IIT Madras

IIT Madras Virtually Hosts Asia’s First International Memory Studies Workshop

IIT Madras is in the process of building an XR Lab using virtual tools such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to curate, comprehend and critique various facets of literature, history and culture

Indian Institute of Technology Madras’ (IIT Madras) Centre for Memory Studies recently hosted virtually Asia’s first International Memory Studies Workshop. It precedes the official launch of the Indian Network for Memory Studies (INMS), and brought together participants from all over the world.

A number of participants acknowledged the academic as well as the deeply existential need to engage with the field of Memory Studies in the current pandemic world where memory, connectivity and empathy emerge as vital human attributes. Conducted from 26th to 30 April 2021, the workshop had 108 registered participants.

This international workshop on Memory Studies, the first of its kind in Asia, precedes the official launch of the Indian Network for Memory Studies (INMS), the first national network in the field in Asia under the aegis of the International Memory Studies Association, Amsterdam. The launch of the INMS will take place in mid-June 2021 through a virtual event at IIT Madras.

The Key Objectives of IIT Madras International Memory Studies Workshop

  • To provide a pioneering scholarly platform to train and mentor doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in Memory Studies.
  • To align interests from different disciplinary locations and identify research convergences to foster institute-level collaborations in India as well as internationally.
  • To facilitate the emergence of research methods and innovative, interactive, immersive tools in Memory Studies with the aid of digital technologies.
  • To facilitate the formation of research clusters and networks academically as well as with industry partners.

IIT Madras is in the process of building an XR Lab using virtual tools to curate, comprehend and critique various facets of literature, history and culture. The XR Labs, TCS Chennai, headed by Dr. Ashok Maharaj, is one of the industry partners of the Centre for Memory Studies, IIT Madras. The XR Lab has been collaborating with IIT Madras on projects using Augmented reality (AR) / Virtual reality (VR) tools and 360-degree procedural training.

Delivering the Inaugural Address of the international Memory Studies Workshop, Prof. Jyotirmaya Tripathy, head, department of humanities and social sciences (HSS), IIT Madras, said: “Our HSS Department always attempts to bring training and research together, so teaching and research are seen as complementary pursuits. I congratulate our young and energetic faculty members Dr. Avishek Parui and Dr. Merin Simi Raj for their work on this domain of Memory Studies.”

The Centre for Memory Studies at IIT Madras functions under the ‘Institute of Eminence’ (IoE) scheme funded by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. Its Principal Investigators are Dr. Merin Simi Raj and Dr. Avishek Parui, Assistant Professors (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras.

In February 2021, Dr. Avishek Parui was nominated to the Advisory Board of Memory Studies Association for his outstanding contributions to networking and scholarship in the domain of Memory Studies, which has helped the Centre broaden the scope of its activities with a global vision.

Speaking about this workshop, Dr. Merin Simi Raj, Assistant Professor (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, said, “This workshop may be seen as a formal starting point of the acknowledgement of the domain of Memory Studies in Indian academia. We have already begun to receive immense interest from scholars for pursuing PhD, Post-doc, and Project and Internship positions.”

What stood out throughout the sessions was the deliberate but systematic departures from Euro-centric memory studies frameworks of thought and practice.  This was evident in the choice of texts and sites for discussion where materiality, space, caste, gender, race and class could be foregrounded through the medium of machines and fiction.

Further, Dr. Avishek Parui, Assistant Professor (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, added, “This signals a shift in Humanities education. Through international collaborations with memory studies centres and groups in University of Warwick (UK), University of Andrews (UK), Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform (Germany) and Memory Studies Association (Amsterdam) we hope to be able to streamline and offer innovative courses in Memory Studies with partnerships from industry, offering a pioneering platform in Indian academia for students and scholars in the times to come.”

Characterised by intense academic interaction and dialogue the sessions led by the 2018 President’s Visitor’s Research awardee Prof Pramod K. Nayar (University of Hyderabad), Prof Bharathi Harishankar (University of Madras) Dr Sathyaraj Venkatesan (NIT Trichy) helped the participants connect methodologies and frameworks through graphic art, feminist literature and graphic medicine.

The sessions on Spatial Storytelling and Digital Humans by Dr. Ashok Maharaj and Lakshmi Deshpande from Tata Consultancy Services added an innovative flavour of immersive technology which also has remained core to the philosophy and activities from the Centre for Memory Studies, IIT Madras.

In the final session on ‘Research Road Ahead’, a number of participants identified convergences in their researches and endeavoured to make more formal and institutional collaborations. The researchers from University of Warwick, Leeds Beckett University, IIT Madras and Jadavpur University showcased their ongoing research work.

Prof. Nandini Saha, former Head, Department of English, University of Jadavpur, said, “This is a wonderfully curated workshop, with brilliant plenary sessions, extremely engaging discussions, so much to learn from, and such excellently fantastic research work being done. Thanks again to Dr Parui and Dr Raj and all the scholars and students for this enriching and wonderful experience. ”

The valedictory session addressed by Prof. Devendra Jalihal, Chairman, Centre for Continuing Education, IIT Madras, who shared his appreciation for the workshop and the participants. The workshop was offered as a certified Continuing Education Programme (CEP) course through the Centre for Continuing Education.

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