Student’s perspective of the annual Jaipur Literature Festival


This term, Asian Studies major Andrea Becker ’18 attended the Jaipur Literature Festival in the Indian state of Rajasthan. This is her experience.

Six Union students on the India term abroad and trip leader, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jeff Witsoe, recently attended the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Taking place from Jan. 19-23, in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, the annual festival has been hailed as the world’s largest free literature festival, and featured prominent authors and speakers from both South Asia and around the world. The festival also offered nightly concerts with performances by many diverse acts. On top of that, there were various tents where festival-goers could purchase books as well as handicrafts both literary themed and specific to Rajasthan.

From poetry to prose to art, the five days of the festival were jam–packed with talks on all sorts of topics. One talk Union students attended focused on the role of art in understanding migration and borders. Hosted by a curator from the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the discussion featured various artists whose art centered on these topics.

The penultimate talk, titled “Women Waging Peace,” brought up the topic of the role of women in fighting for peace in this world. One of the speakers, Ornit Shani, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel, talked about the campaign she started, “Women Wage Peace.” The goal of her campaign is, “to prevent the next war and lead to resolution of the conflict that is non-violent, respectable and agreeable to both sides – Israeli and Palestinian, within four years.”

Inspired by fear for her 18-year-old son, who was enlisted in the Israeli military as part of mandatory service, and the intense conflict on the Gaza Strip, Shani started the movement in the summer of 2014. From there the movement soon grew to include both Israeli and Palestinian women.

With talk of “alternative facts” going on in the media, it was only fitting that there were various talks discussing the idea of the post truth world and the role it plays in today’s society.

A talk titled “That Which Cannot Be Said,” discussed the topic of journalism, self-censorship and how far one should go with journalism due to the possibilities of facing repercussions and endangerment from other influential parties.

Prominent panelists included author and professor at Oxford, Timothy Garton Ash, and North Korean defector Hyeonsoo Lee. The festival concluded with a debate between various figures in journalism, politics and writing from both India and abroad titled “Do We Live in a Post-Truth World?” Topics included Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Nahindra Modi and their roles in the post-truth world as well as the question of facts and what is and is not true.

Overall the festival was an incredible experience, and the India terms students are grateful they just happened to be in Jaipur for the event.


Leave a Reply