Originally published as:
Adhikary, Nirmala Mani. (2012). Indigenous theorization of communication. Rural Aurora, 1, 172-181.
The paper presents an account of the sadharanikaran model of communication as an example of indigenous theorization. It also observes the advancement of communication towards multicultural, multidisciplinary, multi-paradigmatic discipline. In addition, it presents brief discussions on the discourse of Asiacentricity and the responsibilities of communication scholars before delineating the fundamentals of the sadharanikaran model.
Key words: Asiacentricity, communication model, communication theory, Hindu perspective, indigenous theorization, sadharanikaran model of communication, sahridayata, Western paradigm.
Indigenous Theorization of Communication
– Nirmala Mani Adhikary
Dept. of Languages and Mass Communication
Kathmandu University, Nepal
Communication discipline: From Western paradigm to paradigm shift
The word communication is translated into Nepali (into Hindi and other languages of Sanskrit origin too) as sanchar. The word sanchar has a number of meanings in Sanskrit, and one of them is equivalent to what is understood as communication in the modern sense. It is not that sanchar is the only word in Sanskrit which could be used as an equivalent word while translating the English word ‘communication’. However, interestingly, in all languages of Sanskrit origin, the word ‘sanchar’ has been chosen to denote ‘communication’. Perhaps, it signifies the mutual understanding, for which communication (sanchar) itself is aimed, prevailing among the people sharing common religious and philosophical tradition and consciousness of cultural identity.
Meanwhile, this fact should not be overlooked that the study of sanchar in the universities of Nepal and India had not been the study of sanchar in the indigenous sense but, in fact, the study of communication as evolved in the West. As explained elsewhere (Adhikary, 2011a), communication – as a discipline of knowledge or as an academic field of study – has remained inherently problematic in many non-Western countries – Asians and Africans alike; Nepal and India being no exception. On the one hand, these countries indigenously inherit the concept of communication, and have been practicing it since time-immemorial. On the other, communication-as-modern-discipline-of-knowledge is borrowed from the West, especially the USA. In other words, though a communication tradition, rich and refined both in theory and practice, has been an inseparable part of Bharatavarshiya (including Nepali and Indian) culture(s), and, in this light, communication should have been considered indigenous here the curricula did not incorporate indigenous insights when communication and allied disciplines were introduced in Nepal and India.
The non-Western countries had different options while they were developing curricula of communication and/or allied disciplines. First, they could have drawn on native perspectives thereby primarily incorporating indigenous concepts, if not theories and models, of communication. Second, it was much easier for them to adopt solely the Western discursive paradigm. Third, they could have adopted comparative approach thus incorporating both indigenous and Western contents, and facilitating ‘indigenization’. [According to Gudykunst (2005, p. 85), whereas indigenous theories are native, rooted in specific cultures, and emphasize the human experience in specific cultures; indigenization refers to processes of transforming U.S. theories so that they are appropriate in other cultures.]
Of these, the adoption of the Western paradigm has been the general practice (Adhikary, 2011a, p. 2) as it suits the project of globalization, which legitimizes unidirectional gateway for flow of information (Adhikary, 2007c).
According to Miike (2007a),
By and large, Asian communication professionals are more versed in Western intellectual trajectories than Asian traditions of thought. Consequently, it is hardly surprising that there have been not many theoretical investigations that drew out communicative ideas and insights from Asian classical literature. (p. 2)
It is also observed, “Many researchers, Asian and non-Asian alike, in the field have assumed the universal applicability of the meta-theory and methodology of Eurocentric communication scholarship” (Miike, 2008, p. 57). It seems that the dominance of Western paradigm noticed decades ago (Dissanayake, 1981, 1988) has been continuing. In this background, it is no wonder that communication, as an academic field of study, lacked indigenous insights, and hence, it was treated as an exogenous entity ‘imported’ from the West into non-Western countries.
However, the communication discipline has been changing as the Western paradigm is being challenged, if not completely replaced, by alternative paradigms. “Eurocentric scholarship” and “its one-sidedly presumed universality and totalizing tendency” (Miike, 2007a, p. 1) does not seem prolonging. Consequently, the idea of universal meta-theory/meta-model of communication has been firmly rejected, and the sphere of communication theory has been broadened in order to incorporate non-Western contributions as well. Advocacy for multicultural approach to communication is distinctly observable (Chesebro, 1996; Gordon, 1998/99, 2006, 2007a, 2007b; Gunaratne, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010), and even it is claimed that “the multicultural turn in communication theory” (Miike, 2007b, p. 272) has already taken place. At least, communication scholars across the world are beginning to realize the multicultural, multidisciplinary and multi-paradigmatic nature of the discipline.
