On the full-text collection related to the Emergency

pl-480

Johnson with Gandhi, March 28, 1966. (White House Photo Office)(https://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/pl-480)

These texts were contributed by Maya Dodd, Director of the Centre for South Asia at the Foundation for Liberal and Management Education, Pune. Maya Dodd’s PhD, ‘Archives of Democracy: Technologies of Witness in Literatures on Indian Democracy Since 1975′, among other things, dwelt on the literature produced during the Emergency of 1975 in India. Dodd revealed that the literature produced during the Emergency was easier to locate in University libraries in India that had systematically built up their collections in the 70s and 80s, than in the libraries of Delhi. In fact, texts that were sometimes unavailable in India could be traced in the library collections at the University of Chicago. All of these, she said, were stamped with the sign, PL480, Public Law 480, that allowed for the import of wheat from the US by India to be tied to the program for the acquisition of South Asian materials for American libraries.(*) An international financial trade-off of the 1950s periodically unearths treasures for Indian scholars in the US. The following excerpt from a blog post by Amitava Kumar at the kenyonreview has been reproduced for its comment on another encounter with PL480.

https://www.kenyonreview.org/issues/sf02/kumar.php

There is a short story I like in which a young
man comes to the United States from India and becomes obsessed with
the desire to know everything about the Indian tradition. The story
was written in Kannada by A.K. Ramanujan, who taught for many years
at the University of Chicago. In the story, the young man named
Annayya is amazed at how, unlike him, the American anthropologists
knew so much about Indian culture. Annayya begins to read books
on India: “On the second floor of the Chicago library were stacks
and stacks of those books which had to be reached by climbing the
ladders and holding on to the wooden railings. Library call number
PK 321. The East had at last found a niche in the West.”
The number PK 321 is tied, in my mind, with another
code or number, a cryptic marker of mid-twentieth century globalization.
It is PL 480, short for Public Law 480, 83rd Congress. Beginning
in 1951, the United States provided wheat to India and other newly
independent nations and accepted payment for the grain in local
currency. The money that was “interest payable by the Government
of India on the Wheat Loan of 1951″ was used to fund “cultural exchange.”
In other words, monies to buy Indian books for American libraries
in return for the regulated disposal of wheat from the American
Midwest. The PL 480 library program for India and Pakistan began
in January, 1962. The library at the University of Chicago was selected
by the Library of Congress as one of the top beneficiaries of the
program. The books about ancient Hindu traditions that Ramanujan’s
Annayya was reading concealed a more contemporary exchange involving,
among other things, the regulation on the open market of the price
of thousands of tons of wheat from places like Kansas.
It was after coming to America as a foreign student
that I read “Annayya’s Anthropology” for the first time. For me,
there was even a glimmer of self-recognition in Ramanujan’s description
of Annayya in America: “He read the Gita. In Mysore, he had
made his father angry by refusing to read it. Here he drank beer
and whisky, ate beef, used toilet paper instead of washing himself
with water, lapped up the Playboy magazines with their pictures
of naked breasts, thighs, and some navels as big as rupee coins.”
But, what caught my attention during a subsequent reading was a
detail in Ramanujan’s story: the American anthropologist whose book
Annayya was reading in the Chicago library stacks was a Ford Foundation
fellow in India. In this fact hides the repetition of the link with
PL 480.
Under the National Defense Education Act of 1958,
a South Asia Language and Area Center was started at Chicago; as
a result, the university received substantial Ford Foundation long-term
grants. The same Ford Foundation was, of course, also interested
in grains. India, with help from the Americans, was trying to succeed
at launching the Green Revolution which was to later make grain
transfer to India unnecessary. But, that was not the only aim of
the Green Revolution. The environmental scientist Vandana Shiva
has written that under the Ford Foundation program in India “agriculture
was transformed from being based on internal inputs to being dependent
on external purchased inputs for which credits become necessary.”
The creditor was going to be America. We begin to see the further
irony hidden in Ramanujan’s remark that the East had found a niche
in the West under the call number PR 321: the ghost that lurks beside
that call number is the PL 480 program and the story of American
grains and even gain. As Shiva points out, “The social and political
planning that went into the Green Revolution aimed at engineering
not just seeds but social relations as well.”

Also see:

*Maureen L. P. Patterson, ‘The South Asian P.L. 480 Library Program, 1962-1968′, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Aug., 1969), pp. 743-754

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