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Lexington Philosopher Offers Solution to Global Chaos

Dr. Ashmita Khasnabish spoke at Cary Memorial Library Aug. 31.

"I've been to so many parts of the world," said Ashmita Khasnabish, as she opened her talk at Cary Memorial Library Tuesday night about her most recent book, Humanitarian and the Political Sublime, a reflection on human identity across the globe. 

Khasnabish has certainly been around the globe. She was born in India, and moved to the United States to pursue her studies, earning a Ph.D. at Ohio's Bowling Green University. She now lives in Lexington. 

Currently, Khasnabish – a scholar of feminist postcolonial theory, psychoanalysis and literature –is a visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. To date, she has lectured in the United States, Canada, India and Ireland.

Khasnabish proposes that a combination of Western Enlightenment thought and Indian ideas about reason and spirituality can help resolve conflicts and promote peace in what she says is a troubled world.

The author said that human beings have many identities. 

"I'm not just Indian, and I'm not just American," said Khasnabish, who noted that to accept only one identity requires rejecting the discourse of globalization.

Khasnabish identified two parts to what she has termed her "political sublime" theory: sublimity and politics. She cited as influences Sri Aurobindo, an Indian philosopher who emphasized psychological or spiritual purification, and Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who believes in the importance of reason. Khasnabish said she has integrated both Aurobindo's and Sen's views into her theory.

She divulged that she was also greatly influenced by the Western Enlightenment theory of the sublime. Khasnabish later referred to feminist theorist Teresa Brennan, whose transmission of affect theory can be applied beyond gender, to race and ethnicity, said Khasnabish.

Khasnabish calls her theory a "synthesis" of Aurobindo's, Sen's and Brennan's ideas, and hopes her book will open people's eyes to the connections between human beings.

"I, as a human being, share your pain, and you, as a human being, share mine," she said. "We need a philosophy on how to live on earth, a philosophy focused on our humanness."

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