New Delhi, India: Cosmopolitanism and Polymaths

Hey IndieVolunteers!

I just found out last night that I’ve been accepted to study abroad at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India this upcoming semester! It’s India’s top university, and New Delhi is the capital city. I’m currently studying Hindi and reading about India’s enormous cultural and linguistic diversity in preparation. I plan to take Linguistics, Anthropology, Political Science and Hindi courses. I also plan to do an internship, and will research NGOs in the upcoming months.

People have asked me, why India? Why now? Well, I’m interested in everything going on in the world. Things are more interconnected than ever before. I think that the problems in India and China as a result of rapid growth are important ones to learn about, because they will or do affect all developing countries. India is unique in that it’s the world’s largest democracy, extremely culturally diverse, and development is really very isolated to certain parts of the country. Another reason is that I’ve been fascinated by Indian culture since I was little. I used to read books about young girls, looked up pictures of the cultural festivals, and imagined the monsoon season described in countless folktakes and fairy tales. I became vegetarian when I was 12 and Indian food was the first “foreign” food that I decided to try as a result of my conversion. When I spent a summer studying in Oxford (that same summer that I turned vegetarian) I made a group of Indian friends and ate nothing but Indian buffet for my stay, as I heartily disliked traditional English food. I think that the Hindi language and Indian traditional dress/dance are beautiful. So for political, social, cultural, and aesthetic reasons, I’m going to India. I was supposed to go to Paris this semester, but I changed my mind at the last minute and I think that I’ll learn and grow a lot more in New Delhi.

I will leave you all with two ideologies/lifestyles that I believe in and embody my vision for myself and my future.

Quoted from Wikipedia, Cosmopolitanism is the ideology that all human ethnic groups belong to a single community based on a sharedmorality. This is contrasted with communitarian and particularistic theories, especially the ideas of patriotism andnationalism.[citation needed] Cosmopolitanism may entail some sort of world government or it may simply refer to more inclusive moral, economic, and/or political relationships between nations or individuals of different nations. A person who adheres to the idea of cosmopolitanism in any of its forms is called cosmopolite.

The cosmopolitan community might be based on an inclusive morality, a shared economic relationship, or a political structure that encompasses different nations. In its more positive versions, the cosmopolitan community is one in which individuals from different places (e.g nation-states) form relationships of mutual respect. As an example, Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests the possibility of a cosmopolitan community in which individuals from varying locations (physical, economic, etc.) enter relationships of mutual respect despite their differing beliefs (religious, political, etc.).

The second is the concept of a “Polymath”. For a long time, I have resisted academic specialization. I find that I am interested in everything. I couldn’t graduate without a major though, and chose Anthropology because it encompassed everything. Or so I thought. The truth is is that academic in-fighting has truly created barriers between disciplines within academic institutions. Today, I am happy to see some people fighting that trend. I realized what I strive to be is a “polymath”, or (from Wiki) a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable. Most ancient scientists were polymaths by today’s standards.[2]

The common term Renaissance man is used to describe a person who is well educated or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields.[3] The concept emerged from the numerous great thinkers of that era who excelled in multiple fields of the arts and science, including Leonardo da VinciMichelangeloGalileo GalileiCopernicus and Francis Bacon; the emergence of these thinkers was likewise attributed to the then rising notion in Renaissance Italy expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472): that “a man can do all things if he will.” It embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance humanism, which considered humans empowered, limitless in their capacities for development, and led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible. Thus the gifted people of the Renaissance sought to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, in physical development, in social accomplishments, and in the arts. The term has since expanded from original usage and has been applied to other great thinkers before and after the Renaissance such as AristotleJohann Goethe, and Isaac Newton.

Happy Indie Thinking and Volunteering!



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