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India/western Sociology
All India Sociological conference from Dec. 27

Chennai, Dec. 24 (PTI): The vice president of the International Sociological Association, Dr Michael Burawoy, will be among the distinguished speakers at the 32nd All India Sociological Society conference being held here for the first time since establishment of the society in 1951, from December 27 to 29.

The conference will go into the impact of science and technology on the world economic order, social structure and political systems,with particular emphasis on its implications on India's societal development, Dr D Jayalakshmi, organising secretary of the conference and Professor and Head of Madras University's department of Sociology told a press meet on Saturday.

Stating that the theme of the conference was 'Science. Technology and Society: Emerging Issues', which had enormous relevance in today's rapidly changing world, she said research papers to be presented would include topics like social change and development, culture and comunication and social problems and marginalised groups.

Other speakers at the conference, being jointly organised by the University of Madras and ISA and in collaboration with Loyola College, would include former ISA president Alberto Matinelli, Prof Hermann Schwengel Frieberg University (germany) and Prof Tagi A Azadarmaki of the University of Tehran, she said.

About 700 delegates from within and outside India, will participate in it. Delegates from USA, Italy, Iran, Israel, Australia, Germany, Malaysia and Sri Lanka have already confirmed their participation in the conference, which was last held in Tamil Nadu in 1982 at Anamalai University at Chidambaram.
The swedes have a whole army of scholars watching and studying South Asia. If you will read Jang and other Pakis rags...one can descern quite a few of them being based in Sweden making a handsome living there selling South Asia's poverty to the Nordics.


Very good info

• Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). Established in 1969 by the Government of India to promote research in social sciences in the country. The Council reviews the progress of social science research in India, it sponsors social science research programmes and projects and administer grants to institutions and individuals for research in social sciences. ICSSR also institutes and administers scholarships and fellowships for research in social sciences, and gives financial support to institutions, associations, and journals engaged in social science research, organizes, sponsors, and finances seminars, workshops and study groups, and undertakes publication and assist publication of journals and books in social sciences.

The National Social Science Documentation Centre (NASSDOC), a Division of ICSSR established in 1969 as with the objective to provide library and information support services to researchers in social sciences; those working in academic institutions, autonomous research organisations, policy making, planning and research units of government departments, business and industry etc. NASSDOC provides guidance to libraies of ICSSR Regional Centres and ICSSR maintained Research Institutes.

Besides having six regional research centres, with the aim to decentralise administration and broad basing social science research, ICSSR also heads 27 major Research Institutes all over India. These are:
Subaltern Studies
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The Subaltern Studies Group (SSG) or Subaltern Studies Collective are a group of South Asian scholars interested in the postcolonial and post-imperial societies of South Asia in particular and the developing world in general. The term Subaltern Studies is sometimes also applied more broadly to others who share many of their views. Their approach is one of history from below, focused more on what happens among the masses at the base levels of society than among the elite.

The term "subaltern" in this context is an implied reference to an essay by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci (1881–1937). Literally, it refers to any person or group of inferior rank and station, whether because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.

The SSG arose in the 1980s, influenced by the scholarship of Eric Stokes, to attempt to formulate a new narrative of the history of India and South Asia. This narrative strategy most clearly inspired by the writings of Gramsci was explicated in the writings of their "mentor" Ranajit Guha, most clearly in his "manifesto" in Subaltern Studies I and also in his classic monograph 'The Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency.' Although they are, in a sense, on the left, they are very critical of the traditional Marxist narrative of Indian history, in which semi-feudal India was colonized by the British, became politicized, and earned its independence. In particular, they are critical of the focus of this narrative on the political consciousness of elites, who in turn inspire the masses to resistance and rebellion against the British.

Instead, they focus on non-elites — subalterns — as agents of political and social change. They have had a particular interest in the discourses and rhetoric of emerging political and social movements, as against only highly visible actions like demonstrations and uprisings.

* 1 People associated with Subaltern Studies
o 1.1 See also
* 2 External links
* 3 Further reading

[edit] People associated with Subaltern Studies

The Subaltern Studies group was founded by Ranajit Guha. In more recent times, many have been disillusioned with the post-modern turn that the group has taken (notably Sumit Sarkar who left the group).

Other scholars associated with Subaltern Studies include:

* Edward Said
* C.A. Bayly
* Gyan Prakash
* Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
* Partha Chatterjee
* Ranajit Guha
* Shahid Amin
* David Arnold
* David Hardiman
* Sumit Sarkar (later dissented)
* Gyan Pandey
* Dipesh Chakrabarty
* Gautam Bhadra
* Susie Tharu
* Ajay Skaria
* Shail Mayaram
* M.S.S Pandian
* Qadri Ismail
* Aamir Mufti

November 13, 2003
Confronting the Evangelical Imperialists
Mr. Kurtz: the Horror, the Horror


In mid-October, my email in-box began to receive forwards from Michael Bednar, a graduate student in the department of history at the University of Texas, Austin. The subject line suggested that it was an email joke: "Congress moves to regulate postcolonial studies."

Thanks to the vigilance of Michael Bednar many of us now know that the US Congress is poised to transform the relationship between university and college level international or area studies and the US government. The study of the world has been cultivated by federal funds via Title VI legislation, but the government has, by and large, not been involved in the career choices of those who take the money, study and then go forward into their lives. The government, when the President signs HR 3077 into law, will be now create an International Education Advisory Board made up of members of the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency and Homeland Security "to increase accountability by providing advice, counsel, and recommendations to Congress on international education issues for higher education." In other words, the government wants our students to enter a War Corps, to provide the translators, the intelligence analysts and others who will do the bidding of this era's Evangelical Imperialism.

I had barely begun to get over the death of Edward Said, whom the Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe rightly called the "lighthouse that navigates us." The assault on Area Studies it turns out is part of an assault on the legacy of those such as Edward Said, a long-time obsession of Martin Kramer's Middle East Forum (and Daniel Pipe's year old Campus Watch website). On 19 June 2003, when the Iraq war had already turned into this disastrous occupation, the US House of Representative's Subcommittee on Select Education held a hearing on "International Programs in Higher Education and Questions About Bias." The lead plaintiff at the hearing was Stanley Kurtz, a rather well known partisan from the Hoover Institute and National Review, who makes Bernard Lewis seem a liberal. Kurtz testimony invoked Said in his claim that most area studies centers are currently teaching anti-Americanism. "Said equated professors who support American foreign policy with the 19th century European intellectuals who propped up racist colonial empires. The core premise of post-colonial theory is that it is immoral for a scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and culture at the service of American power." Actually this is not a bad summary of Said's argument on culture and imperialism.

Kurtz recommends a reversal of the Said claim. Indeed he wants the government to oversee the Title VI funds given over to universities for the study of the rest of the world. The House accepted the critique and the recommendations. They have now written H. R. 3077 that adopts all this language, they passed it and have sent it along to the Senate (who is expected to start deliberations on it come the new year).

H. R. 3077 is not a break from US government policy. It is a reaction to the break made by many scholars within Area Studies from the goals of US imperialism. The establishment wants to take back Area Studies programs to the goal of their origination. Area Studies emerges in the early part of this century mostly as part of US evangelism: K. S. Latourette at Yale helped kick-start East Asian studies (his 1929 book is History of the Christian Missions in China); H. E. Bolton at Berkeley pioneered Latin American Studies (his 1936 book is The Rim of Christendom: A biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino, Pacific Coast Pioneer); A. C. Coolidge at Harvard worked out the contours of Slavic Studies (his big book of 1908 is entitled The United States as a World Power). In its infancy, the Church and Washington held sway over Area Studies. Our evangelical imperials of today want to return to this period.

Toward the end of Orientalism, Said noted that the US academy had taken over the Orientalist mantle from the Europeans after World War II and the "area specialist," he noted, "lays claims to regional expertise, which is put at the service of government or business or both." Area Studies, or the study of the world within the US academy, indeed has a complex history, much of it mired in an eagerness to please the powers. University of Chicago's sociologist Edward Shils said of his secondment to the War Department in the 1940s, that he was "glad of the vacation from teaching [and] enjoyed the excitement of proximity to great events and to great authority as well as to the occasional exercise of power on [our] own." Such is perhaps a good summary of the intentions of those academics who want to will themselves to power--venality mixed with a dose of the luxury afforded to the venal.

In 1951, a Social Science Research Council report regretted the "woeful lack of area experts, however defined" and it argued that the best thing for US domination of the world was "the launching of scores of area programs." In a moment of candor, the report authored by University of Michigan East Asia scholar Robert Hall, noted, "We must know if we are to survive." Much of what Said detested in Area Studies (particularly the study of the Arabic speaking peoples) is a result of the policies put in place in the wake of the SSRC report.

The campus struggles during the Vietnam War and the uprisings of students of color (the Third World Strike) pushed the academy to rethink Area Studies. As Said notes in Orientalism, "The Committee of Concerned Asia Scholars (who are primarily American) led a revolution during the 1960s in the ranks of East Asia specialists; the African studies specialists were similarly challenged by revisionists; so too were other Third World area specialists." (He regrets that such a change did not come for Arabists and Islamologists--although after his book such change has been afoot to such a degree that it has provoked an immense backlash from people like Daniel Pipes, Bernard Lewis, Martin Kramer and Stanley Kurtz).

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the assault on Area Studies started afresh. We were told that all campuses must "internationalize," an idea that is on the surface very appealing and it drew support from many Area Studies people (in the mid-1990s the Ford Foundation held a competition for funds to rethink Area Studies, a competition that drew most major universities and colleges). All talk of "internationalization" does not have humanitarian or liberal instincts, since the recent initiatives are driven principally by the military and by business.

Stanley Kurtz has used 9/11 and the recent wars as an excuse to recycle a bill that made its first appearance in 1992 thanks to Representative David Boren. In the National Security Education Act of 1992 Congress wished to "produce an increased pool of applicants for work in the departments and agencies of the US government with national security responsibilities" (article 3). The bill would have become law a decade ago had Newt Gingrich not taken control of Washington and nixed it in his bid to defund education in general. He probably didn't read the fine print.

The business implications of internationalization came to the fore in 1990, when the National Governors Association bemoaned the lack of international education for college graduates in a globalized world. "The best jobs, the largest markets and the greatest profits will flow to the workers and firms that understand the world around them," said the governors. Their analysis of recent history led to the assessment that "a lack of understanding and inability to communicate contributed to such events as the war in Vietnam, the hostage crisis in Iran, the OPEC oil crisis and the political consequences of the Bhopal industrial disaster." The motives of power and profit are freed of any responsibility for this litany of ills--we are left with E. M. Forster's dictum, "Only Connect."

Title VI is not a one-dimensional weapon of imperial domination: it has allowed for the creation of vast amounts of knowledge mobilized by progressives to help us to understand the dilemma of our world. Yale historian David Montgomery writes that we need to review the Cold War experience of Area Studies and the academy "not only to teach us how the human imagination has been contained, but also how it has broken through the veils of secrecy and deception." Area Studies has enabled us to better understand the creativity of popular social and left movements, and it has shown us how the theory of the GDP stifles the liberty of people around the globe. For us to continue our struggle to breathe life into Area Studies, to make it a real partisan of radical thought against the dreary deserts of pragmatism and of domination, we have to resist the new bill as it wends through Congress.

Michael Bednar asks us to write to our local representatives. That is always a good idea. Here's another one. If you are on a college campus, start a student-faculty-staff group in defense of Postcolonial/Area Studies--and push the administration to take a position on the issue along the lines of freedom of speech. If you are not on a college campus, then express your outrage in the local paper about the government's infringement on the liberty of intellectual thought. All political groups should take this seriously: it is not just about the academy, but also about the attempt by the state to make the academy into the emissary of Empire.

If you are interested in a campaign against this Kurtzian offensive, send me an email.

Vijay Prashad is an Associate Professor and Director of the International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. His two most recent books are Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism and Keeping Up with the (Dow) Joneses Prashad can be reached at: Vijay.Prashad@trincoll.edu

Vijay Prasad is fulfilling his useful idiot role as always. Liberal studies have always been part of the colonialist project, starting with Kipling (who wrote Junglebook, of all things) and Marx and continuing onto Witzel and Nussbaum. Formal and informal relationships may come and go (eg the "anti-colonialist" Thapar's Kluge chair), but the abrahamist framework remains intact and opposed to independent heathen viewpoints. Just because Germany and Britain were enemies does not negate the fact of colonialism.

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All about Indian sociology


The Context

Unlike the earlier generations of Asian intelligentsia, we are not confronted by what they had to cope with viz., a dynamic western society. We know only too well today, what choices they had and what they made of them yesterday: either they retreated into obscurantist revivalism touting the indigenous culture as the only or the best form of life, or took to an aggressive hawking in the street bazaars of Asia those goods and products bought at bargain-basement prizes from giant warehouses elsewhere. The first went into bankruptcy in its country of origin while some entrepreneurial elements amongst them shifted their shops from the banks of the Ganges and the Kaveri to that of a Thames and a Hudson. The second has made fortunes by selling remainders at retail prices. Either way, the Asian culture stagnated: our intellectuals had lost a world they never had and grew up in one they never knew. And we, their heirs and legatees, have to struggle to make an alien world our own whilst our own becomes alien.

All of this was yesterday. Today? Today, Europe has turned in on itself. Its culture has developed agoraphobia. Its leaders are parochial and provincial, its intellectuals amnesic, its body-politic anaemic and its citizenry cynical. It is a world grown old beyond its age, its vision myopic and bi-dimensional, and its perspective short and shallow. This enables us to study some of its values and presuppositions without being overawed by its dynamism; the static nature of European society today throws these values up in sharp relief.


