The idea for Barefoot Philosophers started a long time ago in the many workshops and summer schools which Sundar Sarukkai used to organize. He felt a great interest and need by students from different disciplines to learn philosophy – sometimes about what philosophers had said but most times about the process of doing philosophy. At the same time, education in philosophy was slowly getting squeezed out of the colleges and universities around the country, reflecting a crisis both in the very idea of education as well as in the idea of philosophy itself. There were cultural walls around philosophy in the country and philosophers, it seemed, spent most of their time arguing why somebody or the other was not ‘really’ a philosopher! Philosophy was ghettoized into ‘Western’, ‘German’, ‘French’, ‘Indian’ philosophies without recognizing the similar and dissimilar elements of all these approaches.
Philosophy had forgotten to take into its fold some of the most important thinkers who had not written philosophical treatises but were instrumental in changing the world we live in. There was a serious problem in finding space for the voices speaking from the perspectives of caste and gender in this rarefied atmosphere of philosophy. Everyday life had become too ‘trivial’ for philosophical pursuit. Barefoot Philosophers arose as a response to all these problems of philosophy in the country. So what started then in the many lectures and workshops on ‘doing’ philosophy eventually solidified into an idea called Barefoot Philosophers. The students who were associated with these workshops were an inspiration to continue this effort and over the last few years, a core group of students who had studied with Sundar Sarukkai got together to continue this effort. Now Barefoot Philosophers exists as a forum which welcomes adults and children alike, friends and strangers to join us in bringing philosophy back to the public, back to its original peripatetic practice of purposeful meandering.