‘Thinking the Unthought’ – A Path Breaking Path Maker for Goa

Goa is not just out there but is also something within ourselves. Maybe there are several Goa’s within us. Recently, Dr. Peter Roland deSouza at the first event of ‘Think Goa’ which was convened by me gave a profoundly insightful and a fascinating keynote address that opened us to the horizons of several competing ideas of Goa cohabiting in different discursive practices in contemporary Goa. A similar Picture was drawn before us some time ago by Fredrick Noronha in a book entitled, Another Goa. There are certainly other Goa’s cohabiting and contesting for space in our academic discourses. We do not have to homogenize these different Imaginations of Goa but certainly have to dialogically and critically engage them. In the context of this presentation, I wish to take a plunge into what Martin Heidegger, a famous German thinker calls ‘thinking the unthought’ with the context of several ideas of Goa that are co-present to us. We cannot disown these alternate visions and ideas about Goa and claim or reclaim a totalized, singularized and linearized narrative of Goa. Such totalized epistemologies are already on decline if not have become all together irrelevant.

‘Thinking the unthought’ although has a connotation of overcoming the forgotten in the memory lane; it also has the power of freshness and synergy of newness. That which remains forgotten and that which remains (un)thought are related. In fact, it carries an ethical imperative to think that which may often become the blind spot within the reigning discursive regimes in our society in Goa. Hence, ‘thinking the unthought’ takes us to understand the notion of fragmentation and totality. What we often deem as an ideal, normal and total picture of Goa and Goans is indeed a fragment that masquerades as one whole. Several aspects of our Goan society can remain under erasure, while thinking and talking of Goa. We no longer live in a world of totalities. What we are having are diverse shades of reality. Hence, fragmentation cannot be naively construed as weakness or divisive. Otherwise we become signatories to a totalitarian epistemology that spawns epistemic sides and our position will be no different from the monolithic and homogenizing fundamentalism that we are facing in our country. Hence, the recognition of different competing ideas of Goa can unmask several hegemonic discourses that hide under the banner of a singularized catch-all umbrella terminology. When we become sensitive to the need of cognitive justice, we may be enabled to bring authentic emancipative practices in Goa.

Within the range of ’thinking the unthought’, we have the challenge to understand and develop emancipative responses to the construction of epistemic difference that legitimates hegemonic formations of power. The construction of epistemic difference was a strategy of colonizers who created what has been christened as colonial difference to build coloniality of power that justified their colonial imperialism. Thus, the absence of alphabetic writing, Christian religion and culture, modern science, legal and administrative systems was construed as a lack that indicated the absence of civilization and thus colonization was enabled to mask itself as a project of civilization. The same is today coming back at another end of the spiral through the discourse of development that denies us coeval time and space and we are told to develop or catch up with the West. This creation of the gap or lag then masks a Eurocentric neo-colonialism. Within this train of thought, we in Goa have the challenge to understand how discourses rooted in the British orientalism construct a gap that privileges a top down knowledge building enterprise and Goa becomes just a moment in the life story of India. Thus, epistemic differences legitimate hegemonic power formations that also legitimate top down control. Such politics has been rightly viewed as leading to the reduction of Goa into a colony of Delhi by some political voices in our society.

Hence, staying under the horizon of ‘thinking the unthought’ we dare to transform Goa with its diverse epistemic practices into a locus of building a knowledge enterprise. The way higher education is being run in our country demonstrates that our universities are steadily transformed into spaces of mere knowledge transmission and knowledge production is clearly moving outside the campus. Hence, even without the University’s direct participation, Goa can become a centre from new epistemic practices. During the closing ceremony of the international seminar convened by my fellow panellist Parag I distinctly remember Shiv Visvanathan’s clarion call to transform Goa into a locus of new epistemology from the South. Instead of mimicking the western theories or even national theories, he challenged us to produce alternate epistemic practices by rooting them in the living and dynamic Goan context without abandoning a critical embrace of Western as well as Indic perspectives. Goa has certainly emerged as a site and symbol of an encounter of the East and the West, hence, has the best potential to bring alternate epistemic practices that have been named as new epistemology of the South. The epistemology of the South is both a geographical and historical term which is cartographically construed by Portuguese sociologist, Bona Ventura Santos to name alternate epistemic and emancipative practices.

