India Forum Archives
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
  Rajiv Malhotra vs Vijay Pershad

Posted by: k.ram Jan 21 2004, 09:09 AM

Latest Response from VP to RM --------------------------------------- Man, My brain got fried reading his whatever you want to call it. Anyways here it goes.. ------------------------- Zara Dheere Se (1/19/04) Vijay Prashad. "Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars" (Martin Luther King, 1968). On January 15, 2004, Rajiv posted his second note (RMN2), for which, thanks. There is a hint of impatience in it ("Let us face the issues, please") and a desire for straight answers for what RMN2 sees as straight questions. Unfortunately, a samvad such as this is not an interrogation where there might indeed be clear questions and to which there might be simple answers. Our discussion will wend its way, providing leads for further discussion, questions that might make us think about other things. Surely Rajiv, you can't want to trash teleological, Baconian thought then insist upon it in our discussion! About what you call "name-dropping": my citations are offered as a way to both give evidence for the wider range of scholarship than the caricature of Marxism. My use of citations is not to rest on the authority of others, but to give you an opportunity to widen your sense of what Marxism is and has been. There are a few issues to which I have some summary responses, and then there are three themes that I want to develop at some length (elitism, the state of the US academy, Hinduism and Political Economy). (A) "Left/Right" is not the best lens to interpret India, as RMN2 indicates. That is his claim, not mine. Left and Right are useful analytical distinctions that help us to differentiate between political visions and organizations. In his extended account of the idea of Left and Right, the Italian political theorist Norberto Bobbio argued that the distinction "corresponds to the difference between egalitarianism and inegalitarianism, and ultimately comes down to a different perception of what makes human beings equal and what makes them unequal." He concedes, and I agree, that equality "has the effect of restricting the freedom of both rich and poor, but with this difference: the rich lose a freedom which they actually enjoyed, whereas the poor lose a potential freedom." Martin Luther King liked to quote the following: "The Law in its majestic equality says that no-one can sleep under the bridges at night, neither the rich nor the poor." In other words, formal juridical equality often discriminates against the poor. This is the precisely the kind of arena where the Left-Right distinction makes all the difference, because the "Left" in general pledges itself to equality and liberty (what Bobbio calls equaliberty), whereas the "Right" is more prone to liberty and less to equality (or else to formal juridical equality only). Hence the value of the Left/Right distinction (Bobbio's book is called Left and Right. The Significance of a Political Distinction, and it is available from Polity Press). (B) Liberation Hinduism. I am intrigued by this suggestion and I hope that it takes on a life of its own. There are, of course, many liberation Hindus - Gandhianism, in its largest incarnation (that is, not just Gandhi), is an obvious starting point, so is the corpus of classical texts and commentaries on them, and indeed, one can draw from the important dialogue and struggle between Brahmanism and Sramanism, the input of not only the Carvaka movement, but also Buddhism. As we move into the present, it would be worthwhile to study those Liberation Hindus who are eager to struggle for the widest equality of all people, and for those who oppose the misuse of religion, such as the late Pujari Laldas of Ayodhya who opposed the Ramjanambhoomi Movement and then was killed for his views, or else the formidable pujari of Hanumangarhi, Mahant Gyan Das (who says, "Bhagwan Ram is just a polling agent for the Sangh Parivar. But those of us who understand a little bit about dharma, the very thought of terrified women and children fleeing their homes is shameful. [The Sangh Parivar] has nothing to do with either god or dharma. They are rakshasas"). When Liberation Theology appeared in South America, it had to combat a very recalcitrant Catholic establishment and it continues to swim upstream against the Vatican and Catholicism's own version of the Dharam Sansad. I recommend that interested folk read Gustavo Gutiérrez' Theology of Liberation (1971). © History-centrism. At a theoretical level, RMN2's statements on the revelation and the teleological religions are correct. However, RMN2 does not account for the immense variety within the so-called Abrahamic religions: there have always been dissenting and liberationist groups within these religions that do not pay much heed to the aspect of being within the chosen or final religion. I have in mind the traditions in Islam that draw from such interesting figures as Al-Hallaj - Sufis, Unitarians, Quakers, Reform Jews and others are within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition and yet they are not given to literalism, etc. The hallaqas of the Sufis are indeed more like Buddhist sects than madrassas. Similarly, Hinduism is not entirely outside the tow of history-centrism: there are many traditions that now coalesce around Hindutva, many that draw from a literalist reading of the Gita - or to make, as you say, a Jerusalem out of Ayodhya. Some of these traditions predate the 1980s. Your notion of Liberation Hinduism is a good corrective to the "history-centric" trend within Hinduism, just as Liberation