In conversation with Sahana Rajan (Lecturer, Jindal Global Business School)
Dr Srajana Kaikini's work spans across curatorial, artistic and philosophical domains. She received her PhD in Philosophy from Manipal Centre for Humanities, and has a Masters in Arts and Aesthetic from JNU. She was at de Appel Art Centre’s Curatorial Programme in 2012-13, is the recipient of 2013 FICA Research Fellowship and was Curator at KK Hebbar Gallery and Arts Centre (2015-2019) at Manipal. Some of her recent curatorial projects include Searching for the Present, Where? Being-Becoming in Akbar Padamsee’s Figurations (1995 – 2006) at the Guild, Mumbai (2021), Backstage of Biology (2019), at Archives at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Mukhaputa (2017) at the KK Hebbar Gallery and Arts Centre and Vectors of Kinship (2016) at the 11th Shanghai Biennale. She has been resident artist-curator at the Delfina Foundation, London and the International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York and is a regular contributor to writing platforms on philosophy, arts and aesthetics. Her academic writing has been published in journals such as Ethical Perspectives, Voices in Bioethics, Deleuze and Guattari Studies, Kunstlicht, Journal for Cancer Research and Therapeutics amidst others. She is on the Editorial Boards of SciPhiWeb Repository of Reflections on Science, Philosophy and Gaming and Barefoot Philosophers and member of the Bioethics Forum - Collaborative for Palliative Care at Columbia University. She is currently working on her forthcoming book Philosophy of Curation (Routledge) and teaches as Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences at Krea University, India.
Sahana: Lets start this conversation by knowing your research interests
Srajana: I am interested in philosophy as a creative practice. As an artist-philosopher, it is extremely exciting to dive into the work of philosophy through practice, be it in my curatorial work, in my studio practice or by way of writing and teaching. This also means having a keen commitment to being inconspicuously soaked in philosophy while engaging with the world. Implicit and the ineffable registers of experience haunt my philosophical enquiry. I am curious about the ways in which relationalities emerge. The disciplinary probes then develop in service of this keenness. Aesthetics and Metaphysics are my core areas if one looks for #keywords. Philosophy for me is my practice. For more details on my work, one may find sufficient information on internet repositories.
Please provide a brief biography of yourself
I grew up in Bombay, a city that shapes my childhood and later in Bangalore. For the past decade, I have been mostly nomadic - from New Delhi to Amsterdam to London to Manipal to Bangalore and now to Pulicat - each place has given me so much. Two places that hold a special place for me are Suriname and Japan. A moment I recall in recent past, is when I touched a viking rune etched on a parapet of Hagia Sophia. For this context, I’d like to stick to this sparsed out geo-biography.
What has been your experience of studying and being part of academic philosophy in India?
I came to philosophy out of a personal necessity - to engage with certain concepts that haunted me - these were questions about my practice that I wanted to think through and wanted to learn from my teacher. The term academia does not hold much of an importance to me in qualifying my philosophical belonging. I was first introduced to philosophy during my Masters in JNU through my teachers who were scholars as well as artists. Art has always been part of the lived atmosphere at home. The experience of studying philosophy is mostly one of auto-didactism - even when one is taught by a teacher, the teacher’s success is in teaching the student how to teach herself. I was grateful for all my teachers who have made philosophy meaningful and lovable for me. I am grateful to continue learning from my teachers and peers, the barefoot philosophers. I consider this an ongoing process. I prefer not to dwell too much on what I am part of and what I am not.
Could you share your reflections on philosophy as a discipline in India? How do you foresee the development of the discipline?
The discipline of philosophy in India needs more affirmative attention - keeping in mind the place of philosophy for its people. There is a necessity for a way of engaging with concepts, contexts and their ideas, and to have meaningful dialogues, discussions and debates addressing questions that matter to you, me, the various kinds of ‘us’ that we inhabit or long for. As with any other discipline, when philosophers concern themselves with the work that can be done by philosophy, the discipline becomes self-sustainable.
What kind of career path in philosophy are you interested in, or you think are available in philosophy in India?
As an artist-philosopher I consider myself as a creative practitioner of philosophy. I curate, I sing, I make art, I write, I teach, I walk by way of doing philosophy. Philosophers are potentially everywhere around us. They are the policy-makers, the advisors, the mediators, the listeners, the poets, the storytellers, the caregivers, the gardeners, the carpenters, the bus drivers. I resist becoming a salesperson for the discipline, precisely because it does not need selling.