Epistemologies of the North are dualistic and are based into an ‘either / or structure’ of thinking. These epistemologies, which are infested by their binary opposites, construct knowledge hierarchies and legitimate hegemonic imperialised formations of power. Within this paradigm, the North becomes the centre and the South becomes the periphery. North is hegemonic and South is resistant. Within this frame of thought, what liberation meant was the overthrowing of the oppressor to recreate his oppression. It was an overthrow of imperialism only to be caught in imperialist categories like development, nation state security, nationalism etc. We can see how nationalism has evolved into a toxic ideology and produces hate and intolerance in our country. Shiv Visvananthan presents epistemology of the south as a search for emancipation that liberates both the oppressor and the oppressed. Hence, the epistemology of the south has the primary task of understanding of the conditions that disempower both the oppressors and the oppressed. Shiv further states that this new epistemology strives to create a geography of imagination which allows ‘the defeated west’ and acknowledges the existence of a ‘West’ within us. The Novel, Mimic Men by V. S Naipaul or the famous book Black skins and white Mask by Fanon deal with the manner in which the colonizers live in us and continue to afflict us and our society. Dipesh Charavorty critically argues that there are several Europes in our mind in his book, Provincializing Europe. Asish Nandy also argues how our past complexly lives in our present and continues to afflict us in his wonderful book, the intimate enemy. Hence, we can see how the logic of this new epistemology is not ‘either /or’ but one that blurs this strict boundary.

Therefore, ‘thinking the unthought’ might resonate with Gayatri Spivak’s powerful article ‘ Can the subaltern speak’. Spivak articulated the conditions under which subalternity becomes an utterance. Hence,’ thinking the unthought’ as a ‘path breaking path maker’ for us in Goa becomes a process that manifests how subalternity of Goa is constructed vis-à-vis dominating discourse rooted in the orientalism of the British. This attention to the subalternization processes can lead the polyphonic goanizing voices to find utterances. These utterances can produce several alternative paths for our epistemic practices. We might find a voice to strongly resist the museumization of our culture, caste hierarchies, women’s oppression, academic enslavements, oppressive (upper caste) historiographical underpinnings, non-implementation of reservations, MOI imbroglio etc. Hence, when the capital of our Knowledge productions shifts to Goa, subalternity will find manifold utterances. Goa is most suited to bring this change not only for itself but for the world. The reining epistemology of the North is like a rite to passage. One has to ensure that knowledge produced elsewhere is passed from textbook grammars and definitions to the receivers who have very little chance to interrogate or reject. Fortunately, Goa evokes an alternate path. It is like what happened in 1492. Epistemology of South is a journey into a conversational / dialogical plurality. This new epistemology has to construct the self and its relation to others not on the basis of privileged sameness which is constructed through subtractions or erasures. Goa being a locus of knowledge production can bring us to an awareness of plural sources of our self and redefine the ‘self and the other relation’

‘Thinking the unthought’ would lead us to (un)think, listen to the (un)said in every said, stay in the mode of saying and not in a finished and completed ‘said’ and even the say the unsayable or utter the unutterable however discomforting and disturbing our utterance can be. This requires not just openness to a consensus at a future date but courage and conviction to allow room for dissent and dissensus. To keep dissidence and dissident in our embrace, we require an ethics of dissensus. It would humble us to shun aside our lazy reason and remain open to dissenting voices since they are not opposing views but are alternatives that can be considered and examined for their viability. This openness would create what Bonaventura Santos calls the new ecologies of knowledge. Thus, the new epistemologies build habitats or ecologies that remain critically open to western and orientalised indic epistemologies without giving them any hierarchically privileged locus. These epistemic habitants or ecologies remain rhizomatic and horizontal and not vertical or hierarchical. We can take our very own network of dovornems for the travellers in the good old days in Goa as a model of these Knowledge ecologies or habitats. Another model of the plurality that we can see is the different scripts of our mother tongue Konkani. We still need to come to the acceptance of the rhizomatic network that is embedded in it as some of us follow one language, one script singularity which may be regarded as tainted by a form of narcissism.

Staying within the rhizomatic model, we might revisit or (un)think of several ossified positions or truth claims that may often remain unchallenged in Goa. Since this effort tries to be way from hierarchical ordering of things, the order in which I present these new paths is just coincidental:

Understanding the Past in Our Present

Goans are afflicted by an afterlife of colonization. The trauma of the colonial past afflicts us as a karmic residue. The Karmic view of history that is central to our civilization in our country can open us to the fact that we are not just shapers of history but also are significantly shaped by history.

  1. Within this paradigm, we are enabled to assess how a hermeneutics suspicion that is soaked in the trauma of colonization, conversion/or separation is operating as pain of loss that sets in a need of recovery. This hermeneutics of suspicion may be seen as trauma tainted hermeneutics that leads to (mis)understanding because the terms of dialogue operate on an equivocal plane
  2. Conversion cannot be seen as merely an exchange of gods or triumphant march into perfection of a higher order but has to be seen as an interrogation of the earlier tradition. Indeed, in Goa, it is being perceived as an interrogation by one community while the other community has moved on. The complexity of the issue cannot be simplified into a narrative of forced conversion but can be studied with critical sensitivity to the fact that one community remembers while the other has forgotten the same.
  3. Issues around hegemonic historiographies are also afflicting us. The colonial Goa Dourada has very few takers and is being replaced by a reactive Goa Indica. The colonial Rome of the east is sought to be erased by the Konkan Kashi. These paradigms are conflictual as well as hegemonic. They mask how caste privilege is written into our past. Hence, in my book, being a Goan Christian, I have tried to propose an alternative, Goa Rustica that takes us to several parts of our people.

