Integration  of Endogenous Cultural Dimension into Development
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Integration of Endogenous Cultural Dimension into Development

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Item Code: NAW014
Author: Baidyanath Saraswati
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1997
ISBN: 8124600899
Pages: 252
Other Details 10.00 X 7.00 inch
Weight 840 gm
About the Book

From the post-World War II decolonization to about mid-1980s, mainstream development thinking has focussed on ‘economics’, on the one-dimensional abstraction of homo economicus, to the exclusion of all else: specially the socio-cultural context in which development might take place. This divorce of ‘development from ‘culture’, however, was "poor economics" a hard fact, which the international community has come to discover gradually, experientially. The United Nations too was not found wanting inits shared concern for culture. On 21 January 1988, it launched — under the aegis of Unesco "The World Decade for Cultural Development" in its effort to chiefly (a) strengthen awareness of culttiral dimension of development, and (b) enrich cultural identities the world over. In the Indian capital, the Indira Gandhi National Central for the Arts (IGNCA) has initiated a multidisciplinary discourse on development issues vis-a-vis the whole range of cultural variables and definitions. Which: its newly- - introduced series : Culture and Development proposes to cover in entirety. Integration of Endogenous Cultural Dimension into Development — Volume 2 of the "Culture- and-Development" series — takes the discourse on: from the complex issues of ‘cultural identity’. to the worldwide human problems stemming from the development-planners’ unmindfulness of endogenous cultures. Carrying 17 presentations of a Unesco-sponsored workshop :19-23 April 1995 at IGNCA, New Delhi, it questions the modern methods of development which, evolved from the experience of the industrialized world, have brought about neither peace nor harmony, neither alleviation of poverty nor socio-economic equality. Thus arguing why current development processes call for serious rethinking, the authors spell out not only the urgency of integrating endogenous cultural dimension into the paradigms of development, but also the relevance of linking development with the ethical basis of life and living. Also included in the volume are several case studies, with special reference to the Asian situation. The contributors to this volume are reputed scholars, planners and grassroots-level social workers from China, India, Indonesia, Japan. ~ South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

About the Author

Baidyanath Saraswati, an anthropologist of international eminence, is Unesco-Professor at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. New Delhi. And is former Professor of Anthropology at the North-Eastern Hill University; Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study: and Visiting Professor at the universities of Ranchi and Visva-Bharati. Professor Saraswati’s published work comprises a number of books and monographs, among which notably figure Pottery-making Cultures and Indian Civilization; Brahmanic Ritual Traditions; Kashi : Myth and Reality, and Spectrum of the Sacred — besides his edited titles, like Tribal Thought and Culture: Prakrti : Primal Elements — the Oral Tradition. Prakrti: Man in Nature; Computerizing Cultures, and Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies.


There can be no real exploration of the artistic experience, its diverse expressions and its power of communication without investigating the nature of the cultural fabric which ignites the creative energies. It was with this intention that the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts initiated a number of dialogues on the cultural fabric in its Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies Programme. It endeavoured to measure the immeasurable under the aegis of Unesco-sponsored International Workshop on "Cross-Cultural Lifestyle Studies with Multimedia Computerizable Documentation", which brought forth very complex issues of measure, indicators and categories which would establish norms for comparison of cultures. It was recognised that while analytical studies could be done and should be done, it was necessary to recognize the very nature of the fluid dynamics of a culture. In the next seminar, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts went a little further in exploring what constituted Cultural Identity and Development. Undoubtedly, this is a world-wide debate and many conferences have been held both under the aegis of Unesco and independently. The IGNCA’s Conference was different because it focussed attention on the nature of Cultural Identity through a discussion on the findings of actual pilot studies conducted in different parts of rural India. The proceedings of this Seminar constituted the First Volume, entitled Interface of Cultural Identity and Development. A stage had now been reached not only to speak of the Interface of Cultural Identity and Development, but also to suggest positive strategies for integrating all that could be understood by the term ‘Indigenous Cultural Knowledge and Skills’ into the processes and programmes of, what is called, ‘Development’. These seminars brought together theorists as also people who had worked at the field level in different parts of Asia as also different domains of human activity. It was clear from the discussion, as is also evident from the papers included in this Volume, that most participants were of the view that there was need to re-think and, therefore, design appropriate cultural information models which could be used by the policy-makers and planners. Many amongst the participants were clearly of the view that some of the most creative aspects of human endeavour relating to his or her immediate environment, rearing of families, indigenous skills and techniques, were not fully used or positively employed in the programmes of socio-economic development. Thus, the indigenous cultural knowledge and the indigenous knowledge of skills become marginalised. Consequently, often the authentic Self of a culture is uprooted, alienated and disempowered. The experience of many Asian countries Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Korea—has brought to the fore the unnecessary tension which has been created between the dynamics of a uniform monolithic model of development and world-views and lifestyle as evident in the multiple models of social order still extant in many parts of Asia. The participants were also clear that a sizable body of information and knowledge regarding environment, natural resources, agro-techniques and much else is transmitted through verbal and non-verbal modes of communication. All this is either negated or not cognized in the evolution of policies on development by nation-states. There was unanimity on the view that the notion of development could not be restricted to measures of GNP and GDP or only economic development measured in terms of surplus money and power of purchase, but, had to include human-development so that the creative potential of each individual and community could be exploited to the fullest. No longer was it advisable to count human beings as economically- disposable units.

