2002 Indic Colloquium
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Purushottama Bilimoria

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Dept of Philosophy
The University of Melbourne
Victoria, 3010



+61 3 8344 4778



+61 3 5227 2018, +61 3 8344 4280 


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Background Information

Prof. Bilimoria is with the Dept of Philosophy at both Deakin University and the University of Melbourne in Australia. He will be a visiting professor at the India Studies Center and the Dept of Philosophy at SUNY Stony Brook in New York for the Fall of 2002. He is also the editor of the journal Sophia: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Metaphysical Theology & Ethics (a collaboration with Ashgate Publishing Pty Ltd, Aldershot, London, UK).


Influence of Gandhian Nonviolence on the U.S. and African-American Civil Rights Movement 1905-1968 (pictorial argument)

“There is today in the world but one living maker of miracles, and that is Mahatma Gandhi” --- Du Bois (1932)

“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning love gradually diminished, and I came to see... its potency in the arena of social reform” – Dr Martin Luther King, Jr (1958)

“I have in my lifetime witnessed an almost unimaginable social and political revolution in our region of the American South brought about through the philosophies and strategies of nonviolent struggle”. -- Hon. Jimmy Carter (1999)

In the year preceding the International Year of Reconciliation (2001), there was something of a Gandhian renaissance in much of metro-Atlanta, Georgia. This euphoria was evidenced, variously, in the visit by one of Gandhi’s grandsons to Atlanta for the Indian Independence celebrations (in August, 1999) and a King-Gandhi Center Initiative Weekend in October 1999; another of Gandhi’s prominent grandsons (Rajmohan Gandhi) arrived as a resident fellow at Emory University in February 2000, Bishop Tutu and Rev Andrew Young engaged in public dialogue with Mr Gandhi, in the spirit of an earlier symposium in Decatur, Atlanta, discussing Religion and Violence in the South, and another in November 1999 at the King International Chapel in Morehouse celebrating the anniversary of Dr Howard Thurman and Sue Bailey (whose parents’ papers along with Sue Bailey’s travel photographs are in the African American Collections in Woodruff Library at Emory University, where carried out some of my research). January to April 2000 was declared “A Season for Nonviolence’, a public awareness campaign coordinated by a network of eight reconciliation and ‘Kingandhian’ nonviolence fellowships across the country. The high point of the Season occurred over the Spiritual Awareness Week in March-April (2000) with a spectacular ceremony conferring honorary degrees posthumously for Mahatma Gandhi and his wife, Kasturbai Gandhi at Morehouse College, one of the leading Black colleges in the U.S. with which Martin Luther King Jr’s name also came to be associated. This gala occasion was marked also by the unveiling of the bronze busts, gifted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in Delhi and part-sponsored by the local Indian community, of these two fresh “Drs” of Morehouse Graduate Alumni. The new Gandhi Institute for Reconciliation simultaneously with a massive plague inscribing Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s historic speech, “I have a Dream” were also launched at this occasion, in the presence of Coretta Scott King and Arun and Sunanda Gandhi (co-directors of the M K Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence based in Memphis, TN). Atlanta now boasts two significant statues of M K Gandhi (the other, full body-in-stride also cast in bronze in India, stands at the M L K. Jr. National Historic Site (which was unveiled by Dr. Rev. Andrew Young in 1998) and one of Mrs Kasturbai Gandhi (in addition to numerous portraitures dating back to the 1920’s). There have been other public events too highlighting the triumph of the Gandhi-King Jr inspired nonviolent strategy and efforts towards minimizing community violence —not least, the mimetic healing model, The Thurman Reconciliation Initiative, and the International Colloquium on Violence Reduction in Theory and Practice launched from Emory Univesity in Atlanta, Georgia.

But why is Gandhi (rather, the Gandhis) being honored regularly, and increasingly within an African American ambience, or, for that matter, in metro-Atlanta more than anywhere else? There is a story crying out to be told, far from complete yet, which I have been investigating and from which I presents a vignette here (which is being embellished with over 150 slides collected in his research while a Rockefeller Fellow and visiting professor with the Center for Public Scholarship (ILA) last academic year). This is only the beginnings of a major historiography in progress. But there is one book out (or out of print presently, but for a second edition in press right now) that has led the way, and I draw from this book for my discussion here, namely, Sudarshan Kapur, Raising up a Prophet The African-American Encounter With Gandhi. (Beacon Press, Boston, 1992)

Read the entire paper in PDF format (32K, 7 pp.)