Theology, Reform Islam and Reform Judaism are already correctives within these traditions. (D) Indic Way of Change. To speak of an "Indic Way" is to resort to absolutes that are not useful. Why is one tradition more "Indic" than another? There are lineages for different ways to be "Indic," and given that India has been open to the world for millennia, it is historically inaccurate to believe that we have a tradition untouched by interaction. A closer approximation to our reality is to speak of competing traditions, of which you may favor one or the other. There are absolutist Indic traditions that draw from the Gita, where the Divine enters the world to instruct humans that their own actions are already pre-determined, and that the end is already fortold by the Gods. The original Gita provided the foundation for Ramanuja's Vaisnavism, but it is quite separate from the sublime Gita-govinda of Jayadeva, or the Vaisnavite reforms of Bengal's Caitanya. To speak of an "Indic Way" that exists over millennia is to deny our history its many contradictions and changes, its progress and its regressions, its visions and its reality. Such a view also does not engage with the reality of interaction and cultural growth that comes from India's engagement with places far afield, from Indonesia to Africa and Europe. These are part of the fabric of "Indic thought" and they cannot be wished away by a return to an origin in, say, the Vedas. So, now, onto the three issues that I want to develop at some length. (1) The Ones who Crossed the Waters. RMN2 closes with several quotations from Ramachandra Guha's "The Ones Who Stayed Behind" (EPW, 2003). Guha begins his essay with a long quotation from an invitation to participate in a symposium on the state of South Asian Studies that assumes that it is only in the last two decades that scholarship from South Asians has made any contribution (the symposium, including Guha's essay, is collected in Jackie Assayag and Veronique Benei's At Home in Diaspora: South Asian Scholars and the West, 2003). The invitation, he notes, suggests "an amnesia that, unfortunately, is quite widespread." Those who think about South Asian Studies today have forgotten the crucial period of the 1950s-1970s when scholars and journals within India truly defined the debates and projects for the study of India. Guha mentions several of the scholars that I had cited in my previous contribution: "Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and Ashin Dasgupta in history; S. C. Dube, Andre Beteille and M. N. Srinivas in sociology; Amartya Sen, K. N. Raj, V. M. Dandekar and Krishna Bharadwaj in economics; and Rajni Kothari in political science." He notes that if scholars outside India wanted their work to be part of the discussion they published in India-based journals such as Indian Economic and Social History Review, Contributions to Indian Sociology and Economic and Political Weekly (whose stalwart editor, Krishna Raj, left us last Friday). The "amnesia" of the invitation received by Guha, he asserts, is driven by the NRI scholars who reside mainly in the US, write in an idiom more in dialogue with European theory than with Indian reality, and whose journals and collective volumes now define the debates and concerns of scholars even in India. The center of gravity of Indian Studies, in other words, has shifted, Guha insists, from India to the USA. Guha readily concedes that his argument is overblown for emphasis, for things are not "completely black and white." There are any number of scholars within India whose agenda is dominated by the interests of European theory and not of the materials of Indian life. And, many of those who claim to be scholars in the indigenous vein are also prone to European jargon, and to draw their theoretical apparatus from Europe. I'm thinking not only of Ashis Nandy and his cohort, but also of Rajiv's own use of terms like emic and etic. Guha's strong article is not really about elitism and the class basis of knowledge producers, but it is about the shift in the center of Indian Studies and in the turn to European theory over Indian sociology. The context of Guha's remarks is separate from the concerns expressed by RMN2. The scholars from the 1950s-1970s often came from more exalted classes than those who work in the USA today, and most of them wrote almost entirely in English. So the shift from India to the US is not a shift of the class basis of scholars on India or their investment in English. These are two problems raised by RMN2, and I think they need to be dealt with by themselves. Guha's essay is a polemic against theory, not one that favors the democratization of knowledge production itself. In the section on "Academic/Activist Elitism," RMN2 raises two points that I want to address: the use of "Ivy League Literary Theory" as the "yardstick to determine who gets certified and licensed to speak with adhikara in prestigious secular circles," and the "role of English" (he mentions call centers, but I want to remain with scholarship to prevent flitting about here and there). a. Ivy League Literary Theory. The most exhaustive critique of the use of "Ivy League Literary Theory" has come from the India-based Marxist critic Aijaz Ahmad (in his book In Theory, London: Verso, 1992) and the US-based Turkish historian Arif Dirlik (in his book Post-Colonial Aura, Westview, 1997). Dirlik, in an article from 1994 that is the heart of his book, notes, "I would suggest that postcoloniality is the condition of the intelligentsia of global capitalism." What Dirlik does is draw from Ahmad's first two chapters to make the strong claim that migrant intellectuals parlay