Many papers in this Volume refer to the need for integrating indigenous and modern technologies, modern science and ancient wisdom and practically all cautioned against the risk of deculturisation and cultural alienation.

Several authors in the Volume have suggested the evolution of plural models for a programme of sustainable development for diverse parts of the world. ‘Decentralisation in planning’, ‘plurality of models’, ‘inclusiveness’ of all sections of population were the key words of this discourse.

At a more fundamental level, these papers also ask the question: Can a world- view based on man’s domination over nature sustain this Earth? These papers also question the very principle of uniformity of cultures or growth patterns of the human species. The recognition of diversity and of plurality within a universality of approach and possibilities of dialogue is the running-thread. The adoption of the principle of complementarity in its most scientific connotation and not conflict and linear progress, was recommended by all. A conclusion which was evident from the discussion, was that in most countries of Asia, the notion of viewing developmental sectors separate from non-developmental. sectors was both illogical and counterproductive. All dimensions of the human constituted development. A socio-economic man could only be truly productive if he or she was also a harmoniously balanced person recognizing difference and diversity. He could be creative only within a milieu of mutual interdependence and inter-connections and not in the competition of the market place.

The discussion at the Seminar, naturally, concentrated then on what constitutes modelling societies and how a society can be modelled? Many suggestions were put forth. Most advised against acceptance of derived uniform global models based on linearity on the one hand, and freezing of cultures as museum pieces in specific historical situations, on the other. There was a very lively discussion on what constitutes ‘creativity’ ‘cultural heritage’, ‘empowerment of gender’. The participants pressed the need for the establishment of more meaningful networks of information and cultural communication within countries, nations and the world. Prof. B.N. Saraswati has touched upon the details of the discussions and the distinctive perspectives of many distinguished people. I hope that we have been able to bring together the different but important voices on a global issue. The moot question remains whether there is the inevitability of a global village and globalisation on the basis of homogenisation or whether each unique human being, individually and collectively, should have a global consciousness while being deeply rooted to his specificity with a respect of diversity.


The organisers of our forum have proposed that I speak of whether or not there can be an Asian Model of Development. Before I take up this challenge, I feel obliged to cite an old adage: ‘The sage asks questions; the fool answers them’. So rather than try to provide any definitive answer — and thereby betray my own culture's traditional wisdom — I would like to suggest some possible points of view from which we may be able to give depth to the question of ‘endogenous models of development’, or what the United Nations has termed the ‘cultural dimension of development’. And I would like to do this by asking you to consider how the enormous global problems facing humankind on the Earth today cannot be seen apart from culture.

The concept of culture is difficult to define — a liquid in an age of solids, as it has been described. However, we would not be far wrong if we were to characterise it as everything that we create, preserve, and transmit as a group, or — in a wider context — as a species. Such a definition has the advantage of encompassing culture both in the restricted sense of the arts, and in the broader sense of a ‘whole way of life, material, intellectual and spiritual’. Culture, then, is something fashioned by humankind: it comprises all the expressions of our creativity, including language, science and technology, architecture, literature, music and art. It is an intimate part of the way we live, the way we think, and the way we see the world. It includes all our beliefs, attitudes, customs, and social relations. Culture transmits to us an intrinsic understanding of the way the world works, and leads us to see what is important within that world. In a word, culture represents our whole system of values, those conscious and explicit as well as those that are unconscious and implicit.

