Building a pedagogy around action and emotion: experiences of Blind Opera of Kolkata
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Contemporary knowledge systems have given too much importance to visual symbols, the written word for instance, as the repository of knowledge. The primacy of the written word and the representational world built around it is, however, under debate—especially from recent insights derived from cognitive science that seeks to bring back action, intent and emotion within the core of cognitive science (Freeman and Nunez in J Consciousness Stud 6(11/12), 1999). It is being argued that other sensory experiences, apart from the visual, along with desires (or intent) and emotions—like pain, pleasure, sorrow or joy—constitute equally important building blocks that shape an individual’s cognition of the world around. This multi-sensory cognition colored by emotions inspire action and hence is valid knowledge. This is probably nowhere more apparent than in the world of the visually impaired. Deprived of visual sensory capability, they have to perforce depend on other senses. But the dominant discourse in wider society plays a major role in determining what they (the blind) can do. A society built around visual symbols and the written word underplays other elements of cognition and in the process undervalues them. This also gets reflected in the construction of social artifacts of various kinds, such as the educational certification system (The Braille system is an attempt to make the written world accessible to the blind through tactile signals—so that words are ‘felt’ and ‘read.’ But it is quite cumbersome. For instance, even a blind highly skilled at writing in Braille would not be able to match the writing speed of an ordinary visually endowed literate person. Effective and efficient computer-based voice–text–voice converters might solve this problem better.)-based primarily on skills over the written word. Linguistic ability becomes most valuable and at another level the written word gets salience over the spoken word. The blind hardly has a chance, therefore, except through concessions or piety. A practice built around the imagery of an empowered blind person, therefore, must depart from mainstream conceptualization—for power is derived from what one has rather than from what one lacks. It must begin by tapping and valorizing one’s own endowments. This paper is an attempt to identify such a departure based on the experience of Blind Opera—a theatre group of the blind working in Kolkata, India. It seeks to provide an exposition in written word of an experience that can only be partially captured within the confines of a text. It is an incomplete account, therefore, and may be taken as an attempt to reach out and seek an exchange of experiences and insights.
KeywordsBlind Opera Knowledge systems Contemporary education system Pedagogy Cognition Body language Emotional memory games Skill formation Action and emotion
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