The Impulse

Despite the grandiose nature of the task, the impulse for this position paper is both normal and rea-sonable: it is one of assessing theories from the domain of social sciences. The intuition guiding this undertaking is the realization that whatever their explanatory power or problem-solving capacity, the existing social sciences are not adequate to the task of making our world intelligible to us. There is a feeling of dissatisfaction with the conceptual apparatus that obtains today, a disquiet that interesting and important issues are not even being formulated as questions for an inquiry. One of the tentative explanations often put across to account for this unsatisfactory state of affairs is that the social sciences of today are ‘Western’. That is, the social sciences embody assumptions (whether all of its assumptions or only some of them are ‘Western’ requires to be made out), which blind them to recognizing issues that are very important to an understanding of our world.

The Condition

However correct it might prove to be later, this intuition is not sufficient for the task of assessing theories from the field of social sciences. To reject the existing conceptual frameworks, simply be-cause we feel that they do not quite manage to do what theories are supposed to, would be a folly. There is no way of assessing theories, unless it be by comparing them with rival theories. We could sensibly begin with theory appraisal (assuming, of course, that the theories under consideration are not inconsistent) if, and only if, we have two or more theories which are competitors to each other with respect to the phenomenon they explain. I will not go deeper into this point, except to state it as a condition.

In one sense, it could be said that there are rival theories in the field of social sciences: structural as against cognitive anthropology; Austrian school of economics against Keynesian economics; Marxian economics against Micro and Macro economics; Parsonian as against Weberian sociology…etc. Therefore, it might appear that our problems are solved, even before we have formulated them. It becomes merely a question of ascertaining which of these competitor theories are best suited for the job we have in mind.

A Question…

But this is not what we have in mind when we speak of ‘decolonizing’ social sciences. So, what do we have in mind? Let us look at the issue this way. Without the least bit of exaggeration it could be held that the study of societies and cultures is a project initiated by the Western world. Over the centuries, Western intellectuals have studied both themselves and other cultures and, in the process of doing so, they have developed a set of theories and methodologies to understand the human world. What we call ‘social sciences’ are the result of the gigantic labour performed by brilliant and not-so-brilliant men and women from all over the world over a long period of time.

Let us formulate a hypothetical question in order to express our intuition: would the results have been the same or even approximately similar if, say, the Asians had undertaken such a task instead of the Europeans? Suppose that, in the imaginary world we are talking about, it was the effort of the Asian intellectuals reflecting about the European culture and that of their own, as they saw both, which eventuated in social sciences. Would it have looked like contemporary social sciences?

…and an Answer

I put to you that the most natural answer to the question is this: “We do not know”. It is worthwhile reflecting on this answer.

When we confess to being unable to answer the question, it does not arise from an impossibility to answer questions about hypothetical situations: all our scientific laws describe hypothetical situations and we can say what would happen in such situations. (E.g., ‘what would happen if I drop a stone from the top of a building? It would fall downwards…etc.’) Our claim to ignorance has to do with the specific kind of hypothetical situation which the question picks out, and with the feeling that there is no way to check the veracity of the answers one may give. That is, because we have no model of such an attempt, we have no way of deciding how to go about answering such a question. Worse still, because we have no models where the answers can come out either true or false, we feel that all answers to this question are meaningless and, therefore, that the question itself is meaningless. The question has not violated any syntactic or semantic rule; it has not committed any category mistake and yet we do not know how to make sense of this question.

There is a peculiar air about this state of affairs. We are not able to make sense of a question which asks us, literally, how we appear to ourselves and how the West appears to us. And yet, we have been studying both ourselves and the West for quite sometime now!

We know the West as the West looks at itself. We study the East the way West studies the East. We look at the world the way West looks at it. We do not even know whether the world would look different, if we looked at it our way. Today, we are not in a position even to make sense of the above statement. When Asian anthropologists or sociologists or culturologists do their anthropology, sociology or culturology – the West is really talking to itself.

The task

As a result, if you will allow me a mild hyperbole, I would assert that neither the problem of ‘incom-mensurability of cultures’ nor that of ‘indeterminacy of translation’ arises. They might become prob-lems when the background assumptions and theories which underlie a study are different. The back-ground assumptions and theories which guide a Western anthropologist studying Asian culture are the same as those of an Asian anthropologist studying his own. Should one of them face problems, so should the other. Both study the same phenomenon (the ‘inscrutability of reference’ notwithstanding), with the same tools embodying the same assumptions. The nature of some problem and its relative importance are not different for the two, and these are so organized by their background assumptions.

Western culture, with background assumptions peculiar to it, ‘problematized’ some phenomenon which has taken the status of a fact to us: we prattle on endlessly about the problem of ‘the Indian caste system’, the amorphous nature of ‘Hinduism’, the problem of ‘underdevelopment’, the ‘question of human rights in Asia’ …etc. Idem for our perspectives on the West.

Surely, but surely, there is a problem here? If our culture differs from that of the West and if, per-force, our background theories and assumptions are other than those of the West, we could not pos-sibly either formulate questions or assign weights to them, both about us and the West, in exactly the same way the West does. Yet, we do – invariably and as a matter of fact. How can we make sense out of questions routinely copied from western social research, and then go on to answer them by means of empirical studies? But we do – we act as though these questions do make sense to us.

Be it as that may, this situation prevents us from either defending or attacking the Western social sciences: we cannot say that they are ‘true’ because we do not know any other. We cannot say they are ‘false’ because there are not any theories to compare them with. And that is why you will not find criticisms of Western social sciences in this paper.

Consequently, our task at this stage cannot be one of assessing Western social sciences. Therefore, we cannot ‘decolonize’ them either. But, what we can do is to try and say how the world appears to us. What are the things we take to exist in this world? What are the experiences important to us? If we try to do this by constantly contrasting our answers to the ones formulated by Western social sciences, then perhaps a stage will come when we could begin to talk about assessing Western social sciences. In this process, we shall have begun to construct an alternative (where possible) to Western social sciences.

What does it mean though to say or suggest that we try and describe the world as it looks to us? How can this be both rewarding and serious? It is the aim of this paper to answer these questions. For the moment, all we ought to remember from the foregoing is the following: even though we have been looking at the world, the social world that is, for centuries, we do not know how it appears to us!

The Structure

This paper has six sections. In the first, I introduce the notion of world models which I will use dur-ing the course of the next five. The second section explicates the model of “self’ as it obtains in the Western and Asian cultures. The third section looks at one dimension of the relation between human selves and ethical phenomenon. The fourth discusses one aspect of the moral domain viz. the moral nature of human rights. It asks the question whether the differing notions of the ethical, as they ob-tain between these two cultures, throw doubt on the idea of universal rights. The fifth section carries us into the debates about Nations and ethnicity as they are isomorphic with the differing models of self. The sixth looks into the way human selves learn in these two cultures and at the relation between the nature of selves and learning. It also formulates some hypotheses as a consequence. The paper concludes by reflecting about what has been achieved and proposes some guidelines for assessing it.

The entire paper is organized around one theme viz. the model of “self”. The first section, conse-quently, does not exhaust the theme. It is taken up and elaborated in different ways in the different sections: hopefully, what is said in one will get clarified by what will be said subsequently. Because not only do later sections clarify the earlier ones but also presuppose them, the paper hangs together as a whole: each section illumines the other, each leans upon the other. Therefore, I would suggest that you read through to the end, even when you feel that some thoughts expressed in any one section are not perspicuous enough. If I have succeeded in what I want to, by the end of this paper you should get a glimpse of the pattern I am trying to point out.

In this sense, I would like to believe that this paper is not only governed by a thematic continuity but also by the methodology used. Cultural practices, I believe, should not get “explained” in the first instance as something that arose out of a rational or irrational belief or decision.( M. Harris’ ‘explanation’ of the “origin of sacred cow” in India and Frazer’s ‘explanation’ of the “magical practices” of peoples represent such attempts.) Because a culture is “a way of life of a people”, to render a culture perspicuous is to show how one practice leans upon the other, how the other illumines the first and how they, in their interconnections, hang together and constitute a “form of life”. Such a ‘methodology’ is the most appropriate one for this domain because it is best able to point out the “patterns” in cultural practices.

The test of this paper, in a sense other than those I propose in the concluding section, would be this then: does this paper succeed in suggesting or hinting at an interconnection? Does it signal in the direction of a pattern which it does not seek either to capture or explain? I will raise this as a question here, leaving it to you to give the answer as you read through the sections.



On the Existence of World Models

When human beings go about in the world, they are helped in this venture by their representations of the world, the explicit and implicit beliefs they have built up, etc. I am using ‘representations’ as a collective name for everything that is scored in our memories without, however, implying anything about the format of such a storage. As such, it includes such things as images, facts, skills, language, events and episodes, concepts…To say that we are helped by our memories when we go about in the world is as non-controversial as the next claim: our memories are structured. In other words, we are helped in our goings about in the world by ordered and structured representations we have built up.

For the most part, philosophers and anthropologists and, of late, psychologists have reflected about these representations: metaphysical beliefs, ideologies, world views, world models etc., are some of the better known names for these – depending upon the subset of representations that any thinker chose to concentrate upon. What I will be talking about in the rest of this paper will be one such subset comprising of such representations as: the naive or intuitive physics and biology we work with; our intuitive notions and experiences of time, cause and space; our intuitions about the world, whether social or natural; and the social skills for building human relations etc. I will not be talking about all of these, but what I do talk about belongs to this subset.

Henceforth, I will use the word ‘intuitive or metaphysical world models’ to refer to this subset of representations. The choice for such a label is related to the difficulty of giving the intension for the subset: the ‘intuitive’ stands in contrast with the explicit theories we have about the world; the ‘metaphysical’ picks out the salient, experience-structuring property of these world models. Which representation belongs to this subset and which is excluded? I am unable to provide a criterion, except to say that the skill of riding a bicycle, the fact that Columbus discovered America and the theory of natural selection do not belong to the subset I have in mind, whereas the notions and experiences we have of ourselves do so. I know this is vague; but elimination of vagueness from this is a long term or life-term project, a moment in whose execution is the paper you have in your hand.

Having said so much, let me now state the belief that guides this paper: the intuitive or metaphysical world models are well-structured and ordered entities. Such models are the root, or primary models for all other models we have about the world be they physical or mathematical theories. To elaborate upon this is to say a word or two about the role of intuitive or metaphysical world models.

On the Role of the World Models

To begin with, these intuitive or metaphysical world models play a cognitive role. They guide our theorizing about the world: from a meta-perspective, they help in the structuring of object-level problems; they pick problems out as interesting or uninteresting to solve i.e. they distribute epistemic weights, and order problems by according cognitive importance to them; they put constraints on acceptable theories and explanations, and, finally, generate expectations and localize anomalies. It has been the dream of every philosopher of science to come up with a theory capable of doing all these things that world models can. They underlie all human efforts at theorizing about the world be it the natural or social world. Simply put, they guide theorizing.

These models do not just play a cognitive role. They are indispensable for our practical interactions with the world as well. They structure experience and do so in a fundamental way: the experiences of success and failure in our ventures and, indeed, the very construal of some experience as being a success or a failure; our perception of others around us and our responses to them etc.

If these world models are both cognitively and practically so fundamental, how do we acquire them and how do they undergo change? After all, these models function as the source for generating ex-pectations and, at some level, as the arbiter for accepting proposed explanations. Given furthermore that they structure our experience of the world, it might appear that they are not susceptible to change at all.

On the Nature of the World Models

The question raised above is crucial and important. Despite its centrality, I will not try to answer it in this paper; come to that, I do not have an answer to give. But, a reflection or two about the acquisition and change of these intuitive or metaphysical world models is nevertheless in order.

One thing is that we do acquire these world models (at least, those that I am talking about) and they are not innate. The folk psychology we use to understand peoples’ actions and behaviours, i.e. the model on the basis of which we ascribe hopes, intentions, beliefs, desires, etc., to people and thus make sense of their actions cannot be said to be innate in any sense of the term. We come to acquire them and acquisition of world models is a learning process. Furthermore, as the history of thought unambiguously demonstrates, they have changed over time – clearly and visibly. Question about acquisition or change of these world models is one for empirical enquiry and is of fundamental importance.

Even without performing such an empirical enquiry, it is safe to assert that the intuitive or meta-physical world model is something which an individual builds up. But that is not to say that the model is just an explicit set of beliefs or that its construction is deliberate. Its coming into being is certainly not purposive in the sense that a human being decides to have one and then executes such a decision.

It is like “Culture” in that the latter is not the result of purposive action of any one actor or even several of them. In fact, as I have already said before, the goal of our explicit theorizing is to model what we have built up without aiming to do so i.e. to design consciously and explicitly, what is built up sub-intentionally.

To be sure, the content of our explicit theories (in the Natural sciences) cannot be compared to the content of our intuitive world models. Where such comparison is possible (say, in psychological theorizing), our intuitive models win hands down! In any case, this is a side issue for the moment.

That orders, structures etc., exist without conscious design is neither new nor surprising. The order that biological life exhibits on our planet, if we accept the claim of evolutionary theory, or the order that different societies exhibit are well known to all of us.

What about its applicability to learning? That we learn, acquire and build world models without in-tending to do so may tell us something about learning process or, at least, about some interesting fragment of it: learning is sub-intentional. Is there such a learning process? Is it possible to point such an activity out? My answer is a qualified yes, but I am anticipating.

World Models and “Decolonizing the Social Sciences”

Now, we have a foot-hold to begin making sense of the project viz. to decolonize the social sciences. One possible way of doing it is this:

(a) The core meaning of the concept of culture (in its natural-linguistic usage) is best expli-cated by an appeal to the world models: the content of and the interdependence between the elements of these world models would furnish us with the required explication. What makes some action, some belief, some experience, a part of a cultural repertoire is not only the content of such an action, belief or experience, but also the interdependence between these and other actions and experiences, which make them cohere and give us a whole (‘Zusammenhang’ as the Germans can say it so beautifully).

