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Friday, June 22, 2012

Postmodern Research in a Prepostmodern Country

Honestly, I think this has been one of the most draining aspects of my research project so far. Having done a lot of the upper level theory courses for my degree in addition to growing up in the to varying degrees obsessed with political correctness American society, I have been repeatedly grilled on being open minded and tolerant. In the prep course and in studying postmodernism, again and again I have worked with topics of understand difference and otherness and how that impacts everyday life. I find my thought process annoyingly reflexive. I can't encounter anything anymore without subconsciously beginning to take it apart and examining its context. I am in a perpetual search for the source of meaning and the purpose of everything that happens and its relation to everything else.

I'm not trying to blow my own horn here, this is just what I have observed about how I have operated here. I suppose I have been thinking like this for a while, I just never realized the degree to which I have been doing it until I came to India where honestly, no one else does it. I am sure it is the same in the same in the U.S., I have just been sheltered in college, so I have not had to face the daily reality of people who do not tend to think about the role of religion and personal mythology in the formulation of self identity and stupid stuff like that.

Anyhow, thinking like that is fine because it is just thought. You do not need anyone else to engage in it or agree with you. Just after about a month or two now, it just feels weird feeling like the only person who thinks this way. It has kind of begun to become mentally painful not being able to share these thoughts. It is just a complete failure of communication. It is not even a language gap. To everyone I have talked to so far, they just do not really care.

To a degree Indians are not capable of thinking in this mode. Now to clarify such a potentially controversial statement, I do not mean that genetically Indians cannot do this or that they are stupid or lazy or culturally inferior or anything, I just mean from what I have observed where they are culturally and developmentally, the role that religion plays in society is not really an important or meaningful question. With so many people just struggling to get by, it makes sense. There is no cultural impetus for them to approach things from a postmodern perspective.

It is just a bizarre experience to be so focused on being understanding and accommodating with people who have no training or education on cultural difference and so seem incapable of really understanding difference. This ranges from the humorous (like trying to explain what Americans eat to someone who cannot imagine anything other than rice and roti due to life experience) to the almost belligerent (such as people who cannot understand why Americans might have a problem with the local water).

I think it is so startling to me because I have never really experienced India consciously looking at cultural difference specifically.

What am I even trying to say here? I guess I am just starved for intellectual engagement. I feel like I have so many observations and things I want to share and stuff, but there is no one around me capable of interacting with me on that level. I know I can post here and e-mail people and even phone call, but it is not quite the same as being able to talk to whoever I am with when the thought strikes me about the fascinating way Hinduism interacts with faith and miracles. I want to be able to discuss with people what it means that people just accept miracles like the idea that there is still a floating rock bridge to Sri Lanka because Lord Ram built it and the Ramayan is absolutely true or that there is a field that is red with dried blood from the battle fought in the Mahabharat. These are both definitely false, but even if I meet someone who also agrees that they are false, they still do not really see the value in discussing what the cultural implications of this is in the everyday life of Indians and reality as perceived by many Hindus.

This is such a surreal experience in essence. This is all very rough. I am not expressing myself properly. I do not know why I feel like I am at the very edge of my language trying to put these ideas into words. I will continue to work on this idea and hopefully come to a more firm/rational conclusion. I will work on coming to some sort of final encapsulation of these ideas towards the end to see if I can actually logically and clearly state what I mean/feel.

I feel like it has to be a language thing. I bet in Hindi there is a lot of this stuff that goes on. I just wish everything I have seen thus far did not confirm my feeling like no one thinks about these things.


  1. I think I understand your sentiments. I have experienced feeling like I NEED some kind of intellectual challenge, stimulation, insights etc. and from something living and breathing with opinions and different thoughts or even similar thoughts but articulated from a new perspective or set of life experiences so as to develop my thought on something I find profound about life or just something about life - and I've felt that way in settings with all English speakers. So, though your idea that this could be a language barrier could be true, I also think we have become used to the university atmosphere where intellectual discussion is the habit rather than the exception...I feel a little sad that with many circles and with many people it is definitely the exception.

  2. I don't like the term 'political correctness,' maybe because I'm totally converted to the concept. And I don't know if this is part of your experience too, but the Racism of people here sometimes...Sometimes makes me feel less capable of being culturally accepting and open, ironically. If that makes sense.

    (and sexism and blah blah blah, I know I was complaining about that before as well and maybe I don't need to be so tentative in my condemnation, but I don't know how to be otherwise.)