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Overture

 

M. Nadarajah (or in short called ‘Nat’ or ‘Nada’) started his work life journey around the early 1980s in the squatters of Chennai (India) and later in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur). Since then, he has worked over the last 42 odd years in many capacities and positions (paid and voluntary), in many national and international organizations and institutions and in many multi-faceted and inter-connected projects and initiatives. It has been a diverse and rich ‘learning journey’.

His journey started with the movement away from interest in just pure sciences to ‘the social’, to ‘social work’, to ‘culture’ and to the world of communication and the media. They form the core of his continuing concerns, research and civic engagement.

In the past 42 odds years, he has been involved in a wide range of areas covering: consumerism, environmentalism, media-ted realities and critical media education, philanthropy, education (including pre-school), people-oriented educational product design development, institution building, software and portal development, process (ISO) development and management, project management observatory (PMO), organisational strategic planning, urbanism, agroecology, alternative healing traditions, inter-trans-faith initiatives, sustainability and spirituality.

 

Background

 

Nat is an Indian Malaysian by birth and citizenship. His parents hail from Tanjore and Trichy, South India. In addition to holding a Malaysian passport, he also has an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card.

Basic schooling was completed in Malaysia. He came to India in 1971 to pursue university education – B.Sc. (New College, Madras University), MA in Social Work (Madras School of Social Work, Madras University; incomplete) and Ph.D. in Sociology (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi).

 

Some Accomplishments

 

Doctoral Thesis: In 1999, Nat published his doctoral thesis as Culture, Gender and Ecology: Beyond Workerism. The book argues for a non-workerist model of historical materialism, conceptually bringing gender, ecology and ethno-cultures into an active relationship with class (labour). In his doctoral dissertation, he explored the critical realities of human alienation, objectification, emancipation, everyday life, and hegemonic power. It was his aim to explore the possibility of creating a future where the conflicts between 'man and nature' and between 'man and man' are resolved. It is an important background to what he pursued in the subsequent years.

Documentaries: Though he has stopped now, over the years (1981 - 2007), Nat has produced a number of issue-based documentaries (mostly in India, but also in Malaysia) for various agencies and groups (including the Press Trust of India and Asianet): A Profile of Empowerment (on women's self-help and empowerment; Based on the work of a women's group in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, 1988), Killing Fields (on the impact of pesticides on Indian farming and food production and about alternatives such as organic farming, 1989; Shot all over India), A Nation Mortgaged (about IMF's Structural Adjustment Policy's impact on the economy and society in India, 1994; largely based on news footages at the library of PTI television division), Christianity in Mizoram (transaction between local Mizo culture and Baptist Christianity), 1997; produced by the Mizoram state government and shot over a month all over Mizoram), Sustainable Penang (exploring culture and sustainability in Penang, Malaysia, 2006), Lord's Prayer (a conversation between ‘man’ and God and shot on a steadicam as the conversation and the prayer proceeds; 2003), and A Path Among Trees (Journey through indigenous Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Japan, 2007; based on still images and used for reflection).

Sustainable Urbanisation: Nat has worked as one of the principal researchers for a sustainable urbanisation project with a Japanese institute (IICRC) in Kanazawa, Japan for three years (2000-2002). The project covered urban centres in Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Nepal. As a result of his involvement with this project, Nat co-edited a book entitled Urban Crisis: Culture and Sustainability of Cities. In the conclusion of the book, the edited volume offers a unique perspective on urbanism, the Kanazawa School of Urban Sustainability. The book covered issues on culture as well as spirituality and was published by the Tokyo-based United Nation University (UNU) Press in early 2007.

Critical Media Education: Nat was involved -- on a voluntary basis -- as executive secretary to the Asian Communication Network (ACN), which was based at St. John University, Bangkok. It was set up as an Asian inter-faith, inter-disciplinary initiative to create learning and sustainable communities through participatory and dialogical communication and formation programmes. Through ACN, he shared the meaning and practice of sustainability in many Catholic seminaries in Asia. As part of this involvement, he edited a publication entitled Pathways to Critical Media Education and Beyond (2003). The book puts together many Asian alternative pathways to counter-hegemonic media education initiatives.

 

Executive Director: In early 2000, Nat was appointed as executive director to a Kuala Lumpur-based public-listed company that worked on HR-related technologies. As part of this, he guided the discussion for the foundational features of a HR technological product (with a young team of developers). To address regulatory and compliance needs, he helped set up the ISO quality system and a project management office (PMO, a kind of observatory) to regulate and monitor a multi-projects environment.

Asian Public Intellectual Fellowship and Living Pathways: In 2005, Nat was awarded the Asian Public Intellectual (API) Fellowship by the Tokyo-based Nippon Foundation for a period of one year. Between 2005 and 2006, he was an Asian Public Intellectual fellow journeying through four Asian countries. His research was on the Asian culturally embedded notions of sustainability. He travelled, met and stayed with indigenous communities in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Japan. Going through this 'research pilgrimage' in search of local notions of sustainability, the views presented by the indigenous peoples were quite apart from the UN definition of sustainable development. The indigenous people deeply experienced and practiced sustainability as the other side of spirituality. For Nat, this work laid the foundation for a systematic critique of the UN's effort on sustainable development (and subsequently on its promotion of the UN SDGs, which carefully hides an elaborateneo-liberal bias). The indigenous approach to sustainability is not about technology as much as about spirituality and our orientation to development and therefore offers a critique of the neo-liberal bias. The research journey resulted in a pictorial book on sustainability and spirituality in 2014 entitled Living Pathways: Meditations on Sustainable Cultures and Cosmologies in Asia. The journey continues. He is presently researching on Living Pathways II: Finding Ways Back to Nature. This is another theme that he continues to work on and contribute.

