The Banyan Shades

What is to research?

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 In the simplest sense, the term ‘research’ implies that we find out something. We find facts, evidence, and arguments about matters that are not known to us as yet. This also means that we have to accept the fact of “not knowing” yet. This step, particularly, requires bravery. Because if we live in this world, there are practical concerns like our livelihoods. And there are other concerns related to our performance: that is, what has been established work culture of standardized output and productivity. When we speak of work, we are usually speaking of producing an output that is uniform. However, when juxtaposed with the principle of “not knowing” and all the stakes of one’s livelihood, not producing an output seems like a big risk. So what do we create instead? We create a flawed system of guarantees.

         I will now explain how this flawed system of guarantees dominates the humanities and policy research institutions. For the time being, let us understand that this flawed system keeps us going in circles: that is, it actually prevents us from finding something new. It is antithetical to the whole concept of research. It makes us rely on some pre-given concepts and notions to keep the vehicles of our lives going: because what we find out may not be relevant to the world, what we find out may not be of liking to someone, and what we find out may not be important at all. However, there is a possibility that what we find out is relevant, is important, is to the liking of the right people, and catches the right set of eyes.

         One of the key elements to creating a guarantee of safety is the research institutions. I don’t disagree with this one. It is good that there exist organized structures dedicated to finding out things in the world. However, it is the intellectual structure that exists in the name of theory and methodology that is worrisome: it is the structure that produces the most amount of redundant research. Any scholar would tell you that his or her paper is read by so few people. Usually, a research finding would get popular if it has wide applicability and utility. However, in the field of humanities, the utility function is rendered tertiary to parroting of theories that have been developed by intellectual giants of a bygone era. Hence, research here and now might not have any relevance to the present context at all. In fact, I must make the bold statement of admitting that what appeals to young minds and old minds craving for intervention in society is reactionary prose. Academic training is rife with reactionary interpretations of the world. This interpretation might be valid and even serve a utilitarian purpose at certain points in history. But if such theories go unexamined and are taught as a repetitive idea that becomes a benchmark of justice, we are committing a massacre of the study of human societies and polity.

         I must give you an example here. Most of the “research” in the domain of gender studies, postcolonial studies, and subaltern studies is simply a testament to making an identified group the enemy and constructing an entire universe of knowledge on the post-modern framework that “there is no one truth; all facts are contested”. These disciplines have had their limited utility and function, but the reactionary strains of thought have outlived their relevance. Once the claim to objectivity is demolished continuously, and it is mixed with polarizing reactionary thought, as practiced by disciplines like subaltern studies, labor studies, and more, it signals chaos in the minds of those who study them. This is the education that our universities are inducting us with.

         We need to create alternate systems of instruction, wherein people are thought to think for themselves, and they don’t arrive at the same answers given to us by social justice theories. New and inspirational thought is supposed to help us grow and expand as human beings. I hope we embark on that journey as a collective.

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