Tagore and Transition: Saving the World for Fun


  • Christine Marsh, UK


How do we respond to seeing our world under threat: from climate change, resource depletion, species extinctions, land degradation? We surely want to do what we can to save it, but what for? Do we aim to avert the most extreme threats in order to continue abusing the world, and probably making most people miserable? Perhaps we can find ways to save the world and make people happier at the same time. Two initiatives a century apart – Tagore and Transition – make conviviality, creativity and celebration central to their approach to world change. The poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) aimed for cooperative self-reliance for Indian villages, seeking to overcome caste, class and religious divisions. He emphasised the importance of arts and crafts, including performing plays and music together. A similar ethos is evident in today’s Transition Initiatives – now numbering thousands in over forty countries. A study has shown that participants value conviviality and enjoyment equally with making progress towards the goals of moving their local economy away from dependence on fossil fuels. There is a circumstantial connection between Tagore and Transition in that the first Transition Town was established in Totnes, near Dartington, where Tagore’s colleague and friend Leonard Elmhirst carried out his own experiment in rural reconstruction, modelled on Tagore’s. In this paper, I examine the aims and approaches of Tagore and Transition to test the idea that community self-help focussed on personal freedom and satisfaction is a viable and attractive solution to today’s social and ecological crisis.



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Author Biography

Christine Marsh, UK

Christine Marsh is an independent scholar with a background in research on land use and land degradation. Her current focus is on the contemporary relevance of Rabindranath Tagore's work on rural reconstruction to the Permaculture and Transition Movements. She is Managing-Trustee of the internationally recognised information provider Plants For A Future. Her MA dissertation entitled “The Village and the World: A Political Reading of Rabindranath Tagore's Prose Fiction†was followed by her doctoral research and thesis: “Towards One World: A Journey Through the English Essays of Rabindranath Tagore,†undertaken at Exeter University.




How to Cite

Marsh, UK, C. (2015). Tagore and Transition: Saving the World for Fun. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 9(2), 26–40. Retrieved from https://journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic/index.php/ajell/article/view/685