(additions made on May 14, 2006, 11:30am)

Today was the today when half the class presented a tentative research proposal (not more than one page long), with emphasis on seeing whether we could rightly identify and communicate a problem area to investigate. (my turn will come next week)

It was a really good class, in that many more students interacted
(this was also the first time I spoke out in class). The actual event had certain surprises, mainly that mainly students tended to have ‘abstract’/’westerninsed research topics. This is surprising because I thought the overwhelming emphasis on contextual themes in Serampore would naturally lead to contextually relevant (either truly or forced) topics. But that was largely not to be. Another point to note… and this would probably by confirmed by Dr. Chris Barrigar… is the Indian weakness in philosophy was quite evident… and most students had a scanty/minimal understanding of postmodernism. Usually they identified it with western reletavity and rejected it. Those who used it for their thesis, tended to refer to it wrongly. Still it was an interesting class.

The following are a list of important questions/points, not in any particular order of importance, that are important to remember in preparing a Research Proposal.

1. What are you going to search? What is the ‘new’ thing? Does the problem need to be searched/researched?

2. Is the proposed method valid to deal with the issues?

3. In what way is your proposal open-ended? (this was important especially since many people started their proposals with pre-set conclusions)

4. So what? (what is the point of your research, why do it?)

5. If all (theologians/scholars) have failed in their understanding of the subject, from what perspective (vantage point) are you seeing that you can say something new and correct? (This was when some students felt that the entire scholarship in the past has misread one aspect of Theology etc… but used the usual critical tools/perspectives, like historical critical method, literary criticism, to find truth. Obviously, if you’re using the same tools like someone else, you’re probably going to land somewhere in the region that your predecessors landed up).

6. Where is your research heading? What is it leading towards? (Here, for instance, one student said he want to provide a “holistic reading of contextual theology in the north east”, but the missing aspect something like a “so that it may…”

7. In a research proposal it is important to “problematise” an issue. (Which is to say, that problems exist, but to draw out a unique problem for the purpose of the paper is the difficult task of a research proposal).

8. What is your central concern?

9. “Get something out of the our context”, “we have reached the stage where we have to take the responsibility for Indian Theology”.

This last statement was a good reminder that as Indian theologians, we converse not simply with global theologians, but also with (maybe first and foremost with) Indian theologians. By working within our context, and critiquing our own processes, we help move Indian theological thinking forward in the context of global theology.

More can be said… and perhaps more questions will emerge when we have the second thesis proposal presentations next week.