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Into That Heaven of Freedom

Edited by G.N. Devy , Geoffrey V. Davis and K.K. Chakravarty
Orient BlackSwan, Hyderabad, 2009, pp. 405, price not stated

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 12 December 2010

In Mahashweta Devis Pterodactyl, Puran Shay and Pirtha the tribal Bhikia spots a giant bird from another era seeking shelter in a cave close to his village. Devis reader finds no science-fictional sense of the fantastic in Bhikia when he sees the bird; the bird is merely welcomed and honoured. The tribal has no knowledge about the species that he has encountered; he merely feels an affinity that spans 75 million years. For Bhikia, the bird with a broken wing is a visitation; it has come with a message in its sad eyes. Bhikia waits for the injured bird to die. The journalist Puran watching this realizes the profound distance between himself and Bhikia. He senses how the tribal has bridged time by ceaselessly claiming his ancestor from the expanse of time, while the modernity that he himself represents has failed to read the poignant message in the Pterodactyls eyes. The journalist wonders if the bird had told Bhikia that to survive they must mingle in the mainstream, where their social position will be on the ground floor and their ethnic being will no longer be distinct. In the study Listening to the Pterodactyl, Shiv Visvanathan examines the being of the tribal in India and stresses the incommensurability of the tribal and the modern man by capturing in an anthropological frame a picture of the visiting Pterodactyl, the tribal character Bhikia, and the journalist Puran on the hill of Pirtha. The proceedings of the 2008 Chotro Conference on Indigenous Languages, Culture and Society, Indigeneity provides a space where one would listen, internalise, learn, imagine and empathise as part of an effort to reduce our collective ignorance about the communities generally described as indigenous (Devy, Introduction xii). The papers compiled herein are not limited to any single academic discipline. They deal with literature, linguistics, language policy, history, sociology, media, film studies, theatre, music and visual culture. They include studies of numerous marginalized languages, their literary traditions and aesthetic frameworks; the geneses of the communities, their myths and histories, their visual representations, artistic practices, politics and ideologies. Swabian tribal indigene, Gerhard Stilz from the University of Tubingen, gives a personal statement on the issue of indigeneity by making conceptual clarifications about conflict and annihilation that happen within indigenous spaces at the etymological and semantic levels, and discusses the historical, geographical and chorographical implications of indigeneity, before providing a critical review of various aspects of ...

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