The job of the modern-day critical researcher

I just finished watching this brilliant talk by Prof. D. Venkat Rao of EFLU, on YouTube. Having read The Last Brahmin (written in Telugu by Rani Siva Sankara Sarmaa, and translated by Rao) a couple of years ago, I really am fascinated by his work, stances, and exploration of literature, philosophy, and culture, using Critical Humanities (though I differ with him at a couple of junctures). His approach to studying Indian cultures, steering clear of Indology, or dominant narratives hinged on ideological forms of Hinduism, or even conceptions of alternative modernity, is indeed quite soothing on the mind and enriching to the soul.

The job of the modern-day critical researcher, is really that of a translater — of the cultures of the researched(for lack of a better word, used only as a descriptor for the category of people), of philosophies, of methodologies, and ultimately, of the cultures of methodologies! I’m still chewing on the last bit. It is indeed a privilege to be able to pursue all of these from one’s own socio-cultural location, without essentialising the same. One is able to transcend the binaries of

  • The English language and one’s own mother-tongue
  • The Eurocentric academic language and the actual cultures and conditions of the researched
  • The philosophies and thought-systems one grows into and the strictly “academic” ones one is introduced to
  • And deriving from a combination of the above three, the theoretical concepts one works with for one’s own research and the grounded reflections from the field,

essentially as a Translater of sorts. It is in this process that criticality comes into the picture. If one is able to be “correctly critical”, by presenting as true a picture of the reality of one’s research, while raising questions about manifestations of power in its many forms and at various junctures, one is sure to do one’s job faithfully. And that, simply put, is the job of a modern-day critical researcher.