Culture seen in this light — our cultures — cannot, indeed must not, be viewed apart from the other great issues of our day, whether the destruction of the environment, the population explosion, or whatever. The global crisis facing humanity at the dawn of the 21st century is, more than anything else, a reflection of our collective values, behaviour and life-style. In short, we are, as a species, the agents of our own misfortune — and indeed, of the very Earth’s misfortune.

Is it not a curious thing that, at the very time that our existence on the planet has become a threat not just to ourselves but also to the biosphere which spawned us, we have for the first time the means, if not the wisdom, to do something about it. So while humankind’s collective presence on Earth has new-found global consequences, simultaneously there has arisen the possibility of our developing a global awareness of our situation and of the repercussions of our communal actions both for ourselves and for all elements of life in the world around us. Globalisation is a material phenomenon to be sure — global warming, for example, affects us all, no matter where we live nor from where the pollutants derive. But thanks to the power of modern communications technology and media, it also exhibits the intangible quality we call awareness of consciousness — what happens in Bosnia, or-Rwanda, or even, for that matter, on the slopes of Mount Everest or the banks of the Ganges, is now immediately accessible, as perception, to people all over the world. The analogy of humankind as an infant, taking its first tentative steps, uttering its first words, becoming not only aware of itself but aware too of the world around it, immediately springs to mind and rings almost too true for comfort.

At the same time, this growing awareness of ourselves and of the world around us has had other, unforeseen, consequences. One of the most significant of these has been the rapid breakdown of old structures and control mechanisms — external in terms of political and economic structures, and internal in terms of shared values and codes of behaviour. This is accompanied by a lack — at least for the present — of coherent new structures, of new values and codes of behaviour with which to respond appropriately to the completely new situation in which we find ourselves. The result is that in many parts of the world, this uncertainty is attended by a kind of instinctive and frequently turbulent retreat into traditionalism, tribalism, and narrow ethnic or religious identities, where all the emphasis is on the difference between cultures and peoples, and none on their sameness. It is as if something old and massive is in its death throes, and something new and as yet undefined is struggling to be born in its shadow.

So the real question, or rather the first question, that we have to face may be that of the survival of human civilisation as we know it, as well as of a large part of the biosphere. As the old adage has it, ‘Nothing focuses a person's mind so well as his (or her!) impending death’. I wonder whether we, as a species, understand that this may well be our collective situation today.

Now I would like to come back to what I said earlier: culture cannot, indeed must not, be divorced from the other great issues of our day. And I would like to illustrate this remark by examining two of the most pressing problems facing the world at the dawn of the 21st century — population and the environment — and the manner in which they relate to the culture, and cultures, of humankind.

The recent UN Summit on Population and Development held in Cairo brought home to the world as never before the scale of the human population explosion. The United Nations estimates that by the year 2050, the world’s total population will reach somewhere between 8 and 12 billion people, from its current level of about 5.5 billion. The current increase is well over 90 million persons annually, which is equivalent to the entire population of Mexico. And while it took 125 years for the world’s population to increase from 1 to 12 billion, the last increment of one billion persons was achieved in one-tenth of that time, in 13 years!

While human reproduction is clearly a biological function, there are also potent cultural imperatives at work. Everything associated with sexuality, marriage and childbearing has vital cultural and religious connotations that go far beyond the mere ‘biology’ involved. Every culture has definite teachings and norms in this regard, along with powerful inducements to behave in this way or that, and frequently also unpleasant sanctions for those who do not conform — not only in this world, but even in the next!

But in spite of this, the great majority of population programmes throughout the world have concentrated from the very beginning almost entirely on the technical aspects of family planning (provision of birth control devices, information on fertility cycles and conception, types of services, achievement of quantitative targets, etc.), while almost no attention has been given to the socio-cultural contexts in which such programmes are implemented. And yet religious beliefs, traditional relationships between men and women, family size and structure, marriage age, the status of women, taboos on the mere mention of sex (even in its clinical sense) in public or even in private, to name but a few aspects, are manifestly of crucial importance. As long and often bitter experience has taught us, family planning programmes are not merely a matter of providing contraceptive means and information: they touch the very fabric of the individual and of society and involve the most intimate physical, cultural and even spiritual levels of those concerned.


