Jamia Millia Islamia’s (JMI) department of English organised the sixteenth lecture of the Distinguished Lecture Series, “On the Idea of the Humanities”, by Henry Jenkins virtually, attended by scholars, students and faculty from all over the world and across various time zones.
Jenkins is Provost’s professor of Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Arts and Education at the University of Southern California, and the founder and former co-director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Programme. His lecture was on “Flying Cars and Bigots: Projecting the Post-Covid World Through the Atlas of the Civic Imagination”.
The lecture session was held through Zoom on January 28 and was also live streamed on YouTube. The welcome address was given by Simi Malhotra, head of JMI’s English department, and the session was chaired by the English department’s PhD scholars Zahra Rizvi, Shraddha A Singh and Suman Bhagchandani.
The talk was organized as part of the ongoing academic collaboration with the department of English and American Studies, University of Würzburg, Germany, supported by the Union ministry of education’s Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC). The session promises to be one in a line of successively pertinent lectures.
Malhotra spoke about the talk as a part of the ongoing collaborative project between JMI and University of Würzburg on “New Terrains of Consciousness: Globalization, Sensory Environments and Local Cultures of Knowledge”, supported by SPARC, which aims to facilitate academic and research collaboration between higher education institutes in India and abroad.
Through his lecture, Jenkins emphasized on the importance of civic imagination in the post-pandemic period, when politics was encroaching on civic structures across the world. He defined civic imagination as the capacity to imagine oneself as a civic agent who is capable of making change; for the same, it was important for oneself to primarily imagine this very process of change, imagine oneself as a participant in the said process, and also imagine oneself as part of a community with shared interests who is invested in this change.
According to Jenkins, one of the central ways in which this could be achieved was through critical and creative engagement with popular culture and participatory cultures of people’s everyday lives, which was subsequently discussed in detail. The talk also presented the various outcomes of workshops on civic imagination conducted by Jenkins and his research team across nations.
The lecture was followed by a question and answer session coordinated by another PhD scholar from JMI’s English department, Ann Susan Aleyas.