Postcolonial and Posthuman World-Making: Introducing Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies (ACTS)


In this episode we speak with East-West Psychology chair Debashish Banerji to discuss the foundations of a new concentration in the EWP department titled Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies (ACTS). Debashish shares his vision of a postcolonial pedagogy in which to ground this discourse, and we discuss how this concentration can situate academic and creative approaches to posthuman world-making. He shares the importance of understanding Asian contemplative traditions in critical relationships to the forces of western globalization and neoliberal capitalism which overdetermine Asian cultures through unconscious structures such as orientalist essentialization, reduction, and projection. Debashish illustrates this idea by describing how a western understanding of Yoga asana within the holistic health and well-being culture industry has been largely appropriated, co-oped by capital, and deterritorialized from its historical roots in which Indian yogasana was initially a micro-political praxis of subjective freedom and self-making based on the goals of anti-colonialist struggles. We ask how the potentials and traces of previous cultural renaissances and revolutions can productively aid in an aspiration to build a new posthuman habitus while avoiding the dangers of being folded back into dependance upon regimes of capital. Debashish speaks of the importance of the arts in ACTS, and shares how the arts can provide affective experiences which can open one to new liminal languages and performative and experimental concepts which can aid in psycho-cosmological world-making.

Debashish Banerji is the Haridas Chaudhuri Professor of Indian Philosophies and Cultures and the Doshi Professor of Asian Art at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He is also the Program Chair for the East-West Psychology department. Prior to CIIS, he served as Professor of Indian Studies and Dean of Academics at the University of Philosophical Research, Los Angeles. He has taught as adjunct faculty at the Pasadena City College, University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, Irvine. His interests lie in postmodern, postcolonial and cross-cultural approaches to Indian philosophy, psychology and culture. Banerji has curated close to fifteen exhibitions of Indian and Japanese art. He has authored and edited around ten books and art catalogs on major figures of "the Bengal Renaissance" such as the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, the artist Abanindranath Tagore and the spiritual thinker Sri Aurobindo; on Critical Posthumanism, Yoga Psychology and on a variety of creative and art-related projects. His most recent books are Integral Yoga Psychology: Metaphysics and Transformation as Taught by Sri Aurobindo (Lotus Press, 2020) and Meditations on the Isha Upanishad: Tracing the Philosophical Vision of Sri Aurobindo (Sri Aurobindo Samity and Maha Bodhi Publishers, 2019), and Seven Quartets of Becoming: A Transformative Yoga Psychology based on the Diaries of Sri Aurobindo (DK Printworld, 2012).

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Produced by: Stephen Julich and Jonathan Kay

Edited and Mixed by: Jonathan Kay

Introduction music: Mosaic, by Monsoon on the album Mandala

Music at the end of the episode: Prologue: The Symbols Dawn & Canto One: Sages Creation, from the album Experiments of Truth, by Kayos Theory

Introduction Voiceover: Roche Wadehra

Your Host

Stephen Julich and Jonathan Kay

Stephen Julich has worked as an adjunct instructor in History and Anthropology at the City College of New York, as a lecturer in Jungian Studies at the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles, and as an adjunct instructor at the California Institute of Integral Studies where he has taught classes on ensouled writing and Western Esotericism.

Jonathan Kay is a professional musician, and is currently a PhD student in the department of East-West Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco under the mentorship of Dr. Debashish Banerji.

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