Notes on Coronavirus and Shaheen Bagh, Association and Isolation
In December 2019, Shaheen Bagh became the site of an intense opposition to the newly amended Citizenship Amendment Act. It renewed the ‘communal question’—who is considered a citizen? In March 2020, another shattering event—the coronavirus pandemic. The time of isolation was upon us. These events sparked the need to rethink fundamental questions: What is a constitution? Can social life also be an isolated one? Why were some abandoned to the streets while we remained indoors during the lockdown? Does the ‘new normal’ immunise us to all encounters: politics, love, art?
Through this turbulence, Soumyabrata Choudhury, philosopher and teacher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, was making notes and sharing them with students. Choudhury asks if there can be social distancing in a society to which one does not belong. This diary traces the challenge posed by an incandescent and immortal association like Shaheen Bagh in the face of a dictatorship of mortals that rose with the pandemic.
Soumyabrata Choudhury teaches at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has authored several essays on ancient Greek liturgy, the staging of Ibsen, psychoanalysis, Nietzsche, Ambedkar, Phule, Schiller and Hegel. Choudhury is the author of Theatre, Number, Event: Three Studies on the Relationship between Sovereignty, Power and Truth (2013) and Ambedkar and Other Immortals: An Untouchable Research Programme (2018).
In the Media
“The viral blow shatters even this neatly divided Europeanist consciousness that translated itself historically between the two symmetrical, if mystical, blocs during the cold war.”—Read an excerpt from this book in The Philosophical Salon.
An excerpt from the book was published in Indian Cultural Forum.
An excerpt from the book was published in Scroll.in.
An excerpt from the book was published in The Wire.
An interview of Soumyabrata Choudhury conducted by Huzaifa Omair Siddiqi appeared in The Wire.
‘Lower the mask of new normalcy and expose yourself to the upsurge of thought inscribed in these pages’—Vaibhav Abnave, in his Foreword
‘May you find in this book the courage to live for the idea of a just world, in solidarity with strangers’—Shiraz Iqbal
‘This book embodies the life blood that emanated from the coronary artery of Shaheen Bagh’—Anu Ayyala
‘Choudhury’s is an effort to reinvent the force of thought—in it, force becomes thought’—Reyazul Haq
'Now It’s Come to Distances offers us an alliance of impossible utterances’—Soumick De
'Choudhury makes the great possibility of an association of strangers eminently thinkable’—Saket Kanetkar