Harihanan and Garg: About transculturation and multiculturalism

In October 2012, the University of Copenhagen organised a public reading with two of the most brilliant and talented contemporary Indian writers, Githa Harihanan and Mridula Garg. Here are two video interviews with them which were recorded after the event.

Githa Hariharan is an Indian writer and publisher. She has published several essays about cultural and political issues and written book reviews for various Indian newspapers.

In this video clip, she talks about the process of writing. The first step in the process is to craft an imaginary reader to direct your book to. For Githa Hariharan, this ‘imaginary reader’ is crafted on the idea of people who she admires and who might have been living in another era, or in a different part of the world. Consequently, the writer does not worry about nationalities or ethnic groups.

India is a diverse reality. Githa Hariharan grew up in a multicultural environment. In fact, since an early age she spoke different languages. Having this background, where culture and language are interchangeable just based on the different social environments she finds herself in, it is easy to understand that she considers language and culture as a slippery thing.

“The story of individual is always a metaphor to national allegory. The concept of nation is based on national identity. In India, there are many diverse identities and it is in rights of the Nation to speak to all layers. As Indian I think that the core of Indian culture has always been spirituality,” said Githa Hariharan when she spoke to the Copenhageners.

About “Transculturation”
At the event Githa Hariharan was the first one to take the stage and present her ideas. Her sophisticated talk started with a mention to the concept of “transculturation”. This term was coined by Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz to describe the phenomenon of merging and converging cultures. Merging different cultures carries the idea of the consequent co-creation of new cultural phenomena. Moreover, the term “transculturation” symbolizes an element of change through an open engagement with others.

In order to make this engagement possible, it is necessary that the participants of the social situation share, at least, a common language. Language is a tool invented by humans to exchange information among each other. Through the language, communication is thinkable and actable. What can be learn form the conference is that culture could be considered as a “slippery” entity, which can never be isolated. Culture is a fluidly compound that lives within the human condition. In fact, everyone lives within their own culture, embodying and performing it in every single daily action; culture is taken for granted by individuals. Culture, at the end of the day, is a construction built by humans.

However,as Mridula said in her speech, human beings need to change their point of view and observe their own culture as an entity that lives aside from them. Referring to India, the daily life embodies and represents the multiculturalism and the multifaceted environment. In fact, in India there are many “aliens” inside the country since “there are many countries inside the main one, and many different ethnicities living in the same nation”.

Nevertheless, through reading and writing literature, it is possible to enlarge your perception and change the ideas that you have about people, society and even about yourself. Literature is the mind entering another body, becoming the other. In fact, the greatest gift that literature gives to the readers is the freedom to change their minds. Reading a book could also be the tool to change your prospective on people and culture.


Writing could be considered as a special and personal journey. In this brief video interview, Mridula Garg told us that there is no reader in her mind, she writes as she would be writing to herself.

Mridula Garg is an Indian writer and one of the most widely read Hindi writers today. Her work has been translated into a number of Indian and foreign languages. She has also been a columnist, writing on environment, women issues, child servitude, and literature.


The interviews were conducted on 3 October 2012 at the University of Copenhagen by Riccardi Inanna and Sofie Skov Bjørnsen.

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