(b) Acquisition and change of these world models have the properties that cultural acquisition and change exhibit: they are learned, include both behaviour and beliefs, and change slowly. Though some elements of an intuitive world model can change during the life-time of one individual or one generation, it does not mean that any one individual is able to change or transform one’s world model entirely on one’s own. Even though it is the world representation of an individual and is built up individually, its implicit nature and the experience-structuring role, nevertheless, attest to the practical impossibility of changing such a model in a solipsist fashion.

Because these world models are built up sub-intentionally, and because of the kind of learning process involved in such an endeavour, to anticipate a bit, these world models cannot be built up except in society. In other words, one is able to explain (partially) why it is that acquiring culture requires interaction with significant others.

These world models exhibit the curious properties shared by all cultural systems viz. conservatism and dynamism. Cultural systems are conservative: they endure over time and through generations. They are also dynamic: each individual builds the requisite world representation in his/her ‘own’ way.

© This raises formidable problems: if each individual builds up his/her ‘own’ world repre-sentation, how is it at all possible to classify any one group of people as belonging to one culture? How can one speak of such entities as the ‘Western Culture’? What explains the cultural continuities as well as discontinuities between and within generations? All of these are unsolved problems and I have no solutions to them. Nevertheless, I will indulge in some flag-waving and table-thumping to show, if nothing else, just how important they are to any project which intends to ‘decolonize’ the social sciences.
It is possible to construct an abstract model which, in some unspecified sense, stands mid-way between an individual’s intuitive world model and the objectivations that circulate in the group to which the individual belongs at the level of daily life. (Like stories, rituals, customs, festivals, etc.) Such an intermediate world model is what, anthropologists attempt to construct when they do their field work or so I hypothesize. The intuitive world models of the individuals belonging to a group would be similar to such an abstract, intermediate world model. ‘Culture’ (like, say, the Asian or the Western Culture) names such an intermediate world model. The conventional element involved in circumscribing the culture of a people is captured by the fact that one has to construct such an intermediate model. But the arbitrariness involved in such a conventional construction is reduced by being subject to two constraints: firstly, such an intermediate model must model the objectivations and, secondly, it must be possible to draw a similarity relationship between the relevant aspects of the intermediate model and intuitive models.

(d) There is, with respect to my task, an additional constraint. Such an intermediate model should lend intelligibility to what otherwise appear as unintelligible object-level claims in individual social theories. A very brief explication is required here.

Social theories have been evolving over a period of at least three-four hundred years. In-dividual practitioners of these domains who created such theories have used indifferently many intuitive world models. Therefore, in order to speak of Western social sciences one will have to build an intermediate world model that underlies various social sciences and show how it can illumine the “self-evident” but otherwise obscure claims of various theories. At this stage, it is important to emphasize that which makes object-level claims intelligible need not be, and in most cases is not, justification provided for accepting them. The task of an intermediate model is rather to shed light on why a group of thinkers from a culture consider this intuition worthy of justification at all; why this vague notion appears intuitively correct to them, and not that one. The contrast I have in mind can best be captured by means of the different questions that these types of enquiries, viz, the intelligibility, the explanatory and the justificatory types of enquiries ask. For example, when one asks, why some group of thinkers defend or criticize the claim that human beings have a right to free speech, one is asking questions about the nature of justifications prevalent in the group with respect to this issue. This is what I call a justificatory type of enquiry. One would get an explanatory type of enquiry, if one explained this phenomenon, say, by appealing to the emergence of bourgeois social order or whatever. But, instead of asking either of the two questions, if one asks why the group considers this project as a sensible one at all and how on earth could they feel that it requires justification or criticism at all, one is hypothesizing about intelligibility.

Let me put it this way. There are some ideas current in the social sciences which I do not understand. Even though you and I can proficiently use them, we face some or all of the following problems with respect to them: we cannot explicate their meaning; we cannot identify the phenomena they refer to or even whether they refer at all; we cannot recognize the descriptions they provide; we feel that they are plain nonsensical; we are vaguely disturbed …etc. So, we try to find out why the Western social scientists do not face similar problems. If we are successful in our project, we will come up with an intelligibility hypothesis. Such a hypothesis does not take away any of our problems with respect to these ideas; it is merely a way for us to understand why the Western thinkers are not as baffled about them as we are.

(e) Given what I have said about the world models, two further remarks are in order. Firstly, what makes some project intelligible-to-us need not do the same for those who have been pursuing it. They might find our intelligibility hypothesis perverse, false or even unintelligible. It is probable that they find our partial descriptions of their culture as shallow and superficial as we find their partial descriptions of our cultures to be! Such a response from them stands to reason, because the manner of structuring a problem and going about answering it, the way of distributing cognitive weight etc., are all, as I said before, due to one’s world model. Indulging in such an enquiry has the consequence, and this is the second point, of enabling one to draw inferences about the nature of one’s own world model.

(f) All I am saying is this then: this paper is how I can make sense of some of the projects of the Western social sciences. I want to believe that you are confronted with similar problems and what makes something intelligible to me would do the same for you as well.

But for this belief to assume cognitive significance, some further effort is required: if it can be shown that alternative, abstract world models can inspire different object-level theories; these are able to address themselves to the issues currently tackled by the existing social sciences and can do so differently; it could be legitimately said that the task of “decolonizing the social sciences” is truly and properly begun.

I leave it to you to judge on the basis of the foregoing and the following pages, whether or not this paper belongs to such a process.

<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Mar 12 2008, 10:23 AM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Mar 12 2008, 10:23 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Unlike the earlier generations of Asian intelligentsia, we are not confronted by what they had to cope with viz., a dynamic western society. We know only too well today, what choices they had and what they made of them yesterday: either they retreated into obscurantist revivalism touting the indigenous culture as the only or the best form of life[right][snapback]79564[/snapback][/right]

This bleak view may be warranted in some cases but not in all. I remember one time seeing a pandit accosted about the 'meaning' of some or other practice (though not from a secularist or religious stance) and he gave a stern reply that meaning should not always be sought. Vivekananda's dharma was simply to take these rascals by the scruff and give a good beating and also make sure that enough connections survived for future generations to pick up the pieces. Rajiv Malhotra gave the example of "Kurma Niti" being explicitly expounded in a Kumbha Mela as a response to Islamic depradations. The same pandit once advised to make Ghuri your role model for trying again and again in the face of failure- of course it does not mean he was advocating Islam (which he clarified when someone asked). In the recent Delhi conference, a Sikh scholar gave the example of differentiations between 'Dheen' and 'Dharma' present in SGGS. Nationalists have always insisted on a qualitative difference between the colonialist intrigues and our traditions - even if it only came down to saying that -they practice a religion while we live a 'way of life'-; this was transformed into the "pagan" versus "abrahamic" distinctions explicated/adopted by many Nationalists (incl Talageri). Buddha gave the example of remaining silent in certain circumstances (though these were certainly qualitatively different that the colonialist impositions).

Due credit should be given to those who have survived the colonizing experiences even if their responses were not perfect. Their responses were at least coherent enough to ensure that their descendents were aware of a problem. Even from the standpoint of a strategy of confidence buliding, it would be worth the while to chronicle our varied past responses.
<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Mar 12 2008, 09:45 AM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Mar 12 2008, 09:45 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->You have a file or files called: March 11 Dr Bala - Speech and QA (1 file(s)) 

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Dr Balu speech given in Los Altos about
his book and research on religions
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Another Balagangadhara talk:


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Two talks by Jacob De Roover:

1. http://www.esnips.com/doc/2e0d354e-88aa-43...oodlands-temple

(he says that DMKwalas are simply following their Ishtadeva in form of Periyar- the force of ideology/beliefs/dogma/doctrine/principles is lacking)

2. http://www.esnips.com/doc/d57e26cb-d7ec-4c...eenakshi-Temple

(approximation around a common type (ie the normal or perfect) is the characteristic of ideology/religion)

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Western Identity -- Ours and Theirs...Part I


The attempt here is to discuss the Westernized Identity over multiple articles. In the beginning we discuss the relevance of this for the Non-Westerner, specifically the Indian. Then we discuss external, i.e. Geographical Sociopolitical & Military aspects of it. The idea of “The West” is so implicit in any discussion, that we forget there is a simple and well-documented history behind the construction of “Western” identity. Much of this series of articles will try to look at a broad overview of this history, i.e. the history of the interaction of ‘The West” with “The Rest”.
Though the primary interest here is of the interaction of India with the West, it is necessary to place this in the context of the West’s own worldview, i.e. its idea of how it (The West) has interacted with Russia, the “Islamic World” the “Far East”, and it’s own claimed Graeco-Judaic heritage. On this subject, I have found the lectures of British historian Arnold J Tonybee to be invaluable in their conciseness and clarity, and will be using them as a sort of “Skeleton” to frame the discussion. The 1952 vintage lectures do miss out the last fifty years or so, but the broad framework he lays out has not changed enough to affect his historical points.

Also, his views, expressed when the dominance of the West was still uncontested, reflect the confident and explicit assertions typical of even the most well meaning Westerner when he talks of the Rest, and they are free of the “politically correct” obfuscations by Westerners in today’s environment. An example could be the West of today calling itself the “International Community” when it attempts to enforce its will.

In later parts of the article, his views, basically the standard Western views, are contrasted for balance with important non-Western perspectives, for example those of Native American leaders, and of course ideas from Indian History & Culture.



In the previous article on Identities (Identities and labels, how far should one go with them? ), we focussed somewhat at the Indian aspect of the Indian identity. Here we will try to address the Western aspect of the Indian identity. My assertion is that most of us (the English educated intelligentsia) have a dominant Western identity in us that arrogates to itself the power to make most of our practical decisions, since we are convinced that it is “most Rational”, “most modern” etc. While this is not in itself a bad thing, one may want to wonder at what’s happening to the Indian (or other non-Western) side of our identities, weighed down & atrophying under the burden. Perhaps it needs breathing room, & we can place our Western identity side-by-side with our Indian one for a while? Since this Western side of ours is not more than a century or two old, we should at least be able to take ownership of our Identity. We could then look at it with clarity, perhaps analyze it so we think critically of what is and isn’t working for us, and what needs to be retained, & what needs to be thrown away?

But before this “dethroning” of our Western identity to put it on par with our Indian one, we need to know a bit about the West, and about Westernization.

Here’s an attempt to know the West, starting with it’s own conception of itself, via words of renowned historian Arnold J Tonybee.


We will refer to his handy book “The world and the West”, all of 99 pages. This appears to be a brilliantly condensed version of his “magnum opus” – “A Study of History” in four large Volumes (See Ref#4 for detail).

Let us now get familiar with our reference, A.J. Tonybee, and his “The world and the West”. Why this book is so interesting is explained by the Quotes from the book jacket:

"Universally acknowledged as one of the greatest living historians of his time." His book "A study of history" is considered a classic. ‘The world and the West’ represents the Reith Lectures for 1952 over the BBC.”

“...he invites us to look through impartial eyes at what this world has experienced in its contact with the West during the last five hundred years....”

The book is summarized as below-


“For the worlds experience at our (Western) hands has been by no means as salutary as our wishful thinking would have us believe.

The most important single factor in this encounter between the world and the West is that our Western technical achievements, our "bag of tools", have taken the world by storm while our way of life has been assimilated only partly and imperfectly.

Nor is this a mere accident; experience shows that in all encounters between civilizations, a part of an alien culture is more readily accepted than the whole. But in today's world distances have been annihilated and man finds himself face to face not only with other men's tools but also with their ideas.

Our Western way of life is locked in deadly struggle with Russia's way of life and must compete with it for the allegiance of all mankind. It seems, therefore, that the present round of the collision between the world and the West will have to be fought out on the spiritual plane, with the weapons of the mind and the spirit.”

These words of his above still ring true today, except for some minor updates, i.e. substitute “ Islamic Fundamentalism” for “Russia”, factor in the recently acknowledged “rise of Asia” and it is up to date. It appears that the identity of most people is locked in the struggle to figure out how much one is of the “Rest” and how much of the “West”, with a marked preference assumed for the latter. One can note his sense of what are tasks still incomplete & imperfectly done. The sense of “Mission of the West” can’t be missed in the above tone. Also the sense of Western values & values of Christianity being inextricably tied to one another, though not apparent in above quote, is confidently present throughout his words.

This may also be a good place to say that the word “hindu” is being used in this article in the cultural sense, i.e. indigenous Indian thought & traditions, still followed by the vast majority of Indians that haven’t “converted” to exclusivist foreign ideologies like Abrahamism (Euro Christianity & Euro inspired Communism, etc ). The word Indic (hindu, buddhist, jain, tribal etc, i.e the various Dharmic thought systems) fits the bill much better sometimes.

Here’s how the book is laid out. From “Book Contents”:


I. Russia and the West

II. Islam and the West

III. India and the West

IV. The Far East and the West

V. The psychology of the encounters

VI. The World and the Greeks and the Romans

We will start with bringing in elements from Chapter III, this being of most relevance to us, and then more on to the broader Global issues via chapters I, II, IV, etc later, in parts 2, 3 etc of this article.

There will be plenty of direct quotes from the book in the main body of the article, in italics etc, prefaced by [AJT QUOTE # ] to distinguish them from my words; and a few in the REFERENCES section.

So without further ado, let’s move on to the Indian scene.



Let us start with a simple relevant example. Let us take the case of a child growing up in India, going through the schooling system, becoming useful to society, getting a job, & achieving socioeconomic success. This could well describe most of us reading articles like this, basically middle/upper middle class Indians in general. Hopefully this example makes sense also to the occasional reader not of Indian heritage.

