The 14th international conference of MELOW, the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World, began on 20th Feb 2015 at Hotel Parkview, Chandigarh.
Spread over three days, the conference is an extended discussion of its main theme, which is Literature and Censorship. “Damn the Book, Gag the Voice” is the catchy title of the conference that has inspired about a hundred academicians, young and old, to come forward with their views on the subject.
The inaugural address was delivered by Sh Kanwar Sandhu who traced the history of censorship down the ages, referring to the ways in which it has been found in different fields, in literature, art and particularly the media. Mr Sandhu’s talk covered extensive ground, was very well received, and set the tone for later discussions on the subject. A special invited lecture on the theme was delivered by Prof Amritjit Singh Langston Hughes Professor at the University of Ohio (USA).
The conference s divided into eighteen panels which discuss various aspects of the key theme: theoretical considerations, western and non-western literary canons, forbidden and taboo issues, books and authors banned or burnt, religious, ethical and moral issues, and other issues like censorship of children’s literature, educational curricula, etc.
The delegates participating in the conference are local as well as from outside Chandigarh, hailing from different parts of the country — as far as Darjeeling, Orissa, Hyderabad, Gujarat, Kashmir, Chennai and Srinagar. There are also some scholars from abroad, from the USA, from UK, Iran and Iraq.
The organization gives a prize for the best paper presented by a young scholar. The award is in the memory of the late Prof Isaac Sequeira, a well-known name in academic circles, who hailed from Hyderabad and was a guide and mentor to several generations of scholars. This year’s prize was awarded to Dr Anupam Vatsyayan who teaches in Ludhiana. Altogether twenty-seven delegates had competed for the award.
Prof Amritjit Singh delivered the prestigious Isaac Sequeira Memorial lecture. He spoke at length censorship that owes its origin to religious, political or social beliefs. Raising a valid question – is it possible to have total freedom of expression? – he seemed to advocate a spirit of tolerance, a ‘civilized’ way of life that respects and takes into cognizance people and communities of all shades and varieties.
Faculty from the Panjab University involved in the conference include Professors Manju Jaidka, Anil Raina, Pratibha Nagpal, Archana Singh, Meenu Gupta, and others. One of the key objectives of MELOW is to groom young scholars into focused research-oriented scholars. With this in view a special session on “Academic Writing” will be held on 22nd Feb in the morning.
MELOW Journal, compiling select papers of the last conference, was formally released at the conference.