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Maa Vuuru Maa Kodaļļu, Case Study in Gender, Ecomuseology and Wellbeing

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Guest Speaker: Prof. Amareswar Galla, PhD

Topic: Maa Vuuru Maa Kodaļļu, Case Study in Gender, Ecomuseology and Wellbeing

Date: 7th April 2021 Wednesday from 9-10 PM IST.

Venue: Amrita UNESCO Chair hosted Zoom meeting

Participants: Doctoral Students from E4Life and CWEGE/Ammachi Labs at Amrita University

Objective:  To share with the scholars different ways of understanding Indian villagers, how to decolonize researchers inbuilt assumptions, along with a look at ecomuseology and wellbeing. Also to share his success story in working with Amaravati village in Andhra Pradesh.

About Resource Personnel: 

Prof. Amareswar Galla is an alumnus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Amar is a champion of cultural democracy, cultural rights, gender mainstreaming, inclusive and deep ecology demonstration projects, arts policy development, Intangible Heritage, World Heritage, indigenous peoples, intercultural dialogue and UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now the UN Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He was the Producer and Editor of the flagship project and publication to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention: World Heritage: Benefits Beyond Borders, Cambridge University Press & UNESCO Publishing, November 2012. (French & Korean versions in 2013). The book includes 26 case studies with evidence based analyses of sustainable development and community benefits through good governance, thus becoming a major publication to mainstream culture in development discourse and for promoting integrated planning for all forms of heritage, especially tangible and intangible heritage.

Drawing on his education and experience of affirmative action in India, Amar founded and directed at the University of Canberra, 1985-92, the National Affirmative Action program for the participation of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in museums, galleries, national parks and World Heritage Areas in Australia. The success of the program led to invitations to provide technical support for similar programs in Canada, U.S., Brazil, Vietnam, India, China, Norway and several Small Island Development States. During 1994-99, he was the International Technical Adviser for the transformation of Arts Councils, National Museums and Cultural Institutions and the National Parks Board in post- apartheid South Africa. His extensive publication record includes an earlier volume on museum training and transformation guidelines to enable the relevance of museums in Australia to its Indigenous Peoples and Multicultural populations. Heritage Curricula and Cultural Diversity, Prime Minister & Cabinet, Australia 1993.

Amar provided in the recent past strategic cultural leadership in Australia and the Asia Pacific Region as the first full Professor of Museum Studies in Australia at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Prior to that he was Professor and Director of Sustainable Heritage Development Programs, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. He was also until recently a Visiting Foreign Professor of World Heritage and Intangible Heritage and mentor for Ph.D. candidates at the University of Split located in the World Heritage City of Split. He has just been appointed as the Honorary Professor at the prestigious Global Change Institute, the University of Queensland.

Event/Session Details/Discussions/Highlights:

Prof. Amareswar Galla:

Mahayana Buddhism began in a town called Amaravati, in Andhra Pradesh. Before the Cultural Revolution in China in 1969 , Buddhism was the world’s largest faith. In this town was the largest Buddhist Stupa carved with panels telling the story of Buddha . But of course none of the sculptures are there now because the British and other museums around the world looted them. Art institute of Chicago, MOMA, New Delhi, and Chennai Museum to name a few.

After receiving his PhD in 1982, Dr. Galla went to the British Museum to itemize the stolen artifacts from the Amarvati Stupa.  He says that people go to see them in museums as relics and artifacts but no one really understands where they come from. Also what was the socio-economic status of the people making such amazing artwork. He found that if one is going to give a contextual framework, then one needs to understand the existing cultural landscape. 

Dr Galla, in his work, went to Amarvati to survey the historical culture landscape. He started working on a mapping exercise (not surveying).  The area was about 300 acres of land, about how to listen to people. This is not taught in universities, or anywhere in the world is the competency of listening. The first 3 months he moved around and talked to people and listened to them, street by street. Talked, sat and ate with people. 

He very much prefers the term ‘physical distance’ to ‘social distance’ because as someone like himself growing up in a caste society, lower caste had to maintain a distance from upper caste people. He says in India we already grew up with social distancing.

In Australia, until 1967, they had Boundary Laws, where Aborigines were not allowed to cross certain streets. If they did they would be arrested.