In going through all these stages of life, the really relevant "Education & development" has been entirely in the Western side of our personalities. How well we are educated in our "Indianness” (hindu or non hindu) is largely irrelevant to the system where our Westernized education is the primary asset that allows us to interact in the Westernized Industrial structure, bureaucracy, etc. Hence The Westernized Indian is the standard by which power & success is achieved for the majority, irrespective of the Indian side of their background (linguistic, geographical, etc..). Westernization is the norm.

Moving over to the other side, for the child growing up in US, it is pretty much the same, education & public affirmation of the Western norm is all that is promoted in the system, be it education in Western mores & methods, or later deployment of the same in professional life. The non-Western aspects of the non-Western heritage, if any, is largely irrelevant to society as a whole.

From the Indian-American perspective, it is easy to see that this Westernized side is indeed the main key of our success in the US, and the only relevant side of us to most Americans (& I daresay this is similar for other Indian diaspora in the West elsewhere). The Indian identity is largely irrelevant, sometimes even a liability if the field of endeavour is not based on objectively measurable skills like Technology, medicine, etc.

So, in summary, the common factor in both societies is Westernized behavior.

Regarding this pervasive Westernization in India, one of the basic points to note is that the Westernized behaviour is pretty much the PRIVILEGED BEHAVIOUR in the Indian social & Economic world, and not just IN ADDITION TO the existing Indian behavioral attributes which come from various local sources, like parents, extended family, & society.

This in itself need not be criticized as a bad thing, and most Indians don’t. But we do need to be aware that regardless of where the Indian-ness of the Indian is coming from (Indic-hindu/buddhist/jain/sikh/etc, or Parsee, muslim, christian, etc..); if (s)he doesn't posses this vital component of Westernization (at least in basic terms, i.e. of being able to get by in the Westernized landscape); his/her social and economic future is highly limited.

Criticism, if any, is about the privileged position of Westernized behavior, over and above notions of Indian-ness.

Our simple example of the pragmatic Indian parents "voting with their feet" in educating their kids in Westernized (mostly English medium) school systems illustrates this. I wonder which pragmatic parent will disagree in their pragmatic actions with above, no matter how wedded they are to their own alternative worldviews (hindu, muslim, or anything else non-Western). They will send their child to a school where he learns to deal with the Westernized world, since that is the one the child will face, either in India or US. Hindu thought, norms, etc don't have any place in all this (how many Indic ideas are kids being taught in school in India?) Most of our parents are testimony of that overwhelming fact.

We also recognize that India is not alone in this privileging of Westernized behavior. Most of the world is at various stages of acceptance and/or negotiation with this paradigm.



From a historical perspective, here are some more clarifications.

Historically speaking, the only really "non local" or "incoming cultures" that have left tangible traces on Indian life are the post 10th century Islamic, & the post 17th century Western (mostly British) Colonization.

Regardless of what other minor cultural interactions have happened, and not even attempting to refute unproven theories of "invasions" or "migrations" of the remote past; once you go prior to the influence of these two foreign sources (with variations inside of themselves), what you get is the home grown culture of India.

Of these two, for the purposes of this discussion, I'm not including Islamic rule/influence as "Western" for obvious reasons, based on my usage of "West" above.

But, one could say, we hear that after Indian independence there is a renewal or revival of Indic thought, and some of us may optimistically even believe this. I'd like to believe that too, but currently, I'm of the opinion that we are far from any "rehabilitation" of any form of Indic identity in the Indian Public behavior. As a simple bellwether to track, it will be interesting to follow what kind of curriculum is to be taught at the attempted "revival" of the universally respected & ancient Nalanda University with what appears to be a massive amount of Public & foreign funds. Will "Nalanda" just be a convenient "Brand name" to be used to market the predilections of the "modern" Indian intelligentsia, which mostly run to the "Secular" subjects ? (i.e. dominantly Western, since most Indic Philosophy & Experiential Science is wrongly lumped & then dumped with "hindu religion" & this banned from the "secular" Public sphere.) With luminiaries like Amartya Sen who seems unable to say Hindu without reflexively saying "fundamentalism" (see my "Identities and labels, how far should one go with them?" article for more on Amartya Sen) and his cohorts like Sugata Bose at the helm, I wouldn't bet on much Indic thought being considered fit to teach there. (For more angst on Nalanda, see my poem "What's in a name, Oh Nalanda, and What of Rama Setu?" ) Hopefully, I'll be proven wrong.

While Indic identity might have been normative in pre Islamic India, and maybe somewhat significant in Islamic dominated India, we are now in a world post the interactions with Islam+West. Even Hindu-ness wherever it exists, has no real power of normativeness in people's Public behavior (Political, Social, Economic). It just continues as a received habit, while Westernization is actively pursued.

And the "hindu-ness", in as much as any privileging identification goes, is limited to the sidelines, in the homes of individuals, & inside powerless "traditional" institutions. Sure, Political parties may be attempting to tap into this angst, but with sporadic success, One major reason being that easy definitions of "hinduism" are so difficult, thus not easily amenable to political manipulation.

In the broader picture, when I try to define Indic identity, or Indian ness, I'm not limiting the definition, or deriving it from religion. I'm talking of all the aspects that are not derived from Indian's interaction from the West. It is not too difficult to show the commonness in the "Non-Westernness" of both hindu & muslim Indians in this regard, no matter what the differences elsewhere. Of course language & other regional etc. attributes are part of this Indian-ness. What is common here is the Non-Western ness of all these attributes of the Indian.

Related to this is the point that Westernization is much more pervasive than knowing how to speak in English. It is the transactions (law, education subjects, commerce, etc) that are all pervasively Western. A person from Hindi medium also has to do the same transactions.

Defining my terminology in more, here is some clarification.

My usage of these terms West / Westernization, etc are in the sense of the West in how it influenced the Rest via its policies of Colonization & the still ongoing post-colonial dominance. This view is quite similar to Tonybee's, so there's no conflict there. As generally understood, the overt (& acknowledged) influence of the West has been rather one-way, with the West affecting the Rest (eg. Asia, Africa, America North & South) and remaining relatively unchanged in its own norms, ruling power structures, etc. Hence the Westernization of the Rest is the key (each of the "Rest" may have responded differently, but all responding to the same "force" of Westernization).

The West being geographically, Western Europe/US & other outposts dominated by people of European background; the West value-wise being a society with strong underpinnings of Judeo-Christian values -updated via a few centuries of Enlightenment thought; and the West people-wise being explorers/industrialists/colonizers using the muscle initially of the Euro-Industrial Revolution, and later using the whole Military Commercial infrastructure of the above countries. (In this scenario, newcomers like "Post Meiji" Japan occasionally in the "West", occasionally out, depending on how they agree / differ from the norms.)

Hence the definition I'm attempting is a broad one, since the onslaught / effect is rather broad & global too.

This view of the West as "Force/ Agent of Change" and the Rest as "recipients of the change" is shared as received wisdom by the proponents of Westernization, which is pretty much the conventional establishment "intelligentsia" of the World.

A quick summary, with "poetic license" can be found at my poem "THE CRASH OF CIVILIZATIONS ". (Serious readers are warned to go there only at risk to their sensibilities & humour!)



While the modern Westernized world laughs at the “Johnny come lately” attempts by the “Rest” to formulate a coherent self-description (Indic, Confucian, etc) in “modern” or even “post-modern” terminology, it is no secret among scholars that the supposed “coherence” of Western identity is also one that can be held up & examined for its many inconsistencies & leaps of logic. See Ronald Inden’s “Imagining India” (Ref#2 ) which show how much energy was invested in the construction of Western Identity, while it was simultaneously denied that the “Rest” like India were capable of “agency”, i.e. of Rational behavior as dynamic cultures & societies. See also Ref #3 on the Gupta Age in India, to see convincing evidence of how, for example the celebrated French Renaissance finds a worthy “prequel” in the Gupta period of Indian History, which achieved a cultural Golden Age of at least equal scope, and fully one thousand years before it.

With the above in view, let us see what Tonybee has to say on behalf of the “West”.

Following excerpt gives a clear idea of his worldview, which consistently finds expression, and explanation, in the book.


In fact, if, looking at the contemporary world as a whole, one were to try to make the broadest and simplest analysis of the main cultural divisions in it, one would find oneself grouping the Muslims, the ex-Eastern Orthodox Christians and the ex-Western Christians together as members of a single great society which one could distinguish from both the Indian world and the Far Eastern world by giving this society, like each of those, an overall label of its own.

Since the Spiritual possession that all we Christians and Muslims have in common with one another is a pair of common heritages-one from the Jews and another from the Greeks-we could label our Christian-Muslim society the Graeco-Judaic, to distinguish it both from a Hindu Society in India and from a Confucian-Buddhist Society in the Far East.

From this bird's-eye view that takes in the whole of mankind, the divers Muslim and Christian variations on a common Graeco-Judaic way of life fade almost out of view. They look quite insignificant by comparison witht he characteristics that are common to all of us Muslim and Christian members of our Graeco-Judaic cultural family.

When we contrast our Muslim-Christian way of life as a whole with the Hindu way or with the Far Eastern, the differences, inside our Muslim-Christian family, between Eastern Orthodox Christendom and Western Christendom and Islam, almost cease to be visible.

Comments on above are as follows. One can appreciate that Tonybee’s worldview is much more convincing & encompassing than the simplistic “Clash of Civilizations” view championed by Americans Bernard Lewis & Samuel Huntington, where by some convenient contortions, Islam is presumed as another distinct Civilization, instead of being acknowledged as the estranged “Abrahamic brother” it is. This probably is to suit the current political climate of “Islam vs West”. One could assert that past Islamic Imperialism & Western Imperialism, both past & present are very similar in their grand views of themselves.

Tonybee, much to his credit, does try to inform his Western reader, early on, to get some perspective on what his/her sense of “Western” is, and how it could affect their thinking. See the quote below, which is a sort of introductory preface.

[AJT QUOTE #3 from Chapter I]

...Isn't the West just another name for as much of the world as has any importance for practical purposes today?....This title( )was chosen deliberately( )to make two points( )first( )the West has never been all of the world that matters( )even a the peak of the West's power (and this peak has perhaps now already been passed)( )second( )in the encounter( )going on for( )five hundred years, the world, not the west, is the party that, upto now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the West that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit-and hit hard-by the West.

A Westerner who wants to grapple with this subject, must try ( ) to slip out of his native Western skin and look at the encounter( )through the eyes of the great non-Western majority of mankind. Different though the people may be from one another ( ) he will hear them all giving the same answerSad )The West, they will tell him, has been the arch aggressor of modern times, and each will have their own experience of Western aggression to bring up against him.

The Russians will remind him that their country has been invaded by Western armies overland in 1941,1915,1812,1709, and 1610; the peoples of Africa and Asia will remind him that, within the same period, the Westerners have occupied the lion's share of the world's vacant lands in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South and East Africa. The Africans will remind him that they were enslaved and deported across the Atlantic in order to serve the European colonizers of the Americas as living tools to minister to their Western masters' greed for wealth. The descendants of the aboriginal population of North America will remind him that their ancestors were swept aside to make room for West European intruders and for their African slaves.

....What, then, has been the world's experience of the West?

And with that introduction, we can jump right in.


6. A DETAILED LOOK AT Chapter III of ‘The World and the West’

(Chapter III. India and the West)

Below are direct sequential quotes from book (italics/box), with each paragraph followed by my comments. The idea is to capture the author’s flow (and learn a broad overview of Colonial History), while attempting to put perspective where the need is felt. As a reminder, Chapter I & II (not discussed much in this article) have discussed Russia & Islam’s encounters with the West. These encounters happened much before India’s did, and have a longer history. More on these in part 2 of this article.

[AJT QUOTE #4 split into many paragraphs for comments]

In India's encounter with the West there has been one experience that has not been shared with India by any other society in the world. India is a whole world by herself; she is a society of the same magnitude as our Western society; and she is the one great non Western society that has been, not merely attacked and hit, but overrun and conquered outright by Western arms, and not merely conquered by Western arms, but ruled, after that, by Western administrators. In Bengal this Western rule lasted for nearly 2 hundred years, and in the Punjab for nearly a hundred. India's experience of the West has thus been more painful and more humiliating than China's and Turkey's, and much more so than Russia's or Japan's; but , just for this reason, it has been also much more intimate. Personal contacts between Indians and Westerners have been more numerous, and our Western iron has probably entered deeper into India's soul.

My Comments on above are: In Chapters I & II, the subjects were the West’s encounters with Russia & with Islam. The idea of “Western Iron” entering “India’s soul” appears like fanciful hyperbole, but it sits well with his “Grand Narrative” style, and the general Western construction of its ideas & technologies being hard, & irresistibly “masculine”.

Perhaps India would not have been conquered by Western arms if she hadn't been conquered by Muslim arms first....The last wave of Muslim conquerors of India overland arrived in India not many years after the first landing in India, in 1498, of the Portuguese wave of Western mariners. These Mughal Muslims forestalled the British Westerners in bringing almost the whole of India under a single government. The Mughal peace in India may not have been so effective as the subsequent British peace was to be at its zenith; but the Mughal peace lasted as long as the British peace was to last, and, when, in the 18th century it fell to pieces, it left legacoes that made it not so difficult for the Mughals' British successors to reassemble the fragments of he Mughal Empire.

My Comments on above are: Throughout all British writings on India (both fiction & non fiction) it can be observed that the prevailing sentiment of Britons was that they themselves were very similar to their “glamourous Mughal predecessors” in what they were upto in India. The Brits were, of course, just better at it, by their own reckoning. One can then see why it was good to have around a conveniently “scholarly” Aryan Invasion Theory. The moment this theory/conjecture started making the rounds, the Colonialists jumped & appropriated it, for that explained that there were merely the last on a long line of Conquerors. “See, we are just a newer branch of Phoren Aryan cousins that have ruled you all the time…”

One legacy was an Imperial land-revenue organization which ran on by its own momentum during the 18th century bout of anarchy in India. It ran on because it had become an Indian habit, and the condition of Indian hearts and minds to acquiesce, by force of habit, in an empire imposed on India by alien conquerors was the second of the Mughal legacies from which the Mughals' British successors profited.

