Studying or Doing Theory?

Israt Farzana Tanni

Once a man somehow got familiar with the term ‘Theory’ and he decided to examine his surroundings through the lenses of theory. He planned to discover theory by himself. He selects one suitable day to observe the implication of social theorist Marx’s observation about class exploitation and class struggle. He even chooses a site ‘a garment factory’ for his field of enquiry. That day he went out from his home with excitement to explore something new. He rode a bus and intentionally ignoring the event surrounding him and picked out his gadget called ‘mobile’ and by using the internet he tried to communicate himself with the larger community through social networking sites. The mischief is that he failed to communicate with the man sitting behind him as he was unaware of the fact that our surrounding is the main catalyst of ‘The Theory”. He could have found theory everywhere, if he looked at the bus driver he can see driver’s position may be a projection of an alienated being who is deprived of the rights to think about his destiny because the nature of his job makes him busy and expect him to be aware on focusing the road, even if he looked at the bus conductor he can see that the man most of the time quarrelling with passenger to collect his scheduled fare projecting class struggle. Even if the ‘wise’ man look upon himself he can see ‘Homo deux’ the dual man within one, on the one hand he is an individualist, careless about surrounding on the other hand trying to be social by maintaining virtual social network. Finally the man went to the factory and came to know with disappointment that factory is closed today as the entire workers unit went for a ‘Picnic’ that Day!!!

 

Moral of the story is – one should revisit surroundings, to widen the view and to acquire knowledge from every moment of life.

Tale of social evolution is very tempting that society transcends by rejecting one phase and moving to another. Thus it transforms from primitive to Asiatic to feudal then capitalist. Struggle between several classes was existed very before than Marx named it as a class struggle. Weber will define class on the basis of life chances that create different scope for different class or Durkheim would say class will create social solidarity. Task of the practitioner of sociology is to grab the best from theory and create own perspectives. Most of the grand theories of enlightenment era were ethnocentric which is highly based on theoretician’s own interpretation of their surrounding that addressed their social issues and most of them are written on European perspective. Even writing on non-western society is also debated because of their orientalist point of view that based on comparing non-western world with the western. The question would be raised what to do then? My response would be we can reproduce theory by contextualizing it with our own surroundings.

Here I would like to share one experience which triggered my mind to “think through the theory”. It was a photography exhibition organized by our dept. of sociology. Our task was to speak out on behalf of Marx, Durkheim or Weber through photographs. Most interesting thing is, none of us was sure about how we will make it? How can one capture theory!!! Our respective mentor groomed us by giving us a simple direction that ‘Don’t think about caption just capture whatever strikes you’. If we set a caption first then we might lost a rare click because then our subconscious mind always try to capture those thing which goes with the theme, but if we put caption later then we can create maximum use of photographs. I found an answer myself that theory is everywhere and our task is to think beyond any preconceived notion. Every day we are learning certain new thing. When I have started reading theory I was afraid how I can internalize such thing which is only paper truth not practical, day by day I am acquiring the ‘technique’ to be comfortable with all those theories. I am feeling my sights are always open unless I fall asleep. My observation is that we are not studying theory we are doing theory.

 

I would like to conclude my thoughts with a favourite quote of mine by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay:

 

“The fault not lies with the vision but with the closed window”

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