A Plenary Session of the conference will be devoted to a close reading of The Last Brahmin (2007) by Rani Siva Sankara Sarma.
Can there be a people without religion? Can there be cultural heritages with neither textual nor anthropomorphic centre points? How to configure inheritances in cultural traditions that faced colonialism? Can one think of a tradition outside the pervasive frame of (Christian) European heritage? The one singular work that enables one to address such questions in the Indian context is The Last Brahmin (2007). The Last Brahmin is a reflective intellectual (auto) biography of a Sanskrit Pandit of contemporary times. Written in Telugu by a schoolteacher of Sanskrit, this work embodies an effort to grapple with the enigma of the Brahman tradition, its pervasive spread across periods, movements, forms, and examines its implications and stakes.
Given the fact that the entire conceptual heritage (of the humanities) we work with today is deeply implicated in “the barely secularized heritage of theology” (Derrida) of Europe, any attempt to reorient teaching and research in the humanities in the Indian context can draw on works (from across cultures) such as The Last Brahmin.
Rani Siva Sankara Sarma presently teaches Sanskrit at a Junior College in Andhra Pradesh. His literary work includes poetry, short stories, literary essays; he also wrote a poem in Sanskrit on the Ramayana. He also wrote collaborative hybrid poetry with Dalit writers. Some of his major works include Grahantaravasi, Purana Vedam, and Americanism.
The Last Brahmin was originally published in Telugu (Hyderabad: New Syllabus, 2002) and has later been translated as The Last Brahmin: Life and Reflections of a Modern-day Sanskrit Pandit, Rani Siva Sankara Sarma by D. Venkat Rao (Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2007 & (paperback) – 2012).