My Comments on above are: Same theme of “forever conquered, docile, lacking in initiative” stereotypical of Colonial reading of India. (See Ref#3 Inden). The British were certainly more efficient in exploitation of land, both of minerals to fuel their industrial revolution, and of taxing the cultivators, where the ruthlessly efficient system sucked out wealth and destroyed the delicately linked & locally compatible economies, especially after the arrival of the “Indian” Railways. Also the British censuses (still in use in India today, after 60+ years of Independence) contributed in no small measure to the further rigidization of fluid divisions in Indian society on “Caste” & Religion” lines.

The British successors of the Mughal rulers of India condemned their own revival of the Mughal Raj to come to an end when, in the 1830s they deliberately set out to change the habits that their Mughal predecessors had implanted in Indian minds. In the 1830s the British rulers of India opened a window to the West for Indian minds by substituting a Western for an Islamic and a Hindu higher education in India and thereby introducing the Indians to their British rulers' own Western ideas of liberty, parliamentary constitutional government, and Nationalism. The Indians took this Western political education to heart. It moved them to demand for India, the self-government that Great Britain enjoys; and today the Hindu successors of the British Raj in the Indian Union, and the Muslim successors of the British Raj in Pakistan, are dedicated to the enterprise of ruling their shares of the sub-continent on the lines on which their British predecessors in the government of India have been conducting the government of Great Britain since 1688.


My Comments on above are: Again, an example of confident use of the “Indian mind” being “implanted” with a foreign habit. Of course the Macaulayite substitution of Western education methods for existing Indian education methods is a major tool of Westernization still in use by the Indian intelligentsia. In getting Western political education, Tte colonized merely recognized the need to talk back in the Colonizer’s language.

Also the conflation of India as “hindu India” which is still prevalent today, tells how well India’s “secular republic” is understood by outsiders. Theocratic Pakistan (& Bangladesh) are considered the same class as India’s “minority” worshipping establishment.

It is perhaps particularly noteworthy that the present Hindu rulers of the greater part of the Indian sub-continent should have chosen, as they have, to carry on the Government on Western lines originally laid down by alien conquerors. In the territories included in the Indian Union, the Hindus are now masters in their own house for the first time since the beginning of the Muslim conquest of India eight or nine hundred years ago. In the eighteenth century, when the Mughal Muslim raj was breaking up, there were moments when it looked as if it was going to be followed immediately by the establishment of Hindu successor states. In the 18th century scramble for the Mughal' heritage, a Maratha Hindu Power seemed for a time to be well on the way to winning the lion's share of the spoils. This 18th century attempt to transform the Mughal raj into a Maratha Hindu Raj was foiled by the intervention of a more powerful Western hand.

Quick & easy summary, same problems of easy categorization.

But the establishment of a British Raj instead of a Maratha Raj did not bring to a halt the resurgence of the Hindus in their own homeland. When the military lines taken by the Hindu renaissance in the 18th century ended in military failure, the gathering stream of Hindu energy was merely diverted into a different channel. Under the British Raj in the 19th and 20th centuries, as during the interregnum in the 18th century, the Hindus continued steadily to gain power in India, but under the British regime they gained it, not by force of arms, but by force of mastering a Western system of education, administration and law which were so many keys to power in a Westernizing world.

A pat given on “Hindu” backs for being law abiding even as their civilization was being dismantled & “Re-Engineered”. Fairly accurate description, though.

The Hindus were quicker than the Indian Muslims to see and seize the opportunity that, in a Western age of Indian history, was open to Indians who effectively cultivated the Western arts of peace. Unlike the Indian Muslims, the Hindus had no enervating memories of recently lost power and glory to keep them brooding ineffectively over a dead past instead of reaching out into the future; and so a balance of power which had begun to incline against the Muslims in an anarchic 18th century continued to go against them in the 19th and 20th centuries under a British peace which set a premium on intellectual ability, in place of military prowess, as the qualification for advancement in the continuing competition between Hindus and Indian Muslims who were now alike subjects of a Western crown. The Indian muslims did, of course, follow their fellow hindu Indians' example. They too set themselves to master the arts of our Western civilization. Yet, when the voluntary liquidation of the British Raj in India came within sight, the Indian Muslims insisted that the retransfer of Govt. of India from British to Indian hands must be accompanied by a partition of Indian between a Hindu and a Muslim successor state; and this insistence on separation was, in effect, a recognition of the truth that, since the day of 'the Great Moghuls', there had been a reversal of the balance of power between the Muslims and Hindus in India to the Muslims' disadvantage. In a joint Hindu-Muslim state including the whole sub-continent, the Indian Muslims feared that they would now be swamped by a Hindu majority of the population.

Here he makes a bland presumption of “hindu muslim competition” as if there were two clearly warring groups. “Divide et Empera” or Divide & Rule implicit in this thinking. The muslim masses were (if I get it right) held back by their Clergy based leadership until charismatic muslim aristocrats (who were many) like Sir Syed & friends convinced the islamic clergy to agree to have them jump into the English school system.

So it was Voluntary liquidation by the Brits. And Indians thought they’d “won” a Freedom Struggle! Oh the delusions of “Gandhian” grandeur….

Though in 1947 a predominantly Muslim Pakistan thus parted company with a Predominantly Hindu Indian Union, the objective of the British Indian Empire's two successor states has so far been the same. In this first chapter of their histories, the power in both states has been in the hands of the element in their population that has had a Western education and that has been inspired by this with Western ideals. If this element remains in power in India and Pakistan, as well as in Ceylon, we may look forward to seeing the statesmen of these Asian countries use their influence over their countrymen to persuade them to remain members of our "free world". No doubt these same Asian statesmen will continue to demand that, in a "free world" that is to be a common home of Western and Asian peoples, there shall be no unfair and invidious discrimination against the Asian members of the family, and we Western members are bound to give satisfaction to our Asian fellow members on this point if, in calling our world "free", we are sincere. Unless we Western members of "the free world" fail to live upto our professed liberal principles, we may hope to see the present Western-trained and Western-minded rulers of India, Pakistan, and Ceylon continue in partnership with us.


Our intelligentsia takes pride in above characterization, but is loath to admit this when challenged as to why this junior “partnership” is good for the common Indian and the future of Indian society. Tonybee shows impressive anticipation about the geopolitical currents today. Western overtures to “rising powers” like India are in overdrive right now. Get the rulers, and the population is automatically yours.

It is one of the vital interests of the Western peoples that this partnership of ours with the peoples of the Indian sub-continent should be preserved; for these people together constitute one of the two Asian quarters of the human race; and only two years after Great Britain had made a move for reconciliation of Asia with the West by completing the liquidation of British rule...., the Chinese, who constitute the second of the two quarters of the human race, went over fron the Western camp to the Russian. If after losing the friendship of the Chinese sub-continent, our Western world was to lose the friendship of the Indian sub-continent as well, the West would have lost to Russia most of the Old World, except for a pair of Bridgeheads in Western Europe and Africa; and this might well be a decisive event in the struggle for power betwen the "free world" and Communism. The Indian Union, the successor state of the British Empire which covers most of the Indian sub-continent, and the state in which the Hindus are predominant- occupies a commanding position in the divided world of today, in which the United States and her associates are competing for world power with the Soviet union and her associates. In which direction is the hindu fifth of the human race going to incline? Let us look a t some of the considerations telling for and against the likelihood of the Hindus continuing to go our Western way.

The Superpower rivalry, the “Great Game” described well even in the 50s. The choices laid out for the “hindu fifth of humanity” haven’t changed much. Symbolic independence and local autonomy is better than the alternative, one guesses. Take it or leave it

Let us take a promising part first. It looks as if today, personal relations between Indians and Westerners are more friendly than they ever have been. Many citizens of the United Kingdom will certainly have had the experience-which the writer has a number of times since 1947-of being surprised and touched by the friendliness that the Indians have been going our of their way to show the British people. This has happened to the writer several times in foreign countries, where local observers were on the lookout to see what the relations between the Indians and the British really were now; and he found Indians in conspicuous positions abroad going out of their way to show that the former unhappy estrangement between them and the British was now dead and buried as far as they were concerned. When Great Britain did completely fulfil her promise to liquidate her rule in India, the Indians were, it seems, taken aback. They had perhaps never fully believed that the British intended ever to fulfil their promise to India; and so, when the British did keep their word, there was a revulsion on the Indian side from hostility to friendliness. It is handsome of the Indians make their new friendliness towards the British apparent; and this happy change in the relations of the Indians and the British with another is assuredly something gained for our "free world" as a whole.

Glib sincerity is on display here in the “let’s just be friends, ok?” attitudes, and this is something for Indians to chew on. Our “conspicuous leaders” are understood by Westerners to a Tee! (“You’re a better man than I, Gunga Din!”) A pat on the back now & then, warm handshakes, grand “friendly” gestures, and they are so easily manageable, in contrast to the Chinese…who would rather play hardball.

The estrangement between India and a Western world which, for India, has been represented by Great Britain goes back to the beginning of the Indian movement for independence in the 1890s, and behind the tragic conflict in 1857. It goes back to the reforms in the British administration in India that were started in the 1780s. This birth of estrangement from in relations between Indians and British people is one of the ironies of history; and yet there is a genuine inner connexion between the two events.

In the 18th century the newly installed British rulers of India were free and easy with the newly acquired subjects in two senses. They were unscrupulous in using their political power to fleece and oppress them, and at the same time they were uninhibited in their social relations with them. They hob-nobbed with their Indian subjects off duty, besides meeting them at work on less agreeable terms. The more intellectual British residents in India in the 18th century enjoyed the game of capping Persian verses with Indian colleagues; the more lively Indians enjoyed being initiated into English sports.....in 1786...Indians and Englishmen could be hail-fellow-well-met with one another. The British rulers of India in the first generation behaved, in fact, very much as their Hindu and Muslim predecessors had behaved. Humanly corrupt, and therefore not inhumanely aloof; and the British reformers of British rule, who were rightly determined to stamp out the corruption and who were notably successful in this difficult undertaking, deliberately stamped out the familiarity as well, because they held that the British could not be induced to be superhumanly upright and just in their dealings with their Indian subjects without being made to feel and behave as if they were tin gods set on pedestals high and dry above those Indian humans down below.

Some perceptive observations above. Their fascination with “Courtly Islam” finds detailed mention in books like EM Forster’s ‘Passage To India’, and other “Raj” fiction & non-fiction, a book genre by itself. There are interesting observations that the British “Colonial Towns” in India were built so that wives of Administrators & Soldiers could join them. The presence of wives & kids ended the give & take with Indians on human terms, & thus started off the aloof British Ruler living in his separate world, who would enforce rigidly the unfeeling regulations crafted by people in London who had no understanding of the ground realities in India.


Today, when the Indians are once more governing themselves, so that Lord Cornwallis' problem of finding how to make Western administrators in India behave decently no longer arises, there is nothing to prevent the relations between Indians and Westerners from being intimate and decent at the same time, and this is a promising change for the better as far as it goes. But just how far does it go? After all, so few thousands out of India's 450 millions ever did or do meet a Westerner-or even meet a member of that Western-minded minority of the Indian people that is now governing India in the former Western rulers' place. And what is the future of this new governing class? Will it be able to maintain its present leadership? And will the Western outlook and ideals, that have been implanted in the souls of this minority by their education, be able to hold their own, even here, against the Hindu tradition?

All good observations, & pertinent questions are raised here.

It is remarkable that even a minority in the great Hindu world should have gone so far as this now ruling minority has gone in assimilating Western ideas and ideals, considering how alien the Western and Hindu outlooks on life are from one another....(when) we were concerned with Russia's and Islam's relations with the West, we were dealing with two cases in which the non Western party with whom the West had collided had something in common with the West which Hinduism does not possess. Though our Russian contemporaries are not the children of Western Christians, they are the children of Eastern Orthodox Christians; and so both the Christian religion and also the Graeco Roman Civilization-which the Christian Church has taken over and preserved and handed down-are parts of the Russian spiritual background, as they are parts of ours in the West. Our Muslim contemporaries, again, are adherents of a religion which, like Communism, can be described as a Christian Heresy; and the philosophy and science of the Greeks are parts of the Muslims' spiritual background, as they are of ours.

Author, a typical Westerner, looks at India through the (Western construction of the) “hindu” lens; and more importantly, the West looks at itself through the Christian lens. Also, interestingly, Islam is described as a Christian Heresy. Some clues as to why Islamic ideologues like Communism often?

========= QUOTED earlier in article ========

In fact, if, looking at the contemporary world as a whole, one were to try to make the broadest and simplest analysis of the main cultural divisions in it, one would find oneself grouping the Muslims, the ex-Eastern Orthodox Christians and the ex-Western Christians together as members of a single great society which one could distinguish from both the Indian world and the Far Eastern world by giving this society, like each of those, an overall label of its own.

Since the Spiritual possession that all we Christians and Muslims have in common with one another is a pair of common heritages-one from the Jews and another from the Greeks-we could label our Christian-Muslim society the Graeco-Judaic, to distinguish it both from a Hindu Society in India and from a Confucian-Buddhist Society in the Far East.

From this bird's-eye view that takes in the whole of mankind, the diverse Muslim and Christian variations on a common Graeco-Judaic way of life fade almost out of view. They look quite insignificant by comparison with the characteristics that are common to all of us Muslim and Christian members of our Graeco-Judaic cultural family.

When we contrast our Muslim-Christian way of life as a whole with the Hindu way or with the Far Eastern, the differences, inside our Muslim-Christian family, between Eastern Orthodox Christendom and Western Christendom and Islam, almost cease to be visible.