As Dissanayake (2009) observes “a great upsurge of interests in the study and research in Asian theories of communication” (p. 7) has been witnessed in last few decades. The published works in the field are increasing [See: Adhikary, 2009; Miike, 2009, 2011; Miike and Chen, 2003, 2006; Xiaoge, 2000.]. Though it is not possible here to present an assessment of various such works it is to acknowledge that they have certainly enriched the academic study of communication.
Theorizing communication from Asian perspectives is advancing thereby generating the discourse of Asiacentricity (Miike, 2002, 2003a, 2003b, 2004, 2006, 2007a, 2007b, 2008, 2010). Moreover, the Asiacentric School of communication theories is said to be emerging and developing, and becoming increasingly significant (Edmondson, 2009, p. 104). It is yet to assess the long-term impact of Asiacentricity in communication scholarship. Nevertheless, such discourses certainly play an important role in mainstreaming Asian indigenous theorization.
Miike (2006) charts a five-point agenda for Asian communication studies: Deriving theoretical insights from Asian cultures, expanding the geographical focus of study, comparing and contrasting Asian cultures, pluralizing and historicizing theoretical lenses, and confronting metatheoretical and methodological questions (see: pp. 13-22). According to him, following should be the research objectives for Asiacentric communication scholarship: to critique misleading Eurocentric studies of Asian communication behaviors, to preserve Asian cultural values and modes of communication, to explore spiritual liberation through communication, to depict multiple visions of harmony among complex relationships, and to examine (inter)cultural communication needs and problems through Asian eyes (Miike, 2008).
The notion of Asiacentricity should not be limited in just de-Westernizing communication theory, but, more importantly, the importance should be given to indigenous theorization, that is “to engage in human communication scholarship whose concepts, models, and principles are derived from Asian cultures as resources for theory building” (Miike, 2008, pp. 57-58). Here, I would like to quote Gordon (2007) too:
We need Asian scholars, looking through new lenses, to explore the idea of ‘communication’ and its practices within cultures from around the world … The world needs Asian scholars who, in at least some of their scholarly endeavors, dare to pursue fresh topics, questions, concepts, perspectives, and methods … We need young Asian scholars who will energetically explore and develop fresh alternative paradigms and atypical approaches … have an abiding respect for the wisdom from the past, and a serious concern for the future. (pp. 53-54).
By virtue of being the inheritor of culturally rich civilization rooted to the Veda and having a communication tradition, rich and refined both in theory and practice, Vedic Hinduism can contribute to the communication discipline enormously. More particularly, insights from ancient Hindu texts can give what Maxmuller (1951) terms “new light and new life” (p. 38) to the communication discipline.
Three responsibilities of communication scholars
In my opinion, communication scholars should/need to take the following three responsibilities at this juncture:
First, indigenous communication theories and models are to be explored, constructed and developed. The objectives of such endeavors should be neither ‘indigenization’, nor mere rejection of the Western theories and models; rather, such studies need to develop a broad and deep appraisal of indigenous intellectual history, philosophy, arts, literature, and religion, including other branches of knowledge, to the study of communication.
My own works regarding the sadharanikaran model of communication (including: Adhikary, 2003, 2004, 2007a, 2007b, 2009, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c, 2011a, 2011b, 2011c, 2011d) are examples of indigenous theorization of communication. There are many traditional Hindu/Bharatavarshiya concepts, theories and methods, which can be unearthed to garner their contemporary relevance and significance. The terminologies, approaches, strategies, assumptions, and findings may be different; but there exist vast number of texts, which are relevant to communication studies, even from Western paradigms. These must be consciously explored, appraised and interpreted. And, they are to be rearticulated in such a way that they bear own cultural-intellectual identity.
Second, the study of comparative communication theory should be encouraged and promoted. Comparative study of different concepts of communication is a must for the improved understanding of the process and the advancement of the discipline. Studying the East-West dichotomy, both for their manifest differences and latent commonalities, may be a good point for starting, but the comparative studies should not be focused only on the West versus the rest [It is to mention here that the sadharanikaran model of communication has been compared with Aristotle’s model (Adhikary, 2008) and Carey’s ritual model of communication (Acharya, 2011).]. It is pertinent to compare one Asian concept/theory of communication with another Asian concept/theory. To be more focused, a comparative study of communication from the perspectives of Kumarila Bhatta and Bhartrihari would be certainly illuminating as well as interesting. Furthermore, multicultural approaches are to be employed for comparative study.
Third, the indigenous theories and models are to be given broad base of application. Here comes the issue of globalizing the indigenous theories. It is only with the proliferation of different theories rooted in different cultures, disciplines and paradigms communication can truly become a multicultural, multidisciplinary and multi-paradigmatic discipline.
