MICA Professor Harmony Siganporia Exclusive Interview with CATkingAnisha Mukhija
Harmony Siganporia teaches in the area of Culture and Communication at MICA. She has a Ph.D. in social history, and her first book, I am the Widow: An Intellectual Biography of Behramji Malabari (Orient Blackswan 2018), was awarded the Prof. Sneh Mahajan award for best book on modern Indian history (2015-2018) by the Indian History Congress in 2019. A practicing musician, Ms. Siganporia’s other research areas/interests include ethnomusicology, gender and performativity, culture and conflict, modern Indian history, the role of cultural artifacts in the emplacement of identities in exile, and semiotic theory.
She believes that the factor that has kept her connected with the education sector is that she identifies as a lifelong learner and believes that one must teach. This is why the Education space is where she is happiest. About her leadership style, she says, “The need of the hour, for us as a species, is to learn how to cooperate better: competition is a zero-sum paradigm, but cooperation, and leaving no person behind, are the panacea to it. If I had to identify a ‘leadership’ style, that would be mine, as we try and model the futures we wish to inhabit.” Harmony believes that MICA is a wonderful little ecosystem where all stakeholders play multiple roles. She says, “Mine when it comes to the marketing and/or administration of our program, are largely inward-facing, in that I work – with my area colleagues – to continually serve to create the ‘differentiators’ we bring to the MICAn space.” She believes that there’s a reason why MICA is able to say it’s not just another B-school, and that reason is its strong legacy as an institution that analyses (and is a part of) cultural contexts and conversations.
On the differences between the Indian education system and that of foreign countries, she says that the students can expect a lot of leeway in designing their learning when it comes to MICA. In close cooperation with their peers, faculty members, and the multiple opportunities MICA presents to interface with/work on live industry projects. The MICAn pedagogy is intersectional and experiential: students can expect to find here.
She says that MICA’s curriculum takes cues from the industry to keep it relevant. But this isn’t a one-way process: MICA also constantly speaks back to the industry, in the form of multiple MDP/LMDP programs, to inform the conversations being had within that realm. This type of dialogic strategy helps the students constantly keep a finger on the pulse of ‘industry’ even as the institute offers practitioners the opportunity to engage with all that cutting-edge academic scholarship has to deliver.
MICA in next 10 years
MICA’s priorities over the next ten years should be to lead conversations in the space of re-imagining the businesses of tomorrow, which need to be regenerative by design. Harmony believes that we can either spend the next decade catching up with the shifting landscapes of a world compelled to deal with climate change and its attendant disasters, or we can lead the change by beginning to engage with questions ranging from shifting macroeconomic perspectives to having to contend with cultural changes which are becoming ever more accelerated. On the evolution of MICA over time, she says, “I used to think it was enough to merely be good at what I did – my teaching and research – and that if each of us were to be able to do that much, this was enough to make our institute special. I realize now that this was somewhat myopic. My vision for MICA is that we retain all that sets us apart from the gamut of other B-schools: we were clearly ahead of the curve when we espoused the ‘people, planet, profit’ creed years ago, and these factors have never been more vital than they are now. My vision, then, is for MICA to be the site – the crossroads or interstice – where conversations about the futures we want to manifest can happen. This is clearly something that will need constant doing, so it remains an ongoing process, but one worth committing one’s teaching-writing life to make possible.”
MICA’s greatest strength is the vibrancy of its faculty-body, the excellent ethos of peer-to-peer learning that permeates the school, and above all else, how it models its curriculum as well as its dealings with each other. For example, there is room at MICA to discuss and analyze principles of degrowth alongside classical economics and gender marketing alongside the post-binary world. On the biggest challenge ahead, she says that “Unless we keep being able to distinguish between information – which is more widely available than ever, which I see as a great and truly democratic thing – and facilitating learning (the act of synthesizing/analyzing/parsing/engaging with knowledge formation), we will face an almost existential line of questioning to demonstrate why and how we are relevant in the face of shifting ed-tech landscapes and other unfolding scenarios.”
Her suggestion for today’s youth is that if one has the privilege of time, they must give themselves a minute to see what really works for them, outside of the expectations both placed upon them by the outside (family, peers, etc.) as well as the internalized compulsions. She says that “Your working life will be one of the most significant commitments of time you ever make, so think about what gives you joy and satisfaction – find purpose, in other words – before you rush headlong into something only to find it isn’t a path you want to be on.” She wishes to continue to try and let her research and teaching reflect the cultural zeitgeist and would hope that this continues to serve the interests of her students and her institute. On establishing a healthy relation and environment at the institute, she says, “By remembering – always – that it is the people who make an institute great: my peers, colleagues, students are what make MICA the wonderfully sociable home to scholars it has always been, and I will try my best to model generous collegiality to and for them each because they deserve no less.”
She says that MICA is “A school with a lot of heart. We’re passionate about what we do because we’re in the business of understanding people in a bid to serve their interests better.”
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Deadline: 16th January 2022