The Centre’s purpose is to provide a forum in which to raise and address questions to do with both creative practice and critical argument. The convergence of creativity with thought has a history that’s central to literature and the arts. Some of the most influential criticism across cultures was written by writers and artists, and creativity itself was a powerful form of thinking. Today, this lineage is generally ignored – by literature departments, creative writing workshops, publishers, and the media. It was to address this vacuum that Amit Chaudhuri, Professor of Creative Writing at Ashoka University from 2020 and, from 2006-2021, Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia, conceptualised the first symposium in ‘Literary Activism’ in December 2014 in Calcutta, in partnership with the University of East Anglia and Presidency and Jadavpur Universities. This was called an ‘important symposium’ by the Times Literary Supplement, and six more symposia have since taken place, with institutional partnerships in different parts of the world, including The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and the Columbia Institute of Ideas and Imagination, Paris. Ashoka University, since 2018, has been the lead partner and host of the annual international symposia. It also supports the website edited by Professor Chaudhuri, literaryactivism.com.
In bringing together novelists, poets, translators, artists, scholars, filmmakers, journalists and publishers with different traditions and histories from all over the world, the Centre will foster intercultural and ‘extra-disciplinary’ discussions about creative practice in ways that have become impossible in more professionalised settings, such as the academic conference, or in more market-driven ones, such as the literary festival. The highly-regarded symposia and website will continue to be an important part of the Centre’s activities. So will new courses, talks, and events.