=========END QUOTED earlier in article ================

And yet we know that these relatively small cultural differences can produce violent spiritual disturbances in the souls of the children of these Graeco-Judaic sister-civilizations of our when these souls are played upon by the spiritual radiation of one of the other civilizations in our family.

His usage of this “Western spiritual radiation” is similar to the “Western iron entering India’s soul” usage earlier. He generally treats “Western” thought & technologies are inevitable “progress” and unstoppable. He is also not alone in drawing a complete blank on possible key “Non Western” inputs that went into making of “Western”. [See the many excellent articles on this at www.infinityfoundation.com ]

A notable example is the effect produced on Russian souls by the impact on them by the Western civilization since the time of Peter the Great. The two parties to this encounter were, both of them, members of the same Graeco-Judaic family; yet the disturbance produced in Russian Graeco-Judaic souls by the strangeness of the intruding Western variety of the same Graeco-Judaic spirit has been very great. We can measure the severity of this disturbance psychologically by the tormented and tormenting vein in a 19th century Russian literature which expresses, and gives vent to, the distress suffered by a soul when it is required to live in two different spiritual universes at once- even when the two claimants on the same soul's spiritual allegiance are rather closely akin to one another. We can also measure the severity of the Western stress and strain upon Russian souls politically by the explosiveness of the revolution in which this spiritual tension discharged itself in 1917.

Now the disturbance, produced by the impact of the West on Russian souls, which has come to the surface in these sensational manifestations, is presumably a good real milder than the latent disturbance produced in Indian souls by the same alien Western spiritual force, for the disturbance in Russian souls, violent though it has been, must have been mitigated by the presence, in Russia's cultural heritage, of Jewish and Greek elements that were also present in the heritage of the intruding Western civilization, whereas in the Indian heritage there have been no Greek and Jewish elements, or at any rate none to speak of, to break the force of the shock administered by the impact of the West here.

Here he is contrasting the West’s India experience with its Russia & Islam experiences. This is related to Chapters I & II of the book, and will be discussed more in part 2 of article.

What then, in India, is going to be the resolution of this presumably far sharper tension between a native and an alien spiritual force? On the surface, those Hindus who have adopted our, to them, extremely alien Western culture on the planes of Technology and science, language and literature, administration and law, appear to have been more successful than the Russians in harmonizing with their native way of life a Western way that is intrinsically more alien to them than it is to the Russians. Yet the tension in Hindu souls must be extreme, and sooner or later it must find some means of discharging itself.

Whatever may be the relief that Hindu souls are going to find for themselves eventually, it seems clear that, for them, there can be no relief from the impact of our Western civilization by opening themselves to the influence of Communism- a Western heresy adopted by an ex-Orthodox Christian Russia-is just as much part and parcel of the Graeco-Judaic heritage as the Western way of life is, and the whole of this cultural tradition is alien to the Hindu spirit.

There is, however, one factor in the economic and social situation in India today which might give Communism an opening-exotic though Communism may be in the Hindu environment- and this subversive factor is the rising pressure of population in India on the means of subsistence.

Economically speaking, Leftist violence, Maoist & otherwise, seems to be consistent with this.

“Spiritually” speaking, of course, the slumbering “hindu soul” is yet to fully awake, notwithstanding Nehru’s grandstanding “Freedom at Midnight” speech about “a slumbering people awake..struggle of a nation’s soul finds utterance..” etc.

This is an important point, because the same factor is at work today in China Japan, Indo-China, Indonesia, and Egypt. In all these non Western countries, the impact of the West has brought a progressive increase in the food supply through irrigation, through the introduction of new crops, and through the improvement in the methods of agriculture under Western inspiration; and in all of them, at every stage so far, this increase in food supply has been spent, not on raising the standard of living of a stationary or gradually growing population, but on maintaining the largest possible population on the old level, which was and is only just above starvation point. Since progressive improvements in productivity must sooner or later bring in diminishing returns, the standard of this swollen population seems bound to decline, and there is no margin between the present standard and sheer disaster on the grand scale.

Some strong assertions. Perhaps contestable, perhaps not.

In some such economically desperate situation as this, Communism might win a foothold in India and in other Asian countries in which Communism is just as foreign as our western way of life. For Communism has a program of wholesale compulsory collectivization and mechanization to offer as a specious remedy for the plight of a depressed Asian peasantry, whereas, to people in this plight, it would be a mockery to advise them to solve their problem in the American way. This population problem, and its bearing on the competition between Russia and the West, will confront us again when we come to the Far East, which is the subject of the next chapter.

Communism may be hard to write off. It is after all, Capitalism’s “other”.



[Note: All the matter from the Tonybee book has been keyed in by me, & typos & errors are regretted. Sentences, paragraphs, etc. that are irrelevant to our discussion have been replaced with “…..” ]

REF#1 :

The World and the West; Arnold Tonybee

(From his BBC Reith Lectures) 99 pages.

Published: 1953; Oxford Univ Press;

library of congress catalog card # 53-5911

Chapter III (INDIA AND THE WEST) is quoted extensively in the main body of article, as [AJT QUOTE #4, in italics, split into many paragraphs]


Imagining India; Ronald Inden

Originally Published by Blackwell, Cambridge, MA; Republished in paperback by Indiana University Press

ISBN 0-253-33689-9 (Hardcover); ISBN 0-253-33689-9 (Paperback)

(See excerpt in Ref 3 below)



Blinded By The Light Of "World History"

Re-Centering India In The Mandala Of Eurasian Civilizations

By David B. Gray

Rice University

I. Introduction: The Blindness of World History

Much has been written over the past decade on the subject of Indian historiography and the inadequacy of past historiographic paradigms. It is probably not necessary to review these in length, as most of the participants in this seminar are likely to be familiar with them.1 To succinctly characterize the thrust of Colonial era historiography, it hinges, somewhat amazingly, on the claim that India, properly speaking, lacks history. This claim was made explicitly by Hegel, who wrote:

If we had formerly the satisfaction of believing in the antiquity of the Indian wisdom and holding it in respect, we now have ascertained through being acquainted with the great astronomical works of the Indians, the inaccuracy of all figures quoted.

Nothing can be more confused, nothing more imperfect than the chronology of the Indians; no people which attained to culture in astronomy, mathematics, &c., is as incapable for history; in it they have neither stability nor coherence.

It was believed that such was to be had at the time of Wikramaditya, who was supposed to have lived about 50 B.C., and under whose reign the poet Kalidasa, author of Sakontala, lived. But further research discovered half a dozen Wikramadityas and careful investigation has placed this epoch in our eleventh century.

The Indians have lines of kings and an enormous quantity of names, but everything is vague. 2

A more reflective scholar might have considered that such vagueness was an attribute of his own understanding, rather than of the object of study itself. Hegel, however, saw the flawed state of European understanding of the colonized Other as a sign of the Other’s flaw, and hence the inferiority of the colonized to the colonizers. This allowed him to concoct his theory of “World-History,” which was based upon a notion of the “progress of history,” metaphorically described as the march of the “Spirit” from East to West. Historical agency thence became an attribute of the modern West, leaving India and the “Far East” in a state of perpetual infancy and cultural dependence.

There is no need to dwell on the fact that this historiography was ideological, implicitly justifying the otherwise unjustifiable violent exploitation of one civilization by another.

Indeed, as Ranajit Guha has noted, Hegel’s project was “to legitimate existing reality by conceiving it philosophically.”3 This “World History” paradigm not only fails to promote a sound understanding of the colonized Other,4 but also fails to even provide an adequate account of Europe’s rise to prominence in the early modern era, insofar as it is unable to articulate Europe’s dependence upon the Colonial Other.5

The lynchpin of this historiographic portrayal is the negation of India’s cultural and historical agency. As Ronald Inden wrote,

To have represented the kingdoms of India as relatively autonomous agents, as complex, inter-related polities that could unite through pacts as well as ‘force’ within a single imperial formation and create new centres not determined by a fixed military topography, would have undermined this whole orientalist project. (1990:188)

The inaccuracy of the claim that India lacks history has been demonstrated both by Inden as well as by Michael Witzel, who shows that the Indian historiographic tradition has been largely, but not entirely effaced by centuries of invasions and neglect.6 Excellent progress has in fact been made recently in the recovery of indigenous Indian historical narrative traditions.7

In this paper I will seek to complement such initiatives in an attempt to contribute to the efforts to restore India’s historical and cultural agency. I will do so by arguing that Europe was not unique in its development of a sophisticated and influential civilization, and that India, during the first millennium of the common era, achieved without violence an influence in Asia at least as great as that achieved by Europeans through violence during the colonial era. Specifically, in section two, drawing upon the work of Norbert Elias, I will argue that India underwent a “civilizing process” during the last half of the first millenium BCE, analogous to that experienced in Europe over a thousand years later. In section three, I will conclude by arguing that India, in turn, provided a powerful and influential model that was selectively adopted and adapted by other Asian polities as they embarked in state formation.


David Derrick’s webpage:

http://davidderrick.wordpress.com/ [‘The Tonybee convector’. Rich content, and with well structured and easily negotiable references.]

Many well written articles with details on Tonybee's "A Study of History" of world (his motivations in writing it) and Babur's invasion, and Turkey issues..

See some relevant details for this article at-



<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Biases in Hinduism Studies</b>
By Abhijit Bagal
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May 13, 2005

The purpose of this essay is to highlight the growing dissatisfaction on the part of the Indian American Hindu Diaspora with the way Hinduism, Hindus, and India have been depicted and mis-portrayed in the American education system, and about the urgency to engage the system along the same lines as is already being done by other American minorities, such as the Native-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. This article also explores how Hinduism and India studies directly or indirectly forms American perceptions of India and its culture, its products and services, and of the Indian American minority, and the need to bring objectivity and balance to these studies.

I am writing this article in my individual capacity. I am not affiliated with any political or religious organization. I consider myself a part of the Indian American Hindu Diaspora; I was born and raised in India and came to the U. S. in the nineties to go to graduate school, and having successfully obtained a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering from an American university, can claim to have some familiarity with the American educational system. I practice Sanatana Dharma (commonly referred to as Hinduism), one of the world’s most ancient cultures and the religion of about one billion of the earth’s inhabitants.

Sanatana Dharma is by its very essence a term which is devoid of sectarian leanings or ideological divisions. The two words, "Sanatana Dharma", come from the ancient Sanskrit language. "Sanatana" is a Sanskrit word which denotes that which does not cease to be, that which is eternal. The word "Dharma" is a term which is only properly rendered into the English language with difficulty. Its approximate meaning is "Natural Law," or those principles of reality which are inherent in the very nature and design of the universe. Thus the term Sanatana Dharma can be roughly translated to mean "Eternal Natural Law."

There are thousands of scholars in the U. S. specializing in some aspect of India and Hinduism. The India/Hinduism Studies industry consists of the development of knowledge about India and Hinduism, as well as, its distribution and retailing and includes academic research, and, school, college, and university education about India and its culture. The study of India and Hinduism in the U. S. is spread across several disciplines such as Anthropology, History, South Asian Studies, Religious Studies, Media and Journalism, and Literature and English.

As with any large academic field, Religious Studies in the U. S. is highly organized, with prestigious journals, chairs and programs of study. To control and regulate the field pertaining to Indian religions, there is the association known as RISA (Religions in South Asia). RISA is a unit within The American Academy of Religion (AAR), which is the official organization of academic scholars of Religious Studies in the Western world. Around fifty years ago, there was a partition of the guild of scholars who studied religion, and two organizations were created: AAR and SBL (Society of Biblical Literature). AAR and SBL maintain very close relations and influences, and hold their annual conferences jointly. While SBL members study and promote the insiders' view of Judeo-Christianity, AAR members are supposed to pursue the objective view from outside a given tradition and to not promote anything. With a membership of over 10,000 scholars -- and growing -- the AAR has enormous clout over the future direction of Religious Studies, and indirectly, over the humanities at large. Because the depictions of India in the West are inseparable from depictions of India's religions, the work done by RISA scholars has implications that go well beyond the discipline's boundaries. Religion is prominently featured in South Asian Studies, Asian Studies, International Studies, Women's Studies, Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, History, Literature, and Politics, and indirectly also influences Journalism, Film, and so forth.

Rajiv Malhotra, founder of the Infinity Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Princeton, New Jersey, engaged in making grants in the areas of compassion and wisdom, writes in an article dated December 25, 2000:

    “Our US Congressman, who is a member of the India Caucus and will be part of the Congressional delegation visiting India in early January, spent considerable time with me today specifically on the Ramayana portrayal by Professor Susan Wadley. The Congressman said that he was appalled at the inflammatory approach in the Ramayana material, and was especially concerned that it was done under Federal grant money as that could give it the aura of governmental stamp of approval. While there is the First Amendment of the Constitution giving freedom of speech, it is not the job of the Federal Government to spend the taxpayer's money in support of what is essentially hate speech. He also felt that the standard in case of school material should be at a higher level of sensitivity towards minority communities in America, of which the Hindus are one. He promised to write to Washington supporting our position, and will also explore a way to get us in contact with the relevant authorities to participate in future grants of this kind. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”

The above article by Rajiv Malhotra is with reference to Professor Susan Wadley's work emerging from two National Endowment for the Humanities grants (1994 and 1997) received by her to train high school teachers to teach the Indian epic Ramayana to American students. In an internet article dated September 7, 2000, Susan Wadley describes herself as the Director of South Asia Center and Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies, Syracuse University, and her work that led to the creation of the Ramayana course material and workbook as “A second WEB page project emerges from the two National Endowment for the Humanities institutes for high school teachers that I taught in 1994 and 1997. These four week institutes focused on the Ramayana and its history, its relationships to changing social and cultural norms, its presentation in art and drama. Teachers at the institutes created lesson plans and instructional materials that have been added to: these are found at http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/southasiacenter/ramayana/ .”

