Bhaswati Ghosh, Editor-at-Large
My association with Café Dissensus began as a reader. It was heartening to see a space that encouraged and even celebrated contrarian and, as the name suggests, dissenting viewpoints. Month after month, Café Dissensus brings its readers stories of non-mainstream movements, of activists, and professionals quietly forging ahead in fields of education, social sciences, history or urban planning.
Soon, my relationship with Café Dissensus deepened, as a columnist for Café Dissensus Everyday (CDE) the journal’s blog section. Open to non-academic forms of expression, CDE is a vibrant portal showcasing fiction and creative non-fiction, multimedia presentations, and interviews. In July 2014, I had the opportunity to guest edit a special issue of CDE on diaspora life. Titled “Here and There – the diaspora universe,” the issue remains a fascinating archive of lived experiences and oral histories of diaspora individuals and communities. Working with a group of writers and artists that was as talented as it was eclectic made me view my own diaspora life with a few different lenses. More importantly, however, my role as the guest editor helped me appreciate the openness of CDE that allows for a diversity of opinions and stylistic expressions.
Later, in my current role as the Editor-at-Large of CDE, I have collaborated with several contributors, writing on a wide range of issues. I look forward to both working on and learning from a number of stimulating issues in the pipeline for 2015.
Mary Ann Chacko & Mosarrap H. Khan, Editors
As the saying goes, while the beginning is always difficult, it is perhaps more difficult to keep the excitement going. Here we are. Café Dissensus completes another year.
What has been the learning experience so far? Over the course of 2014, we realized that it was very much possible to continue publishing a magazine without any money and without the support of many professional writers. We have also realized that media could still function as a space for advancing social causes and not just as a venture to make personal gains. Our greatest strength is the voluntary spirit of our writers, editorial board members, and editors. We have understood that there are many who are willing to spare their time and creative/critical energy to dabble in ideas.
It’s IDEAS that inspire us. Though clichéd, we believe that we publish Café Dissensus with the hope that ideas can still change the world we live in.
In India and internationally, online publishing has been witnessing exciting developments. However, it has its challenges. As writers, thinkers, academics, bloggers start responding to contemporary events, the internet has turned into a marketplace of ‘fast ideas’ (like fast food), churned out at lightning speed. We respond to events and occurrences even before understanding their full import. And as ideas circulate through social media, which is more often an echo chamber of consenting ideas, the readers are most often exposed to ‘fast ideas’ that suit their palate, both on the right and left side of the spectrum.
At Café Dissensus, we are committed to discussing each issue from multiple perspectives, from both consenting and dissenting side of the narrative. However, this is an ideal situation. We hope that in the coming years, CD would be able to present a more balanced view of each issue that it takes up to discuss. Since our catch-line is, “We Dissent,” many a time, we had to face flak from our readers for publishing what many thought to be views from the ‘Right.’ The idea of ‘dissent’ is so ingrained in the ‘Left’ that we often forget that there could be dissenting ideas from the ‘Right’ as well. We hope to continue with this tradition, despite our own ideological leanings. As we stated when we first started, we are committed to a culture of ‘free thinking.’
This year Café Dissensus has published on issues ranging from ‘Death Penalty’ to ‘Migrant Laborers’ to ‘Teach for India.’ While our issues are mostly guest-edited by academics, many of them our friends, our attempt has been to take complex ideas to ‘lay’ readers. We realize that we have only partly succeeded in this endeavor, owing to the fact that we – academics – are prone to conversing among ourselves. However, we will continue with our quest to bridge the gap between academic and non-academic readership. We sincerely thank all our guest-editors for exploring some excellent issues, many of which had not been taken up earlier or discussed at any length.
In 2015, we have lined up issues ranging from ‘The Indian Jewry’ to ‘Faiz Ahmed Faiz’ to ‘Gorkhaland’ to ‘Indian Muslims in Media.’ The coming year promises to be an exciting one. We are grateful to our guest-editors, who have very graciously agreed to edit an issue for us. Stay tuned for our first issue of 2015 – “The Indian Jewry” – which will be published on the first day of the year. Do look up all our proposed issues in 2015 and consider submitting your work.
As we had stated earlier, we would like to position Café Dissensus as a reader-sourced magazine; a people’s magazine. With that spirit, we invite our readers, academics, activists, journalists, students to guest-edit an issue in 2016. If you are excited about an idea, an event, a book, a personality, or anything else and feel you want to generate a critical conversation around it, do consider guest-editing an issue of Café Dissensus. Send us a concept note and we will take it forward from there. You may find detailed guidelines for guest-editing an issue HERE.
Along with Café Dissensus magazine, we do run, Café Dissensus Everyday, which is devoted to discussing events as they unfold around us every day. We were fortunate to have a group of experienced and new writers, who wrote on issues of politics, culture, literature, and social activism, to name just a few. We are looking for regular writers, who will take this tradition forward. We are particularly committed to giving space to new writers, who often struggle to find a toehold in the marketplace of ideas, dominated by more established writers. Yet, our experience suggests that new writers often bring in more exciting perspectives and are unafraid to think differently. Do look up our guidelines for becoming a regular contributor to Café Dissensus Everyday.
As editors, this year has been quite challenging as we were caught up with our other life – that of an academic. Mary Ann has been busy much of the year doing her doctoral fieldwork in Kerala and Mosarrap has been trying to wrap up his dissertation in New York. As the editors struggled with their divided loyalties, Bhaswati Ghosh stepped in quietly as an Editor-at-Large and has added much needed editorial depth. Our sincere gratitude goes out to Bhaswati for her unassuming, yet rigorous, contribution.
We are grateful to our entire editorial board for their quiet support to Café Dissensus. They are our face and we hope that we will be able to continue quality work that matches their expectations.
Also, our sincere thanks to numerous friends who have quietly but unflinchingly supported us from the beginning. Without singling out anyone, we would like to state how grateful we are to have your support and friendship. We look forward to your continuing sustenance.
And how could we forget our readers? Our greatest strength and inspiration. We continue to publish Café Dissensus because you read us. And we will keep on publishing as long as we feel you care to read Café Dissensus. Please help us reach more readers. Be a partner in taking our ideas to other readers. Do like us on FACEBOOK, follow us on TWITTER, and do invite your friends and acquaintances to do so. Finally, we count on you and you alone.
Numbers never say much. Yet, they could be quite revealing at times. Here we quote a part of the year-end report that we received from WordPress, our website host:
“The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. Café Dissensus Everyday was viewed about 23,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it…The most popular post for the year was An Interview with Actor, Nandita Das.”
If we add the numbers from Café Dissensus, we might have had a total of around 27 sold-out performances at the Sydney Opera House! That’s reason enough to put in all the hard work for an improved performance in 2015…
This has been a difficult year as we witnessed despairing events unfolding in different regions around the globe. We sincerely hope that the coming year would be a cheerful and meaningful one.
Café Dissensus wishes all its readers a Very Happy 2015!!