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Dr. Gautam Chakrabarti

Gautam Chakrabarti

Freie Universitaet Berlin/Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet München

Gautam Chakrabarti is a Researcher with an ERC-Sub-Project on “Theatre Artists from Postcolonial India in the Eastern Bloc, 1950-80,” in the Centre for Global Theatre History, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. He is also an Assistant Lecturer in "Berlin and German Studies" at the Freie Universität Berlin (FUB). He has, previously, taught South Asian Studies at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and English and Comparative Literature at the FUB, where he was a Dahlem Research School HONORS Postdoctoral Fellow (2014-15) with the project “'Non-Committal Involvements': Literary Detectives and Cold Warriors across Eurasia." He was, in 2016, a Global Humanities Junior Research and Teaching Fellow at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His primary research interests are in comparative literary-cultural history and world literature.

"Causation... in the Other Direction": Buddhist and Other Indic Discourses of (Co)Dependent Origination

As David P. Barash writes, in his thought-provoking book Buddhist Biology (New York: Oxford U P, 2014), “causation [can proceed] in the other direction, too.” One of the imitations of what has come to be called the “scientific method” – a phrase that started being widely used in the 19th century and achieved almost cultic status in the 20th – is its methodological insistence on “reduc[ing] things to their simplest components.” (Barash 2014: 85) Although the truth-claims of the universal scientific method have been problematized by scholars and thinkers like Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, there exists, within the natural sciences, “the instrument of the test” as the sine qua non of knowledge-production. One might argue that it is this – more often than readily acknowledged – reductionist centrality and indispensability of controlled and localized testing that accords the ‘hard’ natural sciences their discursive dominance over the humanities. However, it also makes the former rather dismissive of holistic cognitive praxes, such as those characteristic to Buddhist and other Indic discourses of causation. This teaching-session seeks to present the Buddhist conceptualization of pratitya-samutpāda or (co)dependent origination/causation as not only a mainstay of Buddhist and other Indic discursive frameworks, but also a possible bridge between the natural sciences and the humanities. Given the urgency of ecological concerns in these times and the emergence of Environmental Humanities as one of the foremost interdisciplinary academic fields, a meeting – as mentioned in Barash’s ambitious sub-title – of “Ancient Eastern Wisdom [and] Modern Western Science” may be a tenable, even required way forward.