Making sense of a ‘real’ incident: applicant unravels an incident involving temple entry that was covered by a camera crew.
Abstract: This is an attempt to study a real incident in its own singularity. Considering the incident as an excellent gauge of available conceptual apparatuses, the project seeks to open up the posssibility of a few themes in a new fashion. Despite the heavy emphasis on conceptual aspects, major part of this undertaking is to reconstitute the event in order for anyone to address the questions concerning the conceptual distinction between an incident and an event; the relationship between spectacle and spectator;and the intricacies involved in event management by media and so on.
Bio: This is Udayakumar M. My basic academic training training was in Political Science and I completed a masters degree in the discipline from Kerala University in 2001. Soon after my sudies I started working as a researcher at the Folklore Society of South Indian Languages.I worked at the society for nine months.Since then on I have been trying to maintain a sustained engagement with several fieds of knowledge which bradly come under the rubric of Human Sciences.
To Sarai Reader list,
This is Udayakumar M. My basic academic training training was in Political Science and I completed a masters degree in the discipline from Kerala University in 2001. Soon after my sudies I started working as a researcher at the Folklore Society of South Indian Languages.I worked at the society for nine months.Since then on I have been trying to maintain a sustained engagement with several fieds of knowledge which bradly come under the rubric of Human Sciences. The nature of my engagement has been in such a way as to deepen my understanding of both classical texts and contemporary theoretical literature in order for me to make a better sense of what is happening around us.
This kind of a temperament,like anyone,made me stumble upon an incident which happened in the capital city of kerala on 6th february 2000 . Infact,the project I am undertaking is an attempt to launch an intrpretative intervention(of the incident). As I already mentioned in the proposl,I have repeatedly gone through those interviews having been conducted in the next couple of days after the incident. This helped me find out much more nuanced openings to go about. I would like to mention at least one of them, as an initial finding, eventhough many considerations are in place: Some of the respondents said that they had assumed the trespasser to be a mad man. This attribute,for example,puts the making up of the event in a delicate balance from a different coceptual angle. I therefore will have to enquir into the further course of action followed up after the incident during the coming field trip.
In the next posting I will be able to come up with a detailed elucidation of the other intricacies involved in the making up of the event.
From the last meeting I realized that I have to tell a story. In the capital city of Kerala, there is a temple of great antiquity known as ‘Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple’. The rulers of the erstwhile state of Tiruvithamcore used to be called Sree Padmanabha Dasa (Padmanabha is the icon of Lord Vishnu; and Padmanabhadasa means the servant of Lord Vishnu). The temple of such royal heritage has a very large confinement and is located, although not at the heart of the city, almost on the outskirts of the city. Any visitor to the temple is left with a sense of having been caught between an antique structure and the modern urban space. As part of the temple, there is a pond as well, which is outside the courtyard of the temple. On one of the sides of the pond, there is an approach road that leads towards the temple; and a little ahead of the other side of the pond there is a taxi stand. Those apart, there are usual passers by and a few people residing in the close by areas and those who simply come to pass time in the evening, on an average, constitute the usual congregation. Earlier on, the pond was open to the public. People used to bathe in the pond. But, for almost a decade, it has not been open to the public and a guard has been appointed to enforce the ban. That had been the state of affairs until the incident. On 6th of February 2000 around 2 PM in the afternoon, like anyone, a youth was passing on the approach road to the temple, heading to the pond as if unaware of the ban. No one around noticed his trespass. Even for those passively looking on, initially, they probably couldn’t anticipate what was about to transpire (I had paid a visit to the site within the next couple of days and had interaction with a few people who happened to witness the incident. Since stating the case in itself would require reasonably long depiction
of the incident I’m conveniently avoiding the details of those interviews. What I could gather however from those interactions does, on various accounts, not parallel some media projections). The youth, as far as his appearance goes, was well built and in his twenties. The guard, at that moment happened to be away as he had gone for a cup of tea from the nearby shop. Thus nobody was there to prevent the trespasser, and he entered the pond. Some people around reminded him of the ban and tried to persuade him not to enter. Hardly paying any attention the man went on and began to bathe in the pond. In a short while he reached almost to the middle of the pond. Someone in the meantime managed to inform the guard who immediately rushed to the scene. By that time, a huge crowd had surrounded the pond on all sides, watching the events unfold. Without entering the pond, the guard tried his level best to persuade him to come back. Having failed, the guard eventually had to enter the pond to handle him physically. The guard thus entered and went up to him, the still adamant trespasser forced the guard into a brawl which quickly turned into a full-fledged physical fight. The guard gradually sunk right in front of the whole crowd; was immersed deep inside the pond; was killed by the trespasser in the broad day light in front of a large number of his fellow human beings. At the same time on that day a team of one of the popular Malayalam television channels headed by the bureau chief himself happened to be shooting some parts of the temple for a different purpose. Having somehow come to know about the incident the television crew rushed to the scene and recorded the entire incident, which was telecasted on their channel during the prime time in the very evening itself. This is infact the story over which I have been pondering. I request you to make your intellectual response to the story. Right now I am trying to flesh out the meaning of the experience of death in the story from a social anthroplogical perspective which form one of the major parts of my work. I am looking forward to your response.