their homeland class prestige into "native informant" status in the advanced industrial states, notably the USA, and then both speak for the homeland and trash it. This postcolonial intellectual, in Dirlik's formulation, has no national loyalty even though the national bred him/her. It is, furthermore, theoretical language that functions as the new Greek-Latin-Sanskrit, to provide a cover, in a sense, for the class origins of the intellectual. There is much to this critique and it has made an impact on the academy, even though those who felt targeted by it defended themselves and their positions. There is no denial of the obvious fact that the NRI intellectual is of the privileged or near privileged classes - few of us have our locations among the impoverished. We have the same class origins as all those NRIs who came to the US between 1965 and 1977 - 83% of us came here with advanced degrees. We do not share our class origins with more recent migrants: of Indians who migrated to the US between 1987 and 1990, a fifth had no high school education, a tenth remain unemployed and a fifth live in poverty. Both the NRI intellectual and the NRI professional claim to speak for India, but most of us have little investment in the lives of the impoverished and working-class NRIs or the impoverished and working-class Indians. There is little special about the class blindness and false representations of the NRI intellectual - the NRI professional shares all these problems: the NRI professional forms organizations to represent India, invites Indian and US politicians for photo opportunities and then uses the post of "president" or what not to leverage power in "mainstream" society as the "leader" of the Indians. All of us who have been part of one or another NRI organization know exactly what I am talking about. So I won't allow us to make the NRI intellectual bear the burden of a problem that is rife in our community. Furthermore, I believe that RM2 (and to an extent Dirlik) misstates the problem: it is not simply the class origins of the intellectual, but it is the more serious claim made by some of the NRI intellectuals to authenticity. The academy, both in India and in the US, is the hive of the air-conditioned class: for the US academy two books illustrate the class origins of scholars and the problems faced by those scholars who come from the US working-class (Michelle Tokarczyk and Elizabeth Fay's 1993 edited collection, Working-Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Knowledge Factory, and Barney Dews and Carolyn Law's 1995 This Fine Place So Far From Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class). I do not know of any accounts such as this for the Indian academy, but from my experience, the metropolitan colleges and universities are not dissimilar to the US academy on this score. The trouble begins with the claim to authenticity, whether that only one from a certain culture can teach of that culture, or else that experience is the only basis for knowledge about social relations. Here the NRI intellectual who espouses authenticity is not far from the indigenista who demands, for instance, that only a Hindu can teach Hinduism or that only a dalit can teach dalit studies. The claim of cultural authenticity masks the class factures that rend national culture - is there one Hinduism, or is Hinduism itself not a wide range of practices that are different for people of different regions, genders, classes, etc.? Authenticity imagines that a culture is a thing and that a people have a culture that they can then represent. I have been over the problems of this position in my previous note, so I won't belabor it. But one more point: that the demand that experience is the only knowledge for a teacher is often used by some NRI intellectuals in the US as a mask for our class and racial privilege. If you want to know more about that, I invite you to read Karma of Brown Folk. Now, it should be said that one of the reasons for the solipsistic turn to oneself and to semi-autobiography among some NRI intellectuals has been the discovery that one cannot authentically represent anyone else than oneself. Much of postmodern self-doubt comes from the very correct critique of representation. Gayatri Spivak has warned about this problem in most of her essays: "an unquestioning privileging of the migrant," she writes in her 1999 book Critique of Postcolonial Thought, "may also turn out to be a figure of effacement of the native informant." The use of the phrase "Ivy League Literary Theory" is a red herring, because many of those who would have been guilty of the worst excesses of what Guha charges them, are now aware of the problems of Literary Theory, have read the critiques and the counter-critiques, and are now in the process of producing a new range of literary and historical work. I recommend, again, that those who have little experience of this world simply go to the website for the Madison conference and see the list of papers given last year ( You will find that many Graduate students and young assistant professors are already some ways from the agenda of the 1980s, and they do not conform to the heuristic developed by Ram Guha. Those of us who are critical of authenticity are not all in the business of epistemological paralysis: many of us do, as Dirlik recommends: "The question is not whether this global intelligentsia can (or should) return to national loyalties but whether, in recognition of its own class position in global capitalism, it can generate a thoroughgoing criticism of its own ideology and formulate practices or resistance against the system of which it is a product