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To share with the scholars different ways of understanding Indian villagers, how to decolonize researchers inbuilt assumptions, along with a look at ecomuseology and wellbeing. Also to share his success story in working with Amaravati village in Andhra Pradesh.
Guest Speaker: Prof. Amareswar Galla, PhD
Participants: Doctoral Students from E4Life and CWEGE/Ammachi Labs at Amrita University
Prof. Amareswar Galla is an alumnus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Amar is a champion of cultural democracy, cultural rights, gender mainstreaming, inclusive and deep ecology demonstration projects, arts policy development, Intangible Heritage, World Heritage, indigenous peoples, intercultural dialogue and UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now the UN Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He was the Producer and Editor of the flagship project and publication to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention: World Heritage: Benefits Beyond Borders, Cambridge University Press & UNESCO Publishing, November 2012. (French & Korean versions in 2013). The book includes 26 case studies with evidence based analyses of sustainable development and community benefits through good governance, thus becoming a major publication to mainstream culture in development discourse and for promoting integrated planning for all forms of heritage, especially tangible and intangible heritage.
Drawing on his education and experience of affirmative action in India, Amar founded and directed at the University of Canberra, 1985-92, the National Affirmative Action program for the participation of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in museums, galleries, national parks and World Heritage Areas in Australia. The success of the program led to invitations to provide technical support for similar programs in Canada, U.S., Brazil, Vietnam, India, China, Norway and several Small Island Development States. During 1994-99, he was the International Technical Adviser for the transformation of Arts Councils, National Museums and Cultural Institutions and the National Parks Board in post- apartheid South Africa. His extensive publication record includes an earlier volume on museum training and transformation guidelines to enable the relevance of museums in Australia to its Indigenous Peoples and Multicultural populations. Heritage Curricula and Cultural Diversity, Prime Minister & Cabinet, Australia 1993.
Amar provided in the recent past strategic cultural leadership in Australia and the Asia Pacific Region as the first full Professor of Museum Studies in Australia at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. Prior to that he was Professor and Director of Sustainable Heritage Development Programs, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. He was also until recently a Visiting Foreign Professor of World Heritage and Intangible Heritage and mentor for Ph.D. candidates at the University of Split located in the World Heritage City of Split. He has just been appointed as the Honorary Professor at the prestigious Global Change Institute, the University of Queensland.
Dr. Galla’s Guest Lecture discussed Mahayana Buddhism which began in a town called Amaravati, in Andhra Pradesh. Brief History of Buddhism. The largest Buddhist Stupa is in this town, carved with panels telling the story of Buddha . But of course none of the sculptures are there now at Amaravati because of the invasions it had in the past. Dr. Galla explained his work experience at the British Museum. Artifacts around the world where the sculptures of this place could be found. The need for viewers to know where artifacts come from; the socio-economic status of the people making such amazing artwork. He felt that if one is going to give a contextual framework, then one needs to understand the existing cultural landscape. Dr Galla, in his work, went to Amarvati to survey the historical cultural landscape. He started working on a mapping exercise (not surveying). The area was about 300 acres of land. As part of his work he spent a large amount of time listening to people. This he says is not taught in Universities or elsewhere. Then Dr. Galla went on explaining the importance of ‘listening’. Dr. Galla said when you listen, you understand, when you understand you are more ethical and you make responsible interventions.
Effect of Decolonization across the world was discussed briefly. If one wants to work in areas of different cultures, you have to understand things contextually. Dr. Galla worked in a village, Amaravati, in Andhra Pradesh at one point that started out as a 3 month project that became a 5 year project. In this village, he was looking at the village culture. Here, it is tradition that men marry women from outside the village. Now these women bring their cultures with them from another place. How they raise a child, the lullabies they sing, how they cook, how they clean, etc. The point he is making here is that all cultures are dynamic and changing, and adaptive and evolving.
He discussed renovating pilgrimage places as a way to improve conditions in parts of India, which would draw more people, bringing in more jobs and more money for the community.
He talked about the importance of every household having a toilet and dangers/problems faced by women who don’t have toilets. Problems faced by women who get widowed early due to their child marriages and their plight. Dr. Galla explained his intervention in the village of Amamravati for these widowed women specially those coming from Dalit section.
Dr. Galla mentioned about the Indian constitution with respect to one of the significant steps it has taken towards Dalits and Tribal people. The Indian constitution was one the first ones in the world, to look at Affirmative Action in 1950. The constitution gives fundamental rights and privileges to groups who have been historically discriminated against like Dalits and Tribal people.
To translate on paper what is put into practice, one needs: learn to listen, competency of learning, competency of understanding cross-culturally, which means often speaking more than one language.
Importance of language and culture exposure was discussed. If one speaks 3 languages then they have the cognitive reserve to process what is intercultural. Similarly if one has lived in 3 cultures they have reference points upon which they can benchmark their own behavior, their own knowledge, their own indicators. So multiculturalism, trilingualism, are really huge assets to help empower marginalized cultures. And Ecomusicology is a wonderful methodology to bring people and their culture together.
Students were very engaged and Dr Galla spent about an hour just answering their questions.