*The above narrated story is in fact a real incident. I am posting this story in verbatim from my proposal to the readers list because of the indescribable charecter of my project.
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During this phase, I am dealing with some questions concerning the experience of death. I am, therefore, now engaging with some of the recent writings on the theme. Often the experience of death is juxtaposed to the notion of community. Hence, my study also relies on this dichotomy; however the major task I’m undertaking is to deeply scrutinising the interviews of those who witnessed the incident. (My fieldwork has been delayed a bit, therefore I can’t hint at anything new from the second stage of field records). Following the lines of some of the most influential studies [Jean Baudrillar (1993). Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage; Jean Baudrillar (1983). In The Shadow of the Silent Majorities. New York: Semiotext (e); Ulrich Beck (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage; Ulrich Beck (1995). Ecological Politics in an Age of Risk. Cambridge: Polity Press; Ulrich Beck (2000). Risk Society Revisited: Theory, Politics and Research Programmes In Adam Beck and Van Loon (ed). ‘The Risk Society and Beyond: Critical Issues for Social Theory’. London: Sage; P. Bourdieu et al. (1993). The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in the Contemporary Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press; Veena Das and et al. (1998) Kleinman, Arthur and Lock, Margret (eds) ‘Social Suffering’. Delhi: OUP], I’m planning to bring the aspect of ‘risk’ to the ambit of my study, which forms part of the second section of the paper.
When the idea of risk is brought; I’m employing the metaphor of eclipse in order to lay down a condition for my narrative. Here, the exact moment of the incident, is metaphorised as an ecliptic moment. (Astronomers pay serious attention to other secrets of cosmic phenomena during the short interval of solar eclipse).
Like the way, it is assumed that the whole scheme of events illuminates deeper secrets of community life. This, in fact, is the broad silhouette of the second section of my study. As I already mentioned I will be able to talk about something specifically in this direction only by the end of May. Until then I will keep up-dating you as to where I’m up to.
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The Public of the Private
In this posting I would like to share with you some of my reservations on the notion of ‘public sphere’. A precise collection of laws drawn up around 450 BC by Roman jurisprudents seems to reflect the dormant potential; it carried throughout millennia, of being able to become very much instrumental to the need of a mercantile society in facilitating a reasonably protected commercial activity. Centuries later in 1362 a money lender in Europe enters into a contract abiding by the formula prescribed in the same Roman source; which reads:
“In the presence of not less than five roman citizens of full age, and also a sixth person having the same qualifications, known as libripens, to hold a bronze scale, the party who is talking by the mancipation, holding a bronze ingot says: ‘I declare this slave is mine ex jure Quiritum, and he be purchased to me with this bronze ingot and scale’. He then strikes the scale with the ingot and gives it as a symbolic price to him from whom he is receiving by the mancipation”. (I have not consulted the original material; however, in order to draw upon a different inference I have relied on the reference to the material in Michel E. Tiger’s Law and the Rise of Capitalism p.26)
Against the background of this reference several questions can be asked. Who are the ‘five Roman citizens of full age’? Are they the ‘witness’ of the contract? Do those witnesses represent the ‘public’? Can we then think of a situation where the ‘witnesses’ turn out to be spectators? The background of these questions parallels my take on the topic I am working on in which the duel role of witness/spectator transmutation is discussed at length in one of the sections.