Many have complained that the workbook developed by Susan Wadley depicts Lord Ram as an invading-outsider, imperialist, oppressor, misogynist, and a racist and that the workbook sounds more like the rant of a zealot than that of an ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’ scholar.

A letter written by Dr. David Gray, protesting the biased portrayal of Ramayana by Susan Wadley, was sent on December 1, 2000, to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) with a copy to Richard W Riley, who was the Secretary of Education, U. S. Department of Education, at that time. Some excerpts from the Letter are presented here:

    “While the project generated useful course material, it also included what are clearly partisan and political readings of the epic, as well as outright inflammatory 'cheap shots' at a sacred text. This complaint is on behalf of United States citizens and parents of school children. Hinduism and Sikhism (which also worships Rama) are no longer merely about a far away exotic land that Americans have little to do with. We have Hindus and Sikhs right here in our classrooms today, amongst our office co-workers and as our neighbors. It is irresponsible for any multicultural school to introduce a protest song against Hindus and Sikhs that includes hate speech alleging that "Muslims were targeted", or that certain people are "enslaved to form a monkey army" with the purported intention to "attack Muslims". What does this do to foster mutual respect and understanding among different ethnic and religious communities in America's sensitive tapestry, now represented in classrooms? Should Government funds be used to create such racially and religiously inflammatory teaching materials, denigrating to one's classmates' sensitivities, ironically in the name of multiculturalism? We understand that academic freedom, and the freedom of speech, allows us all in this country to espouse ideas that may be unpalatable to some. These ideas could be politically or culturally biased or even prejudiced. However, such bias about others' religions and religious ideals, others' sacred texts and spirituality, when it is presented to high school students by non-experts (high school teachers), would lead to a warped understanding of others' history and religions and to unintended consequences, including stereotyping and hatred of minority groups. The particular version of the Ramayana that Professor Wadley includes in the lesson plans, and that she says is her favorite version of the many songs on the God-king Rama and the Ramayana, was composed by an anti-Hindu activist. This particular "song" is included in the essay titled, "The Ramayana and the Study of South Asia" ("Education About Asia", volume 2, number 1, Spring 1997, page 36, by Susan S Wadley).”

Providing an analogy with other religions, the letter goes on to say:

    “This same principle carries over to the study of other religions: for example, Christianity or Islam. Some of the scholars who have studied the Bible have read all or part of it as being patriarchal and oppressing women, Jews, homosexuals and blacks. There are others who criticize its violence and the way it is used to oppress the poor. Still others question the authenticity of the Bible and the real-life events of Jesus. Of course, most Christians see the Bible as containing God's words and would be horrified at the ‘deconstruction’ of their sacred text. Would we provide such portrayals of the Bible to our secondary school students, especially dramatized in performances of hate songs in the manner recommended by Professor Wadley? Christians would object vociferously at what they would call an unfair portrayal of their faith. Islamists and Muslims would similarly protest if one were to characterize Prophet Mohammed as a jihadist and an oppressor of women, even if that were supported by textual references. Scholars can debate controversial views on the Ramayana and the Bible all they want. We just don't find it necessary to import such debates into classrooms where children are beginning to understand the basic contours of each religion. The question that Professor Wadley should have addressed is this: if I were a Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jew, or Moslem, how would I want my faith to be understood by those outside it? We believe she has not adequately understood this problem or has deliberately chosen to ignore it. Were this simply a scholarly interpretation, this would be an unfortunate, but not a public, issue.”

The ‘song’ that the letter refers to is in worksheet 2 of the course material and instructs the students to “Read this song sung by an untouchable in north India.” Some lines from the song have been reproduced below:

    “Once the Aryans on their horses invaded this land.
    Then we who are the natives became the displaced.
    Oh Rama, Oh Rama, You became the God and we the demons.
    You portrayed our Hanuman as a monkey,
    Oh Rama, you representative of the Aryans.
    Muslims were targeted and "taught a lesson".
    To destroy Lanka, Oh Rama, you
    Formed us into a monkey army.
    And today you want us,
    The working majority,
    To form a new monkey army
    And attack Muslims.”

Lord Ram is thus depicted as an “Aryan Invader” in school textbooks for American kids. The Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) itself is highly controversial with some scholars suggesting that it is a colonial and racist construct of the 19th century. Some scholars have suggested that there was no invasion but a gradual migration leading to the Aryan Migration Theory (AMT). Some other scholars have suggested that there was no invasion or migration, that the Aryans were indigenous to India, and that the term Aryan does not refer to a caste or a race, rather it refers to one with a noble behavior. There is a fourth group of scholars who say that people from India migrated to other parts of the world such as Central Asia and Europe and spread the Vedic civilization there, and, not the other way round – this is known as the Out of India Theory (OIT). Unfortunately, many scholars such as Professor Wadley often fall into the trap of labeling all of India's problems as 'Hindu', whereas they would not label the very high incidence of child abuse, rape, massive prison population, school violence and shootings, drug and other addictions, and high incidence of clinical depression in the U. S. as 'Judeo-Christian' problems.

Hinduism courses are often taught in a way so as to create a revulsion against Hinduism in the minds of the students. In Fall 2001, an Indian American student took an introductory class in Hinduism at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and was shocked to hear the instructor describe the gory details of Asvamedha (Vedic horse sacrifice, also referred to as Rajasuya) in the first class. Thus, the students were told in the very first class that the chief queen grasped the penis of the dead horse and thrust it into her vulva and so on. The student was stunned and commented that this does not motivate him to take any class on Hinduism in the future, even though he was well aware that there are several beautiful things in Hinduism and that the Asvamedha rite was performed very rarely, with these gory details probably often left out. In the last 2000 years, there are perhaps no more than 6-7 recorded instances of the rite being performed.

The texts on Hinduism developed by Western scholars dwell lavishly upon a certain set of topics that are a big turn off to students interested in Hinduism – These topics are Caste Discrimination, Tantric Sex, Animal Sacrifices, Dowry Deaths, Polytheism, Hindu Fascism, Cult of Kali, naked Naga Sadhus etc. -- which tend to give a biased view of Hinduism as a tribal, primitive, misogynist cult that has imprisoned millions of human beings. To add to this, many anti-Hindu texts are prescribed reading in introductory classes on Hinduism. A search on the Internet shows that there are some introductory Hinduism classes in American Universities where even books like “Why I am not a Hindu” by Kancha Illiah are prescribed reading! Will anyone recommend Ibn Warraq’s “Why I am not a Muslim” in an introductory course on Islam? Or how about Bertrand Russel’s “Why I am not a Christian” in an introductory course on Christianity?

RISA scholars often hold the Hindu Diaspora in the United States in utter contempt. Whereas the achievements, the industriousness, the intelligence and capabilities of the Diaspora and their contributions to their adopted country is being recognized and praised, the writings of RISA specialists often hold their ‘objects of study’ as inferior beings. It appears that the Indologists and RISA scholars often have a problem relating to India and Hindus in general. They seem to suffer from some kind of bias or phobia that prevents them from portraying Hindus and Hinduism in a praiseworthy, sensitive or a sympathetic manner. There seems to be this fear that if Hindus or Hindu organizations are presented sympathetically, the author might be perceived as a New Ager, a closet supporter of Hindu Fascists and so on.

Another student who took a class in Stanford University in 2002 comments:

    “I took a class in Indian history at Stanford last year. After discussing the Ramayana, the instructor showed one film: “We are not your monkeys” by Anand Patwardhan. I found myself in the strange position of criticizing a film that I admire. I asked the instructor if he would consider showing the Mapplethorpe sculpture (the crucifix immersed in urine) in an introductory course on Christianity as the only example of Christian art. Needless to say, he dubbed me a BJP sympathizer.”

The film mentioned above – “We Are Not Your Monkeys” is a short music video based on a song by the late Daya Pawar, a renowned poet and activist from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The film has been made by one of India’s leading documentary-makers, Anand Patwardhan and offers a critique of the Ramayana. BJP is an acronym for Bharatiya Janata Party, the political party that had formed the previous government in India. BJP has often been labeled as a “Hindu Nationalist Party” and along with its affiliate organizations – the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) are routinely accused for fomenting Hindu Fascism in India.

It is not the quality of the film or the quality of the song that is being questioned here, rather the following two questions come to mind:
# Why did the Professor at Stanford choose a film that depicts the Ramayana in a negative fashion? There are many other films that portray the Ramayana positively, such as “Warrior Prince, The Legend of Ramayana” which was awarded the "Best Animation film of the year" out of 60 competing entries at the Santa Clarita International festival -- 2000, in Santa Clarita, California. As an ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’ scholar, the Professor could (and should) have shown more than one version of the Ramayana and let the students decide for themselves what to infer.

# When the student protested, why did the professor conclude that the student was a BJP sympathizer?

Amongst RISA studies and discussions, there is an overt emphasis on the so called Hindu ‘F’ word -- Hindu-Fundamentalism, Hindu-Fascism, and Hindu-Fanaticism. RISA scholars and other academics (turned into political commentators) read selective literature by Marxists, Liberals, Pseudo-Secularists, and other political commentators and churn out articles and books by hundreds every year on this phenomenon. The parties, organizations, and individuals criticized are obviously never given a fair portrayal, and their supposed misdeeds are described through critical secondary publications by committed Hindu bashers and scholars with their own political agendas. Any act of self assertion of Hinduism, or even a questioning of some paradigms of South Asian Studies or Indology is enough to draw the wrath of RISA scholars with epithets like ‘Hindutva Oppressor', ‘RSS supporter’, ‘Caste Exploiter’, ‘Hindu Nazi’, ‘Bride Burner’ etc.

Hinduism scholars often excuse themselves from social responsibility by claiming that their works have very limited readership. But, over time, their ideas and images disperse into society at large, because of the legitimacy given to them by prestigious academic voices. For example, Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, one of the foremost art museums in the U. S., features some of the rarest and most precious art objects of Asia, and its coffee table book explains the large 11th century Ganesha carving in the collection, as follows: "Ganesa, is a son of the great god Siva, and many of his abilities are comic or absurd extensions of the lofty dichotomies of his father." And then goes on to say: "Ganesa's potbelly and his childlike love for sweets mock Siva's practice of austerities, and his limp trunk will forever be a poor match for Siva's erect phallus.” Many school tours visit the museum, and through art the kids learn about other cultures. One can very well guess what the American school kids will learn about Lord Ganesha and Hinduism from the abovementioned example.

Writing about the displeasure expressed by the Indian American Community about the way Hinduism is being portrayed by scholars in the West, Rajiv Malhotra comments:

    “The Diaspora is now highly aware of AAR/RISA, suspicious, and getting mobilized rapidly. They are challenging at fund raisers, and their kids are getting bolder about raising their hands to question the items selected for depiction in a one-sided manner...

    If left to itself, things will deteriorate, and there may well be someone who will file a lawsuit on hate speech or something similar. This must be avoided by proactive positive thinking.“

I urge the readers to examine the topics mentioned in this article, to investigate the nature of Hinduism/India studies, and, to determine ways to bring accountability, objectivity, fairness, and balance to these studies. I also request the readers to explore ways to enable members of the Indian American Hindu Diaspora to be equal participants at the discussion tables where Hindu/Indian traditions are the topics -- including schools, colleges, universities, museums, media, political think-tanks, and corporate policy meetings.

Panch (Five) Asymmetries in the Dialog of Civilizations:
A Hindu View

Rajiv Malhotra
The Infinity Foundation
Meanwhile, Indian Marxists and Macaulayites—born again as 'progressives' after the Cold War—dominate India's academe, and often power broker and become strategic allies with western academicians as experts on India. But there are many contradictions in these intellectual sepoys: (i) While many are Subalternists, India's masses, classics and culture are often alien to them, and they disrespect and caricaturize Hinduism in a reductionist Eurocentric way. (ii) Instead, they know mainly western thought and hermeneutics. (iii) <b>Yet, their careers are based on being proxies for the very tradition that they regard as a scourge.[5] </b>The phenomenon of South Asianizing, which has emerged from this confluence of excessive ethnography and Indian Macaulayism, has subverted Hinduism's universal truth claims.
A plausible theoretical model for this is: <b>The west plagiarizes from Hinduism-Buddhism with one hand </b>(i.e. cognitive science), <b>while another western hand stereotypes the source </b>as 'caste, cows, curry' exotica and worse (i.e. anthropology/religious studies). The academic arson referenced above is merely a continuation of the age old 'plunder while you denigrate the source' process at work. It is a continuation of the [demonization] of pre-Christian religions while at the same time appropriating many central elements from the pagans into Christianity.

Rajiv Malhotra


The Westernized side of my background

On the other hand, the west has invested serious resources to study Indian culture and thought rather than ignoring it. RISA is merely one example to prove my point. This started with the Jesuit College about 500 years ago that translated Sanskrit works into Latin (including many in science/mathematics still not declassified by the Vatican). Later it became more sophisticated Indology in 19th century: EVERY major European university had Sanskrit text studies as a large department. Today this is done not by the British Empire but mainly by the US Government, the churches, and various US private foundations funded by MNCs wealth. Today’s South Asian Studies replaces colonial Indology as the west’s purva-paksha of Indian thought and culture.

This means the west has extracted knowledge from Indic sources and developed sophisticated positions about us. In many cases, the most qualified scholar available in a university about some Indian text or tradition is a westerner. That most swamis and their followers do not even know this state of affairs shows how out of touch they are with world.

So rather than attacking me for my background, one might also see in it a rare ability to do purva-paksha of the west from the Indian perspective: I have invested most of my time since the mid 1990s to study all three strains of western thought from works of serious thinkers. Rather than this being a handicap, it is what enables me to debate the ‘other’ with authority and confidence.

