Knowledge of History for the People
Everyone talks about the Haves and Have-nots of material resources in the world – the increasing divide between the rich and the poor - indeed a serious problem. Here we would like to highlight the Haves and Have-nots of knowledge and intellectual property in our midst – the divide between the academic elite and the lay public, especially in areas like history and social sciences. One appreciates all the new knowledge and theories our institutions of higher learning are generating year after year - scholars working on specialised and super-specialised fields to bring out the tiniest aspects of life and society, presenting and discussing them in academic seminars and conferences.
But much of this caters to a limited and discerning reader, or published in highly specialised journals in a language that few understand. A large section of people the world over can neither access this knowledge nor appreciate its depth or relevance in their lives. A majority gets to know only a fraction of this academic knowledge (for example in the field of history, through popular media) and that too in extremely fragmented and erroneous ways which could even be damaging for social and personal development. The knowledge available to the people is often also a politically-motivated interpretation of the state, the market or the establishment. We don’t mean to say that the academic researcher is responsible for this disbalance.
Besides adding to the larger knowledge base of humanity, the other aim of academic research is getting a job (or promotion in an existing job, especially in an academic institution). A constant specialisation and theorisation (and its publication in a reputed journal) by a scholar is the essential requirement for survival in the academia. ‘Publish or perish’ is the mantra to sustain or further one's career, especially in the universities in the US, which in turn influence the trend the world over. There is nothing wrong with research for its own sake as long as there is support or funding available. Of course, the more fruitful examples of research seem to be in science, technology, and economics etc. where the results lead to concrete values or products that have direct impact on the betterment of human lives. The practical relevance of research in some streams of social sciences, however, looks rather elitist. Or at least their aims look so long-term or self-indulgent that they don’t seem to justify the means. Or maybe they are fit only for highly developed countries in the west that have already provided material welfare for much of their population.
Of course, one is not against the spirit of enquiry, discovery and debate which are the prerequisites of research and knowledge creation. But there are limits to the extent to which a subject or idea should be theorised without losing its practicability. Anyway, while we would like to support and celebrate the spirit of enquiry and debate, our immediate goal is to also find ways to popularise and disseminate the knowledge that has already been created, and make its practical relevance more evident using languages and media that can be easily understood by a larger section of lay audience. In simple words, we at Etihas would like to perceive ourselves as a medium between the researchers/ academicians and the people who seek knowledge (not to suggest that people themselves don’t create knowledge. They certainly do, and historians themselves often depend on people to create and verify knowledge). We feel that the job of a media-practitioner is no less important than that of the knowledge-creater (or academic researcher). Without popular media, the knowledge will have no value.
Ektara also strives to document oral histories of ordinary people everywhere - stories that get left out from the mainstream discourse of contemporary world. We hope to make history, heritage and traditional arts readily accessable to people who have very little exposure to these. We need your support in this endeavour.