May 13, 2008 Humanities Core Course Today's Plan The Peasant's Letter Other random stuff You aren’t getting your papers back today -- sorry, check eee this weekend for your grade.
The Letter. Look at what's going on: you are a student in a course which requires you to consider primary resources through the lens of your own research, with the incorporation of secondary resources to help you. And Look what happened today: you were given a model of how to proceed. A process of making sense of the letter. Notice how he shows you each step of the process.
Phoolan Devi She was born into a lower caste. Married off very early (ten years old?), but she refused the burdens that went with marriage. She was troublesome and basically sold off into sexual slavery by an uncle because she was stubbornly interested in justice. She is gang raped by male members of a higher caste for days and escapes. She seeks revenge by finding those who raped her and kills them. All 22 of them. Having become a bandit, she is bent on replacing the caste system with a more just system. She literally steals from the rich and gives to the poor. She orchestrates her surrender, on the condition that the charges against her and her band of bandits are dropped. She goes into prison at age 21. She emerges from prison about ten years later, runs for office, gets elected and acts as a political force for change against the caste system. She is assassinated soon thereafter. While a politician she produced an autobiography. She could not read or write, so it had to be recorded, and transcribed by others, and then verified by her. Her book is available. And as you can imagine, she is the object of pop-culture fascination in contemporary India. In India today, the caste system still has an effect. Recently a woman of a lower caste died because doctors refused to touch her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO3VZEfsAOU
The Letter. Look at what's going on: you are a student in a course which requires you to consider primary resources through the lens of your own research, with the incorporation of secondary resources to help you. And Look what happened last week: you were given a model of how to proceed. A process of making sense of the letter. Notice how he shows you each step of the process.
Don't overlook this research example. I'll get back to this when we discuss your research papers later today.
Remember Phoolan Devi? I brought her up as a contemporary who was denied a political voice by the establishment (public), and made a political voice for herself through her (counter-public) deeds. This is a doing.
I bring this up again so that you can have another example of a seemingly recurrent theme, an idea that was brought up last week: literacy is not a prerequisite for political action. We saw it in Antigone, Kohlhaas, and in the Ranchod Vira letter. Antigone (the character) was a woman, and as a woman she was not given a voice in ancient Greece. Antigone (the character) was not trained in formal logic, and was supposed to be incapable of it, and so was thought to be incapable of political action, and so was not allowed a voice in their politics. In Kohlaas, we saw peasants who were not educated in the letters who had their 12 articles written up, which played a part of the Peasants' War. We saw how this played a role in Luther's own articles. In the Ranchod Vira letter, we saw (according to our Professor): Peasants throughout India were active in questioning colonial power, Participants in creating a counterpublic Rethink the ways we interpret the intellectual lives of peasants. And we then saw how this letter played a role in the political life of India that followed it.
So, I bring Phoolan Devi up so that you can count her in. She, like Antigone, like the peasants of the Holy Roman empire, like Ranchod Vira, engaged in political action without the supposed capacity for political literacy. I bring this issue up again since we see it in this week's readings, in our Professor's article about naming.