The need for sharing stories has been as old as humanity. The mere opposite of silence is said to be the birth of a narrative. (Price, 1985). The ‘narrative turn’ in the last century heightened the awareness that narrativity is fundamental to all human existence (McAdams, et.al, 2001, Bruner, 1986 and 2002). Consequently, attempts have been made to explore how narratives impose meaningful order in apparent chaos (see Bal 1997; Hinchman & Hinchman 2001), play a crucial role in delineating human subjectivity (Kerby, 1991), resist cultural oppression in telling such as Jean Rouch’s film Les Maîtres Fous (1955). Purposeful applications of stories by both researchers and field practitioners followed as reflected in employment of stories for learning and knowledge transfer strategies (Tyler, 2004), language competence building (Holing, 2006), health behaviour changes (Hammel, 2018), crafting signature stories in organisational context, facilitating culturally responsible interaction across borders and for creation of digital communities in movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo.
These constant reinventions in stories have increasingly expanded the conventional definitions of storytelling where “a teller projects mental and emotional images to an audience using the spoken word including sign language and gestures, carefully matching story content with audience needs and requirements” (Council on Storytelling, 8). Interestingly, fluidity and plurality, as manifested in varied genres, techniques, platforms, methodologies and expressions, have been defining features of storytelling in the India context. India, not only has storytelling traditions rooted in 22 official languages recognized in the 8th Schedule of Constitution, but also has oral tales in lesser known 780 languages enlisted in People’s Linguistic Survey of India. Multiple folk retellings and performative renderings of Sanskrit classics such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Jatakas, Kathasaritsagara and the Panchtantra serve highlight the incessant negotiations and transactions between mythology, legend, and history, between the high and the low traditions, between the oral and the written formats, between singing and telling, between education and entertainment. Some of these rich folk traditions display sophisticated understanding of the craft of storytelling. For example, the oral tradition in Konkani language identifies close to 200 categories of stories which could be narrated under specific conditions to specific audience in specific locales such as a pipal tree, grazing pastures, in temples, in the front yard of the home, in the backyard of the home, depending on the season, temperature etc. (Devsare, 2016).
Kathakari International Symposium at Anant National University seeks to capture this centrality of storytelling with the aim to discuss, deliberate and demonstrate how stories work, how we use them, how they move about, how they change and how they change us.
Kathakari celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the 2003 UNESCO Convention of the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Storytelling adds to the rich corpus of elements of the intangible heritage of humanity. UNESCO Chair on Inclusive Museums and Sustainable Heritage Development at AnantU promotes Kathakari International Symposium as a major activity in 2023.