field in Asia under the aegis of the International Memory Studies Association, Amsterdam.
The international Memory Studies Workshop also proved to be a promising platform that brought together academics from Kashmir, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jharkhand among others as well as from the University of Warwick and Leeds Beckett University, UK.
The key objectives of the workshop were to facilitate the emergence of research methods and innovative, interactive, immersive tools in Memory Studies with the aid of digital technologies and facilitate the formation of research clusters and networks academically as well as with industry partners.
IIT Madras is in the process of building an XR Lab using virtual tools to curate, comprehend and critique various facets of literature, history and culture. The XR Labs, TCS Chennai, headed by Dr. Ashok Maharaj, is one of the industry partners of the Centre for Memory Studies, IIT Madras. The XR Lab has been collaborating with IIT Madras on projects using Augmented reality (AR) / Virtual reality (VR) tools and 360-degree procedural training.
The Centre for Memory Studies at IIT Madras functions under the ‘Institute of Eminence’ (IoE) scheme funded by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. Its Principal Investigators are Dr. Merin Simi Raj and Dr. Avishek Parui, Assistant Professors (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras.
Speaking about this workshop, Dr. Merin Simi Raj, Assistant Professor (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, said, “This workshop may be seen as a formal starting point of the acknowledgement of the domain of Memory Studies in Indian academia. We have already begun to receive immense interest from scholars for pursuing PhD, Post-doc, and Project and Internship positions.”
What stood out throughout the sessions was the deliberate but systematic departures from Euro-centric memory studies frameworks of thought and practice. This was evident in the choice of texts and sites for discussion where materiality, space, caste, gender, race and class could be foregrounded through the medium of machines and fiction.
Further, Dr. Avishek Parui, Assistant Professor (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, added, “This signals a shift in Humanities education. Through international collaborations with memory studies centres and groups in University of Warwick (UK), University of Andrews (UK), Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform (Germany) and Memory Studies Association (Amsterdam) we hope to be able to streamline and offer innovative courses in Memory Studies with partnerships from industry, offering a pioneering platform in Indian academia for students and scholars in the times to come.”
Characterised by intense academic interaction and dialogue the sessions led by the 2018 President’s Visitor’s Research awardee Prof Pramod K. Nayar (University of Hyderabad), Prof Bharathi Harishankar (University of Madras) Dr Sathyaraj Venkatesan (NIT Trichy) helped the participants connect methodologies and frameworks through graphic art, feminist literature and graphic medicine.
The sessions on Spatial Storytelling and Digital Humans by Dr. Ashok Maharaj and Lakshmi Deshpande from Tata Consultancy Services added an innovative flavour of immersive technology which also has remained core to the philosophy and activities from the Centre for Memory Studies, IIT Madras.
In the final session on ‘Research Road Ahead’, a number of participants identified convergences in their researches and endeavoured to make more formal and institutional collaborations. The researchers from University of Warwick, Leeds Beckett University, IIT Madras and Jadavpur University showcased their ongoing research work.
Prof. Nandini Saha, former Head, Department of English, University of Jadavpur, said, “This is a wonderfully curated workshop, with brilliant plenary sessions, extremely engaging discussions, so much to learn from, and such excellently fantastic research work being done. Thanks again to Dr Parui and Dr Raj and all the scholars and students for this enriching and wonderful experience. ”
The valedictory session addressed by Prof. Devendra Jalihal, Chairman, Centre for Continuing Education, IIT Madras, who shared his appreciation for the workshop and the participants. The workshop was offered as a certified Continuing Education Programme (CEP) course through the Centre for Continuing Education.