 

International People’s Agroecology Multiversity (IPAM): From 2013 to 2015, Nat worked as a consultant for the Pesticide Action Network for the Asia Pacific (PANAP), which is based in Penang, Malaysia. He was involved in researching, designing and setting up a virtual institution (a portal) to promote biodiversity-based ecological agriculture (or agroecology). The International People's Agroecology Multiversity (IPAM) articulates a research-learning-action orientation and is based on 5 interconnected platforms i.e. research, learning, action, knowledge, and community building. The ‘core digital campus’ is sustained by ‘many field campuses’ and actively manages the learning and community-building exchanges between the field campuses. The aim of IPAM: to nurture and promote the principles and practices of non-violent/non-destructive agroecology and the universal concerns of small agricultural food producers -- agricultural workers, fisherfolks and indigenous peoples. (Though the initial construction of a full-scale interactive digital multiversity became a challenge to implement and sustain in terms of managing active technical teams and development funds within a not-for-profit environment, it was eventually revised and reorganised but maintaining the foundational structure.)

 

Present Concerns and Work

 

Transdisciplinarity, Transformative Learning and Critical Civic Engagement: For Nat, the present form of humanities and social sciences (suffering under the ‘Bu-Bu’ approach) is based on a ‘distorted image’ of the ‘objective reality’. It is based on very narrow disciplinary streams and knowledge silos, creating a very distorted, disconnected world by ‘disciplinary experts’. For 2014, Nat has been exploring transdisciplinarity,  transformative learning approaches and critical civic engagement in higher education in general. It is his firm understanding that the way mainstream university education and teaching-learning is approached today needs to be drastically trans-formed. This historical mode of engaging with ‘reality’ and producing knowledge has to be transcended. Its relevance is really over and is being maintained by sheer institutional power of universities (with all kinds of adaptive strategies including the call for inter-disciplinarity centres or initiatives). Disciplinarity needs to be overhauled. Thus, Nat’s research interest today is focused on the ‘unspoken area’ of the ecological and social footprint of mainstream educational institutions that are contributing to critical inter-generational global social and ecological problems.

 

{Centre for New Humanities and Compassion Studies: Nat was invited by Xavier University Bhubaneswar, Odisha to set up a School of New Humanities and Social Sciences. The first centre was started in 2018 and he is presently the chair professor of Xavier Centre for New Humanities and Compassion Studies. In the long term, the effort is directed at going beyond the usual disciplinary streams and knowledge silos. Nat’s aim was to build a school based on transdisciplinarity, transformative learning and critical civic engagement with non-traditional offerings going beyond the usual disciplinary subjects such as sociology, economics, political sciences and the like. He was also preparing to start a community-supported young public intellectual  doctoral programme. (Unfortunately, because of a changes in the university, he was unable to pursue and complete his work and has since left the institution. Charter of Compassion.)

 

Compassion and Social Communication: Nat works closely with SIGNIS World (World Catholic Communication Agency which is based in Brussels). In 2019, he developed the Laudato Si Global Fellowship Programme for Young Communicators and implemented it in 2020. This international certificate programme was based on the partnership/collaborative platform of Xavier Centre for New Humanities and Compassion Studies and SIGNIS. Young communicators came from Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, Togo/Italy, Philippines and India. The focus of the fellowship was to create a network of young communicators-seekers (some testimonials here) who will promote the meanings and the message of Laudato Si (the encyclical of Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home) for a more ecologically-sound, compassionate and caring world. As part of the programme, Nat was able to deploy the ‘learning journey’ methodology that he has been developing. As the programme was for young communicators, there was also much discussion on the future of media and journalism and the importance of understanding ‘hegemonic narratives-driven world’ and the need to build counter-and alternative narratives. Testimonials of students here. 

 

Present Research Interests/Publications: (i) Nat is currently researching on Living Pathways II: Finding Ways Back to Nature (picture book) as a ‘journey back home’ to heal our separation from Mother Earth. (ii) He has also been working for the last 2 years on a pictorial book of his journey as an Indian Malaysian citizen. The book entitled, Protest, Prayer, Peace: Visual Disclosures of the Indianness of Malaysia. The book is a collection of his photographs shot over a period of about 12 years (This book is near completion.) (iii) Nat is investigating the ‘unspoken area’ of the ecological and social footprint of mainstream educational institutions/universities that are contributing to critical inter-generational global social and ecological problems. Many universities are really part of the global problems. He is exploring an alternative through transdisciplinarity, transformative learning and critical civic engagement.  (iv) He is in the initial stage of exploring a research effort into the ‘post-fact’/‘post-truth’ world in which varies species of hegemonic narratives within their ‘institutional ecologies’  have taken control of the ‘popular mind’.

He is the board member of the international advisory group of Asian School of Wisdom.  This was recently launched in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Asian School of Wisdom believes thet the future is indigenous and seeks out to all those interested to help nurture indigenous wisdom-based civilisational futures.

Location Now

Nat sometimes spends time at an 'Ayurveda ashram' in Palakkad. He is an honorary visiting senior fellow with the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and Loyola Institute of Peace and International Relations, Kochi developing educational programmes centred on compassion in the inter-fields of peace, sustainability and social communication.

 

At present, he actively serves as an educational consultant with the multiversity platform initiative, Loyola Extension Services (LES), Loyola College of Social Sciences (LCSS), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. He is involved in developing various initiatives at the multiversity platform including the Gandhi-Mandela-Freire Fellowship programme. Explore here.

 

LinkedIn profile here. He can be contacted: here or here (LES Loyola - Official)