In the last couple of decades, Nature, more specially, environment has not only been the center of academic and industrial research, but also has made way into human consciousness. Environment no longer remains a term with scientific connotation, but has acquired significant position in humanities and social sciences research. When scientific inventions have failed to offer any effective solution to curb spiralling environmental problems through its technological methods, Humanities, especially literature and philosophy have located the roots of such problems in human consciousness and socio-cultural system. Thus fields of humanities attempt to reengineer such systems by edifying human consciousness with an objective to bring about permanent solution to such problems. So, it is now a necessity to re-examine nature oriented literature that has the potential to redirect our minds and imagination from ‘ego-consciousness’ and ‘ethno-consciousness’ to ‘eco-consciousness’. We need to study the literature which questions Western ideologies, which have created binaries that separate men from women, mind from matter, humanity from nature. This 10th National conference on Nature, Culture, Language, and Literature: Narratives and Critical Practices investigated the ways literature explores the depth of nature-culture relations and tried to find new avenues to establish paradigms of ‘new consciousness by examining the practices and representations in the long tradition of literature ranging from the pre-historic to the postmodern time.
The conference began on 16th April 2018 forenoon with an invocation and lighting of lamp. The inaugural function was graced by the Vice-Chancellor of SRMIST, Dr. SandeepSancheti, Registrar, Dr. N. Sethuraman, Pro Vice-Chancellor, EFL University, Hyderabad,Prof. Kilash Chandra Baral, Convenor of the Conference, Prof. K Anbzhaghan and other dignitaries from other institutions. The inaugural was presided by Dr. Sancheti. Dr. K. Anbazhagan welcomed the gathering and presented a synoptic view of the conference. The special address was delivered by the Registrar, and it was followed by the address of the Chief Guest. The Chief Guest Dr. Baral highlighted the continuity of the connect between nature and culture in the Indian tradition. He invoked the Puranic literature to create a new consciousness in which we can understand the cosmic equation of human nature relations. He further emphasised on the logic of our age old practices that are in consonance with nature and on the need for conjoining the metanarratives with minor narratives for the demolition of polar oppositions. The Inaugural came to an end at 11.30 am with the Vote of Thanks by Dr. B. Cauveri.
The key note of the conference was set by Dr. Rayson K. Alex, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, BITS Pilani, Goa. He focused on the politics of identity, eco-ethical practices and environmental conservation and how the belief system of indigenous Indians help in protecting the natural environment despite all changes brought about by techno-science. Although technological advancement is undeniable, yet technology must not interfere with the conventions and create knowledge systems which make people sceptical about their traditional practices.
The Keynote address was followed by a Plenary Address by Dr. Padma V Mckertich, from the Department of English, Stella Maris College, Chennai. Her topic of presentation was “From Peninsula: Literary Studies and Ecology in India”. She offered an overview of how and in what historical context the idea of environment and ecology entered into Indian creative and critical consciousness. The plenary was followed by a session of paper presentation. Fifteen participants presented their innovative thoughts, ideas, postulations and theories during this session. The session was quite interactive and many ideas emerged from the scholarly discussions and discourses.
The second day of the conference, 17th April 2018, began with the plenary address titled “Bringing Nature into English Classroom: Using Eco-literature for LSRW Activities” by Dr. T Murugavel. In the course of his presentation, Dr Murugavel focused on how to sensitise young minds about the environmental conditions by teaching them literature concerning environment and ecology. He further emphasised on teaching English language through literature, wherein environmental literature necessarily plays pivotal role. He also talked about offering learners a first-hand experience of nature to develop their creative consciousness. It was followed by two sessions of paper presentations by researchers, faculty members, students and subject experts. The sessions were profoundly vibrant. And the final plenary was addressed by Mr. Padmanabhan Oppili, Senior Journalist and environmental Editor of The Times of India, Chennai. His speech focused on the use of plain and simple English by the media in representing and taking environmental issues to the common man. He also illustrated how such representations conspire to affect readers, NGOs, Government, and policy makers at both local and global level.
Towards the end of the second day, the Undergraduate and Post-graduate students of the Department of English and Foreign Languages staged a few cultural programmes, which won the appreciation of the audience. That was followed by the Valedictory Function. Dr. Narayana Jena, the Conference Coordinator presented a report on the events that took place during the conference. The Valedictory Address was given by Dr. Girish Kunjuraman, Deputy Dean and Vice principal, SRM Medical College and Research Centre. He viewed environment as a living system and as a necessity for all living beings, and highlighted the importance of living in harmony with nature. He said that human beings are a part of nature, and in the course of destroying it, they are destroying themselves. He convincingly argued that the protection of nature entails the protection of humanity. The function ended with the Vote of Thanks by Dr. Uma Maheswari. And the conference successfully came to an end with the national anthem and a cheerful hope for other such successful events in future.
Report Prepared by Dr. Narayan Jena, Conference Coordinator, Assistant Professor, Department of English and Foreign Languages, SRMIST, Chennai and Dr. B. Cauveri, Assistant Professor, Department of English and Foreign Languages, SRMIST, Chennai.