have to writers care who sponsors the literary activities they’re invited to? Is the question of sponsorshipsimply a minor element, an irritant that derails the larger dreams of free speech? Or is it some thing thatneeds to be considered in the wider realm of freedoms as such, in which speech is merely one in all its manifestations?
The protests towards Vedanta’s sponsorship of Jaipur Literary pageant Southbank remaining weekend havespread out this key debate. For writers, these questions boil right down to a private quandary that desiresto be resolved every now and again. Ruth Padel, the British poet and novelist who attended the Southbankoccasion, posed it as following, while speakme to The parent.
“Sponsorship, and its ability taint, is a global issue,” she stated. “Do you pull out or communicate out? Boycott, or undergo witness?”
Given Padel’s long dedication to environmental worries and her literary curiosity approximately the relationship between nature and the human, the disclosure of Vedanta’s sponsorship of JLF Southbankought to be deeply conflicting.
Vedanta is a worldwide mining business enterprise with a reputedly annoying tune report of environmental harm and human rights violations in the regions in which it operates. The harm is criticalenough for some economic buyers to have pulled out of the enterprise altogether. Padel selected to waitdespite her preliminary horror and surprise on finding out the JLF-Vedanta connection. She writes that shedetermined to use the event to talk out.
The complex workings of sponsorships
The query of sponsorship is at the heart of this debate. Sponsorship is normally taken to be a presentbestowed via a benevolent consumer upon a designated man or woman, occasion or reason. The language of hospitality, of giving and receiving, and of hosts and guests displaces the language of economiccontracts that advertising in any other case deploys.
yet, sponsorship remains a form of advertising – in truth, a more potent shape, because it allows an intimate courting than mere economic contracts can ever harvest. So who is giving and to whom? And whatexactly is being exchanged right here within the clothing of hospitality and present? this is where theseemingly contradictory logic of sponsorship comes into play. And this is where the messy materiality of thehighbrow corporation is discovered too.
What Vedanta, a organization combating accusations that it lacks integrity, desires most is to share areawith folks that possess integrity. that is how advertising and marketing works – frequently, film stars whopropose perfumed soaps want now not say a phrase. All they ought to do is be framed in the samephotographic moment – film superstar and the soap unified in one photograph. The photograph tells thevisitors that the big name fine is now shared through the cleaning soap too.
This opportunity of unlikely connections is what JLF Southbank enables Vedanta by accepting its sponsorship. Vedanta can now mine the integrity and popularity of its visitors and benefactors. it may ownwhat it sorely lacks. The gift, then, on this equation, isn’t what Vedanta is giving, but what writers are givingthrough their mere presence.
The untold tales
This brings us again to Padel’s question – boycott, or undergo witness? The writers can choose to rationalise their presence at an event as an act of bearing witness, of seeing and telling the arena ofaccidents, injustices and wounds inflicted upon the humankind.
but in this situation, the perception of bearing witness seems to be an afterthought. Vedanta and thewarfare of the adivasis in Niyamgiri turned into now not on the schedule. Discussions at the event had been now not about the allegedly unethical practices of Vedanta, but, as an instance, about the shape of reparation that the British Empire would possibly owe its former colony.
The Twitter feed #JLFSouthbank become now not plagued by tweets about the protests. If at all, the protesters figured as unwelcome disturbances that had been ruining the festive atmosphere. We were toldthat the protesters were disruptive. a few writers even interpreted the protesters’ refusal to have interactionin speak as their failure to make their case. but, it is exactly via their refusal to celebrate literature and writing that changed into at odds with its materiality that the protesters were able to venture the logic of sponsorship.
So, may we ask the writers to pay attention, to pause their storytelling for a moment, and take note of what they take as noise round them? perhaps those stories will go away a mark greater than what any dialogueat a literary event may want to ever do. The refusal to just accept the hospitality of a doubtful sponsor, assome participants did, is itself a powerful shape of storytelling and a shape of bearing witness, worthy of experimentation.
Ravinder Kaur is a historian currently operating on the history of financial reforms in India.