Resisting Hegemonic Formation of Power

There are various hegemonic formations that bestow power and privilege to some sections of our people. Hence, resistance has to be theorized and understood not merely through a narrow nationalist lens.

  1. Conversion may be seen as an act of resistance. Following the insight of mimetic resistance of Luce Irigaray in the context of patriarchy, we might understand conversion as a resistance that allows us to beat the West by the rules of its game. Some have already viewed it in the context of low caste turning to more egalitarian religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Christianity in our country. I see it as a drive to be born again as an invisible Brahmin.|
  2. The Movement of a significant number of Goans to Marathi in the past and English in our days may be also seen as an act of resistance to the caste afflicted Konkani movement. This resistance rejects the process of sanskritization at work in our society by which our ancient God’s and mother tongue has to be twice born. Thus, for instance, the God of my ancestors in Deussus Chinchim was Chinchinath but had to be born again as Shiva and the same may be said of Konakani in order to become language in its own right had to be in nagnri script.
  3. There are also possibilities of writing History of Goa from a subaltern position. Our co panellist’s work is one important step in this direction. Besides, the denial of agency or bestowing of ahistorical subject positions to the Catholics and the Bhaujans of Goa has possibilities of resistance. Catholics and Bhaujan brothers and sisters in Goa are no longer accepting a position of being silent objects of history but would definitely want their narrative to be told. The selective agency of only some Ganvkarias like Cuncolim in Salcete being accepted and filtered through the nationalist lens while the autonomy of most Ganvkaria’s is being sacrificed on the altar of the narrative of forced conversion is another area of resistance.
  4. The orientalist discourse forgot that Goa was almost another country and one had to enter what the landmass that evolved as India under colonization with a document like a passport. Post-orientalists historians as well post-colonial critics present the other orientalism of the Portuguese that also speaks to people that lived before India emerged as a nation state. Portuguese having arrived two hundreds ahead of the capitalist British can open another window on Goa and India. Ines Zupanov’s catholic orientalism is taking us in this direction.

Semiosis of Empire of Signs in Contemporary Goa

  1. The imaging of Goa as a place of difference, as other India has taken our Indian brethren captive than even the foreign tourists. As an exotic tourist destination Goa is continuously produced through images and signs which are consumed by the local as well as foreign tourists. Hence, there are possibilities of understanding the semiotic apparatus that constructs and positions the image of Goa is important.
  2. We can notice a strong resistance to the model of tourism that is being promoted in Goa. Unfortunately, it appears that there is not exclusive research on the impact of mass tourism on our land, culture and people. Cognitive resistance to the museumization of Goa and Goans is another important area of research that opens us to the world of tourism in Goa.
  3. It might be redemptive to our society to examine and understand how our past inhabits our sacred spaces. Thus, for instance, how Churches double up as symbols of destruction of temples and hence are used to witness trauma and churn hatred and pain among rest of Indians who have now embraced a pan-Indian Hinduism. It might be redeeming as well as an antidote to hindutva nationalism that generates politics of hate if we understand how what we today call Hindu sacred spaces are retrospectively constructed by us. The pain that is experienced by the Hindu Bhaujans who are subjected to privatisation of the chief temples in Goa can trigger several kinds of academic responses. Hence a dispassionate dialogical study and dialogue might convert religious spaces into unifying space for all.
  4. The semiotic analysis of the dominant signs and symbols can be deeply enriching. control of the economy and politics of Goa in the last over fifty years also opens us to figure out who might have been the real collaborators of the colonial Portuguese. Here, I cannot absolve the then church leaders as the Church emerged as a big landlord in the post-colonial times. This also takes us to the seven Big Business families that emerged as business houses soon after colonization. These seven families are named by Robert S. Newman an Australian anthropologists who studied Goa in with critical attention. The research in this domain might open how power equations are constructed in our society. Besides this, the cultural metabolism being rich and colourful can lead itself to semiotic studies of our festivals, folklore and local symbols. The study of the disappearance of certain cultural practices like music of the Gauda community can be an eye opener to the complex dynamism of shame and humiliation at work in our society.

Conclusion

The path breaking that we have engaged here is also path making. It is indeed discomforting but it has emancipative value for our society. There are several other venues that might have remained (un)thought due to my limitations, which I hope to bring into the horizon of our imagination so that our imagination expands with active listening to august audiences like the one in this gathering. As I said in the beginning, Goa has to become a new springboard for an ever growing, ever expanding epistemology from the south. While here, I have chiefly focused on some issues that seem to hold us back on this path, I understand this project is collective and can be achieved by us all. As we walk we will make our path. This panel discussion is only one important beginning that has put the ignition key to the wheels. Let’s all join together to make Goa a home and hub of intellectual openness that holds the both West and the East in our embrace.

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