Beyond the Fences

Theories, classical or contemporary, have always been a weak point for most of us, students. To a certain extent, even I have a certain anxiety towards sociological theories; however I would be lying if I say that I dread theories. In my four years as a student of Sociology, I have developed certain kind of affinity towards theories. Something about the theories, not all of them however, have always enchanted me, made me more curious about my surroundings, most importantly they have helped me grow as a person. So, in all honestly, theories have never been monstrous to me, unlike (yes of course) Mathematics!
So we, the students of the Department of Sociology, South Asian University, New Delhi, decided to organise a Panel Discussion based on the theme of Theoretical Imagination: It’s Challenges and Possibilities. The impetus of organising such a panel discussion was to face the issues concerning theories, which we readers come across very often. Professor Abhijit Pathak and Professor Edward Rodrigues were the invited panellists from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
As expected such a panel discussion proved to be extremely helpful and effective, in the sense that it scrutinised many of our approaches towards theories and abetted us to alter it and improve it in many ways. The discussion unbolted a few locked doors in our minds and exposed us to a few unorthodox ways of approaching theories. By applying these theories, that we learn, in an unconventional manner to our everyday reality, we actually absorb these theories better than by just studying them only before exams. It essentially helps us understanding them better which in turn help in developing our critical ability, because only when we understand the concepts completely, we can apply them to our individual context. That is how we actually practice these theories and also can relate to them more efficiently.
However the importance of textual information can hardly be undermined here. Even though looking at theories in an unorthodox fashion helps us in comprehending them in a better way, the truth is that we can learn about the concepts and also learn what the thinkers essentially wanted to express only when we read the text. Without the text we would not even know about the concepts, the arguments that a theorist is actually trying to put across. So by ignoring the texts we are losing out on the substantial points and arguments which thereby could be used to apply to individual context in order to test the genuineness and validity of such theories.
So contextual clarity of a particular theory can only come when we apply them to certain contexts which can happen only when we have a clear idea of the concepts that could only be acquired through the texts. In other words our cognitive capability of Theoretical Imagination could be developed and fostered with the help of both textual evidence and creative aptitude to look beyond such theories.

Debjani Chakraborty


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