The sadharanikaran model of communication
Now I would like to have a swift move to the sadharanikaran model of communication (SMC). Drawing on the studies by Yadava (1987, 1998) and Tewari (1992), and incorporating further insights from Bharatamuni’s Natyashastra and Bhartrihari’s Vakyapadiya, I constructed and proposed this unique communication model in 2003 (Adhikary, 2003, p. 84). There have been successive studies on the SMC thereby giving rise to revisions and improvements (Adhikary, 2004, 2007a, 2007b, 2008, 2009, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c, 2011a, 2011b, 2011c, 2011d). I believe that bringing Bharata Muni and Bhartrihari together has become more fruitful in locating various concepts in a larger picture of the culture and communication landscape.
Two points are to be clarified here. First, sadharanikaran as a concept/theory should not be confused with the sadharanikaran model. The former, which is one of the significant theories in Sanskrit poetics, has its root in Natyashastra and is identified with Bhattanayaka. Whereas, latter (the SMC) refers to a model of communication which draws on the classical concept/theory of sadharanikaran along with other resources in order to visualize Hindu perspectives on communication. Second, the SMC is not the only possible model of communication from Hindu perspective; rather, there is scope for other communication models also. With vast diversities of cultures and philosophies within the Hindu society, it is just one of many models that could be developed. Many theories and models of communication would come out if communication discipline has enthusiasm of encountering different Hindu philosophical traditions.
The SMC is a representation of communication process from Hindu perspective. It is systematic description in diagrammatic form of a process of attaining mutual understanding, commonness or oneness among people. It illustrates how the communicating parties interact in a system (i.e., the process of sadharanikaran) for the attainment saharidayata. Sahridayata is the core concept upon which the meaning of sadharanikaran resides. It is the state of common orientation, commonality, mutual understanding or oneness. In this light, the SMC envisions communication for communion.
In a society that has asymmetrical relationships between communication parties, it is only due to sahridayata the two-way communication and mutual understanding is possible. Thus, communicating parties can attain sahridayata irrespective of complex hierarchies of castes, languages, cultures and religious practices, and the communication process qualifies to be considered as sadharanikaran. As the construct, sahridayata is crucial in the SMC for ensuring the model being inherited with the Hindu ideal of communication for communion. Since its entitlement is as the construct its exact meaning relates to the context in which it is defined. However, its root is firmly established in earlier concept(s) from where it is drawn on. It is meant to embody the sum of all those factors due to which the asymmetrical relationship between communicating parties does not hinder the two-way communication and hence mutual understanding. Thus, the term sahridayata has been used for designating all concepts and practices that are considered significant in ensuring communication for communion in Hindu society.
By virtue of sahridayata envisioned, the sadharanikaran theory and the sadharanikaran model have scope to be generalized globally. As clarified by a recent study (Acharya, 2011), though sadharanikaran model’s root is in Hindu philosophy and religion the model has universal outlook. “Communication theorizing in the local community and the global society ought to move beyond the dualistic thinking of provincial specificity versus universal applicability. Any theory has local resonance and may have global significance” (Miike, 2007b, p. 277).
I have also attempted to sketch how the SMC can be employed for promoting peace and conflict resolution (Adhikary, 2011b, 2012b). It provides explanation on how different communicating parties become able to pervade the unequal relationship prevailed in the society and the process of communication is facilitated.
In the case of conceptual research, I assert that the identification of communication (sanchar) as a means for moksha-in-life and thus proving it yoga (i.e., ‘sancharyoga’) is significant achievement (Adhikary, 2007b, 2010a, 2010b) for it has considerable implications for interdisciplinary studies of communication and philosophy.
Also, it has been studied how the discipline of communication can be approached as a vidya (true knowledge) in Hindu orthodoxy (Adhikary, 2010b). In Hindu orthodoxy, the dignity of any discipline of knowledge would be high only when it qualifies as a vidya (true knowledge). Approaching communication as a vidya does not imply to discard the avidya aspect. Whereas the communication discipline is avidya in the physical and mental domains, it becomes a kind of vidya by incorporating the notion of sancharyoga. In Vedic Hindu view, one who knows vidya and avidya together attains immortality through vidya by crossing over death through avidya (“Vidyamchavidyam cha yastadveda ubhayam saha, Avidyaya mrityum tirtva vidyayaamritamashnute”—Ishavasya Upanishad-11). Thus, the co-existence of vidya and avidya aspects in the communication discipline (sancharshastra) heightens the significance of the discipline.
The sadharanikaran model of communication (SMC), and any future models that claim to represent Hindu worldview, also must qualify test for verification. However, any test of verification for validity and reliability in such circumstance cannot be vulgar empiricist because of its inherent limitation. Hindu worldview consists of adhibhautika, adhidaivika as well as adhyatmika facets of life and envisions artha, kama, dharma as well as moksha as the goals of human life (purushartha chatustaya), which cannot be tested on the ground of empiricist, positivist ‘laboratory’. Only Hindu mode of verification, which puts equal emphasis to both objective and subjective realities, to both facts and experiences, to both intuitive and causal analysis, is to be opted.
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