Just as a team needs specialists of many kinds and not all members with the same specialty, the Indian Enlightenment Project needs both the St. Stephens graduate and the DAV graduate, not either/or. So why is Platonist so insecure with a sense of inferiority complex? Is it his lack of knowledge of his own tradition that makes him fear that he will be swept off by the winds of western influences?

Furthermore, how is his mentality different than that of fundamentalist Islamists? His comments are evidence that Hindu fundamentalism does exist as a serious menace today.

What this narrow mentality has produced is 800 Hindu temples in North America at a cost of about $2 billion, but lacking in intellectual content in most of them. They come across to the NRI youth as voodoo centers, doing some exotic ritual with no meaning. The pandits are ill-trained for 21st century discourse, many cannot communicate for nuts. Any sincere visitor who wants to appreciate Hinduism would be well advised to stay away from them, and instead to spend quality time with someone knowledge in discussions first. Hindu temples have failed to project Hindu culture to mainstream society. Proof: in all these controversies we have been engaged here on Sulekha, the temple-wallahs are lost, disinterested, and ignorant. They have failed to educate our own youth in ways that would equip them to face the issues with confidence and not to run from Hindu identity as being shameful.

They have failed because of the mentality exemplified by Platonist and others like him.

Many swamis told me point blank that they are disinterested in teaching about the sociopolitical realm as they find it irrelevant or even un-Hindu-like. While I respect that (especially since my sadhana is adhyatmika), I point out to them that Krishna’s teachings were in the kshetra (i.e. theater) and not in the clouds. The Avatar enters the theater of mundane life to teach how to live in the mundane kshetra.


How 'Gandhara' became 'Kandahar'
Posted on Dec 17 2001
Gandhara was the locus of ancient Indian-Persian interaction, a center of world trade and culture. It was a major Buddhist intellectual hub for centuries. The giant Buddhist statues recently destroyed by the Taliban were in Bamiyan, one of the important Buddhist cities of ancient times.
10721 Views comments (120)
The Asymmetric Dialog of Civilizations
Posted on Dec 3 2001
To have a genuine dialog of civilizations, the 'other' side must be present as itself and not via proxy, must be able to use its own framework to represent itself, and must be free to anthropologize and criticize the dominant culture without fear of undue censorship or academic reprisal.
6533 Views comments (50)
Traditional Knowledge Systems
Posted on Nov 19 2001
Modern societies created hegemonic categories of science verses magic, technology verses superstitions etc., which were arbitrary and contrived. But many anthropologists who have recently worked with so-called 'primitive' peoples have been surprised to learn of some of their highly evolved and sophisticated technologies.
4712 Views comments (26)
Gita on Fighting Terrorism
Posted on Nov 5 2001
At the other end is a minority of anti-war activists who want no violence, and instead advocate that the US should take the blame for having caused hatred against itself. The Gita's message rejects both these.
6463 Views comments (42)
The American Guilt Syndrome
Posted on Oct 8 2001
The Taliban are not fighting for economic development or modernization the way communist terrorists did. Islamic fundamentalists are fighting against the forces of modernization in general, as these seem to threaten the stranglehold of fundamentalist dogma and the power of the clergy.
4484 Views comments (27)
The Insider/Outsider Academic Game
Posted on Oct 25 2002
After my essay, RISA Lila – 1, was posted, Prof. Sarah Caldwell felt that she had been negatively portrayed, falsely. She and I decided to communicate, so as to enhance our mutual understanding of each other, and also to make sure that all aspects of the issues get communicated to the readers unfiltered. The following dialog occurred in this spirit. I urge the reader to defer judgment until after reading the entire essay
10300 Views comments (226)
Response to Jeffrey Kripal's Sulekha Article
Posted on Sep 24 2002
I congratulate Jeffrey Kripal for his spirited attempt at defending his thesis by attacking me, and thereby trying to deflect attention from his own problematic scholarship. However, a quick scan shows that his response fails to address 90% of my essay's major issues, such as
5376 Views comments (1)
Indian Thought is Not Understood in America
Posted on Jul 27 2001
I was quite shocked when I discovered that Indian philosophy is not being addressed properly in American universities. In fact, only two American universities offer a doctorate in Indian philosophy.
5463 Views comments (14)
The 'Western Only' Curriculum
Posted on Jun 22 2001
This essay is provoked by the reading list of St. John's College, one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the US, sent to my son and thousands of potential applicants to colleges. Their cover page proudly states that this list of great thinkers constitutes the complete program at St. John's. Something appears to be rather strange about this list of great thinkers...
5208 Views comments (29)
Stereotyping Hinduism in American Education
Posted on Apr 11 2001
This essay is based on an inquiry in which I wondered why: Hindu kids and even adults in America are apologetic about their religion, generally preferring to distance themselves from it and keep quiet about it.
11003 Views comments (37)
Is There an American Caste System?
Posted on Jan 29 2001
Recently, I read an excellent book by Professor Uma Narayan called 'Dislocating Cultures', in which she compares how dowry-deaths in India are of high interest in the West.
20205 Views comments (90)

Whiteness Studies and Implications for Indian-American Identity
Posted on Apr 26 2007
A new 175-page bibliography is launched on American Whiteness Studies, along with a brief discussion on how this topic relates to my research on identity in America, including implications for Indian-Americans.
8568 Views comments (245) Tags: American Whiteness Studies American identity and character
Follow up on Manusmriti to my article in Outlook India
Posted on Feb 12 2006
Response to some comments to my recent article on Outlook India
17315 Views comments (66)
Is anthropology of western culture by others banned?
Posted on Jun 15 2004
4664 Views comments (1)
The Westernized side of my background
Posted on Apr 27 2004
3711 Views comments (38)
Rejoinder to Mr. Vedantam's column
Posted on Apr 26 2004
2733 Views comments (10)
Geopolitics and Sanskrit Phobia
Posted on Jul 5 2005
In modern Westernized universities, Sanskrit is taught primarily as a language only and that too in connection with Indo-European philology. On the other hand, other major languages such as English, Arabic and Mandarin are treated as containers of their respective unique civilizational worldviews; the same approach is not accorded to Sanskrit. In fact, the word itself has a wider, more general meaning in the sense of civilization. Etymologically, Sanskrit means "elaborated," "refined," "cultured," or "civilized," implying wholeness of expression. Employed by the refined and educated as a language and a means of communication, Sanskrit has also been a vehicle of civilizational transmission and evolution.
27782 Views comments (1222)
Myth of Hindu Sameness
Posted on Nov 18 2004
Difference-with-respect is an attitude that is practically unachievable through History-Centric religions, except in the form of artificial political correctness commonly referred to as 'tolerance'.
26890 Views comments (751)
Dialog on Whiteness Studies
Posted on Sep 20 2004
I often hear liberal persons say that they are colorblind, i.e. they do not see any difference among persons based on color. But you and most White Studies scholars criticize the policy known as colorblindness. Why?
19446 Views comments (698)
Ten Challenges to Washington Post
Posted on Apr 26 2004
Mr. Vedantam further confuses my stances concerning India's geopolitical matters with my critiques of academic works by certain scholars of Hinduism. He uses my views on the former to claim that I am engaged in PR in the latter, thereby undermining the seriousness of my critical charge.
12596 Views comments (178)
Washington Post and Hinduphobia
Posted on Apr 20 2004
In our world of constant change, many entrenched paradigms and worldviews are being challenged by marginalized voices. As a patriotic American, I consider these healthy debates as another stage in the series of progressive movements, like civil rights, feminism, gay rights and other movements that started as underdogs and outsiders to the established power structure and had to battle at great expense for
23560 Views comments (153)
RISA Lila - 2 - Limp Scholarship and Demonology
Posted on Nov 17 2003
Dating back to the earliest occupation of India by the British, academic scholarship has often studied and depicted India and its religious and cultural traditions as consisting of the exotic cultures of distant and primitive peoples.
31188 Views comments (1491)
Problematizing God's Interventions in History
Posted on Mar 19 2003
Can universal truth-claims be considered scientific, if they are contingent upon a particular account of history, especially a historical event that could never be replicated? Specifically, what does a scientist think of claims of God's unique interventions that are space-time discontinuities, and that either violated or permanently changed the laws of the cosmos? Can science afford to legitimize any
12625 Views comments (407)
RISA Lila - 1: Wendy's Child Syndrome
Posted on Sep 6 2002
The present essay deals with yet another important discipline, namely, Religious Studies, which is growing rapidly in the US and in many other countries. Unfortunately, this is not so in India, where a peculiar brand of “secularism” has prevented aca
49163 Views comments (453) Tags: Bhagavad Gita Mahabharata Krishna
The Axis of Neocolonialism
Posted on Jul 10 2002
This essay argues that intellectual svaraj (self-rule) is as fundamental to the long term success of a civilization as is svaraj in the political and financial areas. Therefore, it is important to ask: whose way of representing knowledge will be in control? It is the representation system that defines the metaphors and terminology, interprets what they mean in various situations, influences what issues are selected to focus on
31472 Views comments (1303)
America's Last Chance
Posted on Jun 8 2002
It is vital for America to put pragmatism in the front and ideology in the back seat. This article is written from the perspective of American interests: Now might be America's last chance to gain control over Pakistan's nukes, before neo-Taliban elements take control of Pakistan's military
8797 Views comments (375)
A Business Model of Religion - 2
Posted on Apr 24 2002
Religion has become heavily institutionalized involving giant multinational religious enterprises. This essay examines the effects of institutionalized competition by looking primarily at the way Christianity has utilized the business process very successfully
9891 Views comments (584)
Hinduism in American Classrooms
Posted on Mar 18 2002
...as a teacher he has important things to say about the way schools portray India and its traditions. Second, as he identifies himself as a Hindu, his insights may also reflect the views of many 'Euro-American Hindus', i.e. the over 15 million Americans who now practice Hindu activities, such as yoga, meditation, and kirtan, amongst others
14025 Views comments (429)
The Root of India-Pakistan Conflicts
Posted on Feb 11 2002
Any genuine attempt to address geopolitical problems must look deeper than examining merely the symptoms of conflict. This essay calls for a paradigm shift in the understanding of the root cause, without which attempts to resolve the 'Kashmir issue' shall fail, or at best bring temporary relief. It concludes by defining the 'hard question' that must be tackled by the world community
24398 Views comments (1176)
CNN's Pakistan Bias
Posted on Jan 11 2002
Many Indians and Western scholars are deeply disappointed by CNN's coverage of events in Afghanistan and the recent India-Pakistan tensions. CNN's top journalists and anchor persons, including Wolf Blitzer and Christiane Amanpour, seem frozen in a Cold War geopolitical mindset.
41849 Views comments (673)
A Business Model of Religion - 1
Posted on Dec 31 2001
This essay compares the management and business realm with the practices of organized religion. It calls for a paradigm shift in the study of religion.
7174 Views comments (156)
JNU-Freiburg Tandems

<b>Gandhigram Rural University to have Centre for Study of Social Exclusion</b>
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Apr 13, 2008

<i>UGC sanctions a sum of Rs.40 lakh; A total of 15 faculty members will be recruited</i>

Gandhigram Rural University at Gandhigram near here will establish a <b>Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy</b> on its premises in the next academic year <b>with an objective of promoting casteless society and to intensify extension work</b>, according to the Interim Administrative Committee chairman M.R. Kubendran.

The University Grants Commission has sanctioned Rs.40 lakh for establishing the centre. A total of 15 faculty members will be recruited for the centre <b>to offer research programmes like M. Phil and Ph. D. along with short-term orientation courses for political leaders, members of legislature, government officials, trade unions and media persons.</b>

Financial provision has been made for recruitment of non-teaching staff and to meet recurring expenditure.

The centre will offer research programmes and short-term courses in the forthcoming academic year.

<b>Social exclusion generated tension, violence and disruption besides perpetuating inequalities and deprivation in societies and states.

The nature, extent and forms of exclusion had to be studied for theoretical and policy purposes to eradicate social exclusion. The centre would study these aspects and formulate policies for protecting socially excluded persons and to eradicate social exclusion, Dr. Kubendran said.</b>

In the 11th Plan document, the UGC had provided major scope for higher education by recognising marginalisation and the need for study on inclusive growth.

<b>The research programmes would work on conceptualisation of discrimination, exclusion, caste ethnicity and religion. Further, the centre would also work on understanding nature and dynamics of discrimination and exclusion to chalk out plans, he said.</b><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
Rajiv Malhotra

Much of the Renaissance and Enlightenment of Europe was based on the appropriation of Indic and Chinese civilizations, and yet these civilizations were demonized to justify colonialism.[4]
Oriental Enlightenment

Clarke argues, along with other scholars whom he cites, that in the West the Renaissance and the Reformation ushered in a philosophical restlessness and uncertainty which made Europeans be more inquisitive and open to other ways of thinking. This uncertainty was generated from within European culture, whereas in Asia it was only when Western technology and power irrupted into the area that the interest of Asians in European culture began, in response to a challenge from outside rather than from within their own culture.

Proselytization is antipodal to universalization(secularization).
Most of us are concerned about former. We should not give damn about
this proselytization. Current problems in India are more of latter

<b>The universalization of theology have been carried forward by
Indologists, social theorists. Rendering of Indian traditions as
atheism, mono/hemi/polytheism are precursor to domestication of
heathenish traditions.</b> Arya samaj is weltering in monotheism!
Semitization of Hinduism
For another application of the dominant paradigm, Kancha Ilaiah tries to prove the non-existence of a common �Hindu� identity by recounting that in his own Andhra village, the Backward Karuma (wool-weaver) community felt closer to Muslims and Christians (�we all eat meat�) than to Brahmins and Banias, who treated the three other communities as equally impure.34 <b>Ironically, this argument is typically Hindu: it does not consider belief but observation or non-observation of purity rules as the decisive criterion. </b>

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