Rethinking Svaraj – Conference Call for Papers

MCPH is organizing a conference ‘Rethinking Svaraj’ on 15-17 January, 2015. We would like to invite papers for this conference. The last date for submissions is October 15, 2014.

Invited Speakers

Akeel Bilgrami, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University, USA
Mrinal Miri, Chairperson, Indian Council of Philosophical Research
A. Raghuramaraju, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hyderabad
Sanil V., Professor of Philosophy, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Probal Dasgupta, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta
Bijoy Boruah, Professor of Philosophy, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
Gopal Guru, Professor of Political Science, JNU, Delhi


In a seminal lecture presented sometime between 1928 and 1930 [the lecture can be found at], the philosopher K. C. Bhattacharyya* discusses the question of intellectual self-determination, or what he calls ‘svaraj in ideas’. In the process, he offers an account of what the lack of such a determination, or ‘cultural subjection’, might mean. In addition, he also offers some positive insights into what is entailed in the concept of intellectual self-determination. Barring an issue of the Indian Philosophical Quarterly, published in 1984, in which several well-known commentators like Ramchandra Gandhi, Ashis Nandy and Probal Dasgupta engaged with this lecture, philosophers have not examined this text in any significant way. In the context of Arvind Kejriwal’s recent political appropriation of the term ‘svaraj’, and given that it is now almost 25 years since India was liberalized, we think this might be a good time to re-examine the concept of svaraj through an ontological rather than a political lens.

Although this conference takes its point of departure from Bhattacharyya’s essay on svaraj, our aim is more broadly to explore the possibility of creating new philosophical knowledge regarding the notion of svaraj. It is our view that Bhattacharyya’s essay offers several suggestive claims that could serve as the starting point for articulating new ways of thinking about svaraj. However, we also welcome essays dealing with the concept of svaraj in conversation with thinkers other than Bhattacharyya, and/or dealing with aspects of svaraj not covered by Bhattacharyya’s essay.

Possible topics that elucidate, develop or critique some of the ideas in Bhattacharyya’s essay could include (but are not restricted to):

  • Kant’s notion of autonomy (and its reception among the German idealists), and Bhattacharyya’s concept of self-determination
  • How Bhattacharyya’s notion of svaraj may have been influenced by ideas in Indian philosophy, including both classical and modern Indian philosophers (by employing Western hermeneutical methods, etc.)
  • Comparison between Bhattacharyya’s and Gandhi’s notions of svaraj (one of the aims of this conference is to explore the possibility of decentring Gandhi’s characterization of svaraj)
  • The notion of the self, and the relationship between self and other implicit in Bhattacharyya’s notion of self-determination (or any other conceptualization of ‘svaraj’) in conversation with classical or contemporary Western philosophy
  • Bhattacharyya’s notion of ‘assimilating’ an alien culture
  • Bhattacharyya on the ‘hybridization’ of ideas, and the conflict of ideals, especially in conversation with the contemporary hermeneutical tradition (Gadamer, Ricouer)
  • The criterion (or criteria) for the surrender of individuality
  • Exploring the middle ground between ‘rootless universalism’ and ‘clinging particularism’
  • What Bhattacharyya’s plea for a ‘genuine translation of foreign ideas into our native ideas before we accept or reject them’ might mean; etc.

 Other potential topics may include, among others:

  • Svaraj and the notion of self-creation in the Western philosophical tradition (e.g. Nietzsche)
  • Ramchandra Gandhi’s notion of svaraj as self-realization
  • The implicit notion of svaraj in thinkers of the Bengal Renaissance, and in the writings of Nehru or Ambedkar
  • The very idea of the call for an ‘Indian’ contribution to the culture and thought of the modern (for us, also globalized) world

We invite 3,000-word papers (excluding footnotes) that critically examine any of the themes relating to the notion of svaraj along the lines of the themes listed above. The ideal paper must make an original philosophical contribution to the topic; and must be explicitly situated within the Western tradition of philosophy. All contemporary philosophical approaches – hermeneutical, phenomenological, historical, deconstructive, psychoanalytical, pragmatist, etc. – are welcome.

Submissions will be reviewed using a DOUBLE-BLIND REVIEW process: the identity of authors and referees will not be revealed to each other. To ensure blind reviewing, authors’ names and affiliations should not appear in the paper; author names should be deleted from the document properties; and bibliographic entries should be made so as to preserve author anonymity.  Submissions must be made electronically to the following email address: Contributions from PhD scholars are encouraged, but will be evaluated on the same basis as regular submissions.

Please contact Apaar Kumar ( if you have any questions. The last date for submissions is 15 October, 2014.

*Spelled ‘Bhattacharya’ in the version of the lecture to be found at the website mentioned above.


One response to “Rethinking Svaraj – Conference Call for Papers

  1. Pingback: Rethinking Svaraj – Call for participation – Deadline Extended | Barefoot Philosophers·

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