Organized Panel Session
There is a popular “kutti” phrase, “caught in a mainkacipa (মাইনকাচিপা),” derivative of Urdu and old Bengali dialects that can be aptly applied to the state of the Digital Humanities in South Asia. This colloquial phrase is often used to express “I’m screwed” and evokes a sense of incredible entanglement, with multiple obligations both implied and explicit, often weighing you down and making it difficult to act freely. As the principle investigator for a British Library-sponsored Rāmamālā Library manuscript project in Bangladesh, I encountered a great deal of resistance to digitization efforts and the government halted its progress on two occasions despite working under the auspices of a private trust. We were caught between government concerns for the protection of cultural heritage and individual rights to private ownership. This paper will reflect on this mainkacipa and the broader questions it raises about the Digital Humanities in Post-Colonial contexts. What is the reception—both ideal and practical—of free-flowing digital information to promote cultural heritage as an educational resource? How is digital sharing through Creative Commons licensing, as it is often promoted by Western institutions in the name of education, acknowledged in South Asia? For instance, does its promotion raise legitimate concerns about cultural theft as seen in the Colonial past?