RVP International Conferences 2013 International Conferences 2013

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 Invitation to an International conference

Identity and Otherness

Chandigarh, India                                                   January 6-7, 2013




Panjab University, Chandigarh, India




The term identity refers to such features of people as their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion and sexuality. Labels of identity like men, Americans, Indians, Catholics, Buddhists, and so on generate ideas about people who fit the label. These ideas shape the ways people conceive themselves and their projects. More often than not, people conceive the idea of a 'good life' also by reference to the available labels of identification. Every collective identity is said to have certain genus of structures: First, it requires the availability of terms in public discourse that are used to pick out the bearers of identity. Normative content of a group of people as well as their particular identities with a particular label is determined by its bearers.


            Identity is an abstract concept that has a metaphysical import. Its referent cannot be pointed at and said to be this or that. To identify is to delineate or isolate the features which mark out from others and hence of a conflict. Thus to talk of identity is to talk of relation of otherness, which forms the basis of the underlying philosophical problem of identity. When we say that identity implies a relation of otherness, what is meant is that issues which are related to identity must begin from recognizing and appreciating identity both in nature and society as contrasting, which can entail conflict.


            During the past many centuries, Indian understanding of identity is shaped and supported bycaste identity. This  was vigorously supported and often vitiated by the stratified social system with an absolute impossibility of crossing one?s caste. It is legitimized and enacted by a theological, social and cultural ontology that can draw toward less generous interpretations of such doctrines as Karma, Svadharma, Advaita and Yoga.


Even today, caste has not lost its ontological status. This points also to the implication that caste is the basis of solidarities and collective identities. Defined from the aspect of being, caste may be regarded as the historically and culturally located categorization of human persons involving certain visual determinants such as colour, ascribed social origin, etc. Caste considerations obtained their metaphysical validity and efficacy through the medium of human cognition, which has been considered as anvikshiki or philosophy in India. Thus considered, they are the explicit manifestation of two kinds of ontologies that this tradition and culture has brought forth; the first one may be called as the ontology of permanence and the second may be called the ontology of impermanence. Thus, there are two conceptions of reality in this culture and the philosophies and world-view in this tradition may be categorized in terms of these two categories of ontologies.




The department identifies the following themes/ sub-themes for an in-depth study under the proposed seminar. They are:


  1. General Categorization of Identities: Human Consciousness and Cultural Freedom.

  2. Cultural Traditions and Human Subject: Individualization and Globalization.

  3. Person and Identities: The Indian Tradition.

  4. Caste Identity and Otherness: Philosophical Issues

  5. Identity and Otherness: Phenomenological Elements

  6. Identity and Otherness: The Metaphysical Elements

  7. Cultural Creativity and the Creative Self: Identity as Value Signifier.

  8. Otherness and Complemetarity: Emmanuel Levinas

  9. Human Rights, Human Dignity and the Other




In addition to the above sub themes, the seminar welcomes discussions on other issues that are significantly related to the central thematic content elaborated above. Proposals or abstracts of approximately 300 words should be sent to

Professor Sebastian Velassery

Department of philosophy

Panjab university

Chandigarh-160 014









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