He says people that into the Black Lives Matter movement know what social distancing is. He very much advocates for the term Physical Distancing.

The people attending this lecture, the PhD scholars, come from a whole range of backgrounds. He says that whatever area you research, listening is important. Dr Galla says that whatever discipline you are working in, it is really important to listen to question, to understand, and to decolonize the discourse. Decolonization does not only have to do with Europe, but also countries that are politically decolonized, but not psychologically decolonized, like India for instance. In Australia they call some people coconuts: brown on the outside white on the inside. Using phrases like these means your thinking is still colonial. If you want to work in areas of different cultures, you have to understanding things contextually.

Dr. Galla worked in a village, Amaravati, in Andhra Pradesh at one point that started out as a 3 month project that became a 5 year project. In this village, he was looking at the village culture. Here, it is tradition that men marry women from outside the village. Now these women bring their cultures with them from somewhere else. How they raise a child, the lullabies they sing, how they cook, how they clean, etc. The point he is making here is that all cultures are dynamic and changing, and adaptive and evolving.

One way to improve conditions in parts of India is by renovating pilgrimage places. Then more people will come, bringing in more jobs and more money for the community.

He talked about the importance of every household having a toilet. And lower castes such as Dalits can be overlooked. Women have to wait all day then go in the dark to relieve themselves and it can be dangerous and makes them vulnerable to rape, and there are snakes, etc.

Wherever in India you have child marriages, you have young women around the age of 30 becoming widows. So widows pensions are very important. However, what is on paper is one thing, and having the local government deliver it is another thing. 

These widows are often from lower castes, and because when they get married they move to their husband’s village, they now no longer are wanted by the extended family and they get rejected and sexually abused, and so they return to their place of origin. Dr. Galla helped the widows in Amaravati form a collective so they were able to support each other in getting pensions.

When you listen, you understand, when you understand you are more ethical and you make responsible interventions. 

These villages have very little access to medical care.

One of the great things about the Indian constitution is that they were the first ones in the world, 1950, to look at Affirmative Action. The constitution gives fundamental rights and privileges to groups who have been historically  discriminated against like Dalits and Tribal people. But translating on paper what is put into practice, you need to learn to listen, competency of learning, competency of understanding cross-culturally, which means often speaking more than one language.

If you speak one language, its very much the self, if you speak 2 languages then it is the self and the other. If you speak 3 languages you have the cognitive reserve to process what is intercultural. 

Similarly if you have only lived in one culture you have no reference point as a sociologist scholar, if they have lived in 2 cultures then you have self and other again. If you have lived in 3 cultures you have reference point upon, which you can benchmark your own behavior,  your own knowledge, your own indicators.

So multiculturalism,  trilingualism, are really huge assets to help empower marginalized cultures. And ecomusiology is a wonderful methodology to bring people and their culture together.

Outcome: Students were very engaged and Dr Galla spent about an hour just answering their questions.

Attendance /No.of participants: 44 

Male- 23   Female -21

List of the participants:

1. Anthony Chafa

2. Mojtaba Enayati

3. Hari Chandana

4. Douglas Marowa

5. Habanyati Estone

6. Niloofar Abed

7. Krishna Sreesuthan

8. Muganyizi Jonas

9. Matov Baker

10. Aswathi Suresh Babu

11. Pardon Dandadzi

12. Meenu Prakash

13. Sreevidhya C

14. Devika Shaji

15. Amabile Manianga

16. Deva Temple

17. Fernanda Imada

18. Balogun Babatunde

19. Krishneil Maharaj

20. Juliet Angom

21. Mukil MV

22. Amritesh AR

23. Martin Kanyagui

24. Selina Shah

25. Rondine Anushree

26. Kripa Gressel

27. Debashish Brahma

28. Krishna Nandan

29. Jyoti Sharma

30. Anushri Tiwari

31. Bernard Otu

32. Aroun

33. Amrita Sadanand

34. Isaac Lukambagire

35. Reshma AS

36. Ogbanna Amarachi

37. Vineeth

38. Nihal

39. Akshay Krishna

40. Cristina Mayumi

41. Mosoud

42. Balmukund

43. Balu

44. Tzur Sayag

Source of Funding : E4Life PhD Scholarship fund, Ammachi Labs, CWEGE