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Burra, Arudra. The Lamps in our House: Reflections on Postcolonial Pedagogy
2021, Miami Institute for the Social Sciences blog
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Arudra Burra

Introduction: I teach philosophy at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi. My teaching reflects my training, which is in the Western philosophical tradition: I teach PhD seminars on Plato and Rawls, while Bentham and Mill often figure in my undergraduate courses.

What does it mean to teach these canonical figures of the Western philosophical tradition to students in India? I have often asked myself this question. Similar questions are now being asked by philosophers situated in the West: Anglophone philosophy, at least in the analytic tradition, seems to have arrived at a late moment of post-colonial reckoning. [...]

Comment: This is a long blog post originally published in an online forum on philosophy in the Global Majority organised by the Miami Institute of Social Sciences. It defends a place for thinking and teaching the Western philosophical canon in postcolonial educational spaces such as India, bringing together both recent discussions of decolonising philosophy in the West, as well as older discussions within India about the place of the Western canon. It concludes with a debate on these themes between Mahatma Gandhi and the poet Rabindranath Tagore. I wrote it as a reflection on my own pedagogical practice teaching philosophy in India, but it has also been used in a course on Indian philosophy taught at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. I think it would be a useful counterpoint to think with while talking about the importance of diversity in philosophy -- among other things because it points out that even the question of what constitutes 'diversity' might vary from place to place; and in that sense it might be seen as an instance of philosophical diversity in action.

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