It is all very well to talk about the 'global village'. It is wonderful to have a planetary network of communication. It is exciting to use the internet. But what if all this means the darker side of the dawn? The ultimate issue in the problematics are: What is the `global village' like? What is its approach to human development? How is it related to 'untranscended technology'? Can we see ourselves and hear our voices in the new technocentric society? Can we distinguish the drop of water from the water of the drop? Can we establish external relations without developing internal relations? Would not globalization lead to sterile uniformity? This collection of essays is the second of a series of IGNCA publications on 'Culture and Development', based on papers presented at a Unesco-sponsored expert meeting on 'Integration of Endogenous Cultural Dimension into Development', held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi on 19-25 April 1995. These essays aim at:

(a) conceptualizing culture,

(b) planning cultural policies,

(c) challenging development infallibility,

(d) considering the cultural dimension, and

(e) building cultural models.

The present volume takes up some of the aspects of culture and development which were dealt with in the preceding volume, Interface of Cultural Identity and Development.

Both the volumes pose a long list of well-formulated questions. Questioning leads us to a state of perplexity, a very high state when something in us is awakened. We know that we do not know.

Conceptualizing Culture

Culture is a common word. Each culture defines itself in terms of its organic nature that distinguishes it from other cultures: Technical definitions, provided by philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and culturologists are numerous. Many of these academic definitions, which use the instrument of logos, are standardized models of the mind. The self-definition of a culture, which approaches mythos, is a moral message already integrated into society. The modern tendency is to reduce mythos to logos. The concern of this volume is to define culture in relation to development.

Unesco defines culture as a set of distinctive spiritual and material, intellectual and emotional characteristics which define a society or social group. In addition to the arts and letters, it encompasses ways of life, the fundamental rights of the person, value systems, traditions and beliefs (1982 Mexico Conference).

The importance of this definition lies in its globality, but it has certain limitations. It does not take into account the various manifestations of culture. Nor does it seem to offer an alternative. In fact, it is grounded in the Western world-view with subjective intention.

The authors of these essays have considered the various conceptions of culture at different levels of diversity. Their cultural backgrounds should have important consequences.

In the prologue, Francis Childe reinforces the Unesco definition from another angle. As is evident in the philosophical understanding, culture represents our whole system of values, those conscious and explicit as well as those that are unconscious and implicit.

We might go further still and lay stress on the multiplicity of perspectives on culture. S.C. Malik points out the error in anthropological-ethnographic knowledge:

‘There is an inherent unidimensionality and linearity in the domain of objective rationality which blocks out experience (subjective and intuition). Understanding culture is not about information categories, it is a learning process that can only come in experiencing, and hence the linking of the inside experiencing world and the outside analytical one is crucial.’

Defining culture is terms of ‘man in nature’, Baidyanath Saraswati constructs fivefold conceptual types, namely ‘dreamtime culture’, "cosmocentric culture’, ‘theocentric culture’, ‘anthropocentric culture’ and ‘technocentric culture’. Of these, the first three types maintain that life and culture originate dependently in the total context of divine nature which is changing and yet not changing. The other two types form a built environment disconnected with nature. Here the system of man and the system of machine are in conflict. Defined in this way the primacy of an essentialist conception of culture lies in its ‘focus’ rather than in its context. P.K. Misra takes the idea of cultural focus further when he writes that ‘each culture is, in a way, unique. In the process of its growth it develops its own emphases’.

Minoru Kasai touches upon a crucial problem that could easily be the starting point for understanding culture in relation to development. He deals with it systematically: ‘Tradition as culture,’ he writes, ‘has been used frequently as a simple contrast to development and as such has taken on almost a pejorative meaning. Traditionalism refers to a situation where one takes the past uncritically as a model for limitation. Thus, nothing new arises from tradition identified with traditionalism. This is a narrow and unhelpful understanding of tradition. Tradition in terms of cultural identity indicates the capacity of a society to maintain continuity, coherence and integrity, inspired and sustained by meaning. The slogan wakon- yoasi (Japanese spirit and Western science), which seems to show a rigid relationship between tradition and development and has inspired development in Japan, reveals a problematic and fatal condition of the modern world.’

New terms have been invented in other languages and cultures too, to take up the burden. Thailand, for instance, has coined wattana-dharma for culture, which, as Amara Raksasataya has mentioned, means ‘development, growth or evolution from an original state, things that make a group grow, a group’s way of life, order, harmonious progress of the country, and good moral standard of the people’. In India, the Hindu word sanskriti is used for culture, even though there is an inherent contradiction between the simple exegesis of sanskriti (from samskara, divine process of body cleansing) as the spiritual ordering of life and the conventional meaning of culture as man’s cultivation of material objects. The precariousness of interpreting an indigenous word to fit into the shoes of an alien conception of culture is quite obvious, but this is a common experience flowing from the existential interpretation of a given context.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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