A UT associate professor helped establish the first academic research unit dedicated to the ideas and works of American philosopher John Dewey in India earlier this month.
Scott Stroud, a communication studies associate professor, and Vijay Khare, a professor at Savitribai Phule Pune University, established the Center for Dewey Studies, which is located within the Department of Ambedkar Studies at Savitribai Phule Pune University. There are various Dewey centers around the globe, but they are not formally connected. Khare will function as the founding director.
“In the course of my research on the story of John Dewey and his student, Bhimrao Ambedkar, I realized the deep affinity and connection between Dewey and the still-developing democracy of India,” Stroud said. “Given that India’s constitution was orchestrated by Ambedkar, it seems appropriate that an academic center is established in this democracy.”
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Dewey was a prominent American intellectual figure during the first half of the 20th century. His work and theories in philosophy, education and democracy influenced his student Ambedkar, who was an Indian philosopher and prominent figure of the anti-caste movement and helped to draft India’s democratic constitution, according to a Savitribai Phule Pune University press release about the center.
Stroud said the message of the Center for Dewey Studies is simple: increase research on Dewey’s works and those influenced by him in the Indian context.
“The collaboration (with the University) is largely through faculty initiatives at this time,” Stroud said. “I hope to help organize future events and courses of study with the Center as its founding international adviser and to help promote its activities to American academic communities.”
Stroud said the John Dewey Society donated 38 volumes of Dewey’s collected works to the new center. The society is dedicated to discussing and providing resources for the research of Dewey studies, according to the society’s website.
“We are delighted to work together to help establish this center,” said Sarah Stitzlein, president of the John Dewey Society. “We worked directly with Scott Stroud, who completed most of the work to establish the center and to deliver the books the John Dewey Society provided to it.”
Software company Intelex Corporation also agreed to grant the center access to an electronic edition of Dewey’s collected works.
Communications graduate student Justin Pehoski said it is interesting that centers for Dewey are spreading around the world.
“(India is) the largest democracy in the world, and there’s lots of change, growth and development happening there,” Pehoski said. “Having a John Dewey center there makes a lot of connections between people or ideas.”
Stroud said he hopes to establish more centers across India to introduce Dewey’s writings to more of the country.
“The American political scene of Dewey’s day held similar challenges of polarization and deep animosity,” Stroud said. “Establishing a Center for John Dewey Studies in Pune represents a step toward increasing India’s reflection on the promises and challenges of (a) democratic community.”