Professor Ashis Nandy is one of the leading social and cultural critics not only in India but also the whole of Asia. His field covers a vast area of thinking such as individual dignity, public conscience, political psychology, and views on nationalism and culture. He has not limited his intellectual activity to produce penetrating and extensive academic work. He has been a socially committed intellectual who has actively participated in grassroots actions, and therefore is called the “Conscience of India”.
Professor Nandy was born in Bhagalpur, Bihar in 1937. When he was 10, British India was partitioned into two separate nations of India and Pakistan. He witnessed the succession of conflicts and atrocities that followed. This experience became the foundation on which his identity was formed. At university, he read sociology, but after joining the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, his interest tended increasingly towards clinical psychology. While working there, he developed his own unique methodology by integrating clinical psychology and sociology. Meanwhile, he was invited by a number of universities and research institutions abroad to carry out research and to give them lectures. From 1992 to 1997, he was Director of the CSDS.
Describing Professor Nandy as an academic in a specific field is somehow not appropriate. He is an intellectual who identifies and explores numerous and diverse problems. He has two foundations for his intellectual thinking. Firstly, in order to understand the essence of problems, he positions himself at the point of contact between the problems as they affect individuals and as they affect politics, societies and culture in the real world. This is an application of clinical-psychological methodology. Secondly, he actively follows a philosophy of non-violence. His ideal is the revival of Gandhi’s philosophy, and is driven by the cruel reality he saw once with his own eyes. These two principles have been the core of the vast number of his writings, and serve him as the basis to analyze and criticize ideologies and assertions established mainly upon such collective concepts as national, racial and religious affiliation, which are currently getting stronger in India as well as the rest of the world. They are also the driving force behind his participation in grassroots activities and in his engagement with citizens and society.
Through his prolific writing and other activities supported by his belief in non-violence, Professor Nandy has offered penetrating analysis from different angles of a wide range of problems such as political disputes and racial conflicts, and has made suggestions about how human beings can exist together, and together globally, irrespective of national boundaries. For his persistent effort to send messages around the world and to ask questions, Professor Ashis Nandy truly deserves the Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.