This is the classic Kerala ritual meal. The best Sadyas's have more than one payasam (pudding). Yummy!

This is the classic Kerala ritual meal. The best Sadyas’s have more than one payasam (pudding). Yummy!

David Kideckel: I am professor of Anthropology and Director of International Studies at Central Connecticut State University, and the organizer of the CCSUinKerala trip and blog. Though most of my research has been in Eastern Europe, I fell in love with India long before I first visited in 2004. Since 2005-2006 I have been engaged in research in Kerala state on political agitations and most recently on women’s self-help groups, the so-called Kudumbashree. My feelings about India are remarkably contradictory. The intensity and passion of people here never fail to amaze, but so too does some of the poverty and degradation. I wanted to bring my students to Kerala so that they might see for themselves the contradictions of this amazing place and learn how people are able to challenge their cultural conditions through commitment, organization, and study. I also want to thank my wife, Raluca Nahorniac, for her constant help and support both with this blog and with the trip generally.

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So, we are getting ready to depart for India on a two and one half week study tour of Kerala with a focus on “development” broadly writ. The description of the program can be found here:  <http://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=13886>.

In the days to follow the diverse members of our group will have opportunities to share their thoughts, concerns, frustrations, and joys with the experience of India and Kerala. I am confident that all will have an extraordinary time. They are very lucky to be going to India and Kerala with the program planned for them. We will see the state and its people first in the surface dimensions of most who visit. In that way, India and Kerala will certainly appear odd and strange, if not outrageous. Our group will be daunted by the traffic on MG Road in Trivandrum. With Congress and the UDF in power we will likely happen on  political agitations of various kinds…sit-downs, and marches, and hunger strikes of anti-god-men. Other qualities of India and Kerala are also likely to challenge people’s understanding of diverse cultures and their worth.

But at the same time I entertain a strong hope that the group will appreciate Kerala and Malayalis in and on their own terms, though that is always an uncertainty. The idea of anthropology is certainly a wonderful one; that people can understand other cultures with a fine and deep appreciation and can place the difficult and odd things of other ways of life in a context that enables some kind inter-cultural appreciation. Still, there is always the possibility that some may react otherwise. Though unlikely, they can always respond like an unnamed American politician who, when asked what he felt about other ways of life said something to the effect that he “had only been outside the USA twice, didn’t like it, and found other people strange and unreasonable.”

I doubt that will happen, but one never knows. So, with that said, it is on to Kerala and the wonderful, sensual, challenging questions and thoughts to follow.

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