By Dr Wilfried Swenden School of Social and Political Science
So, here were are in Kolkata, the proud capital of West Bengal and one of India’s most esteemed centres of learning and history. For someone who spends most of his research in and around Delhi, travelling to the more peripheral states of this vast country makes for a welcome and much needed change.
The politics is clearly different here: no Narendra Modi or Arvind Kejriwal greeting us from the bus stops or billboards (Delhi has just come out of an important state election), but Mamata Banerjee, the supremo of the Trinamool Congress, West Bengal’s version of the SNP (well…kind of!).
The Universities of Edinburgh and Calcutta have long-standing ties, something which the heads of both universities amply emphasized in their welcoming addresses. They range from William Robertson’s landmark study on Indian civilisation, to the first Indian woman to study medicine in the west – at Edinburgh. More recently, the Indian scientist Saheyendrath Bose had part of the Higgs-Boson named after him. Professor Peter Higgs, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics is just one person to have since paid tribute to his Indian colleague.
Yet, the ties between both universities are not just a thing of the past. I, along with ten of my colleagues (mainly historians, sociologists, political scientists), have travelled to Kolkata to explore future research collaborations in the history of science and medicine, architecture, migration, and diaspora studies.
My colleague from the School of Politics and Political Science, Kristen Hopewell, and I will participate in a session on foreign policy and India’s engagement with the global economy. That the University of Calcutta takes a particular interest in the role of the states therein is no surprise: in that respect it can take some interesting cues from Scotland’s engagement with Europe and the world.
In a city famed for the passion of its populace and its fondness for arguing over the issues of the day in the many coffee houses to be found here, our own debate has found a natural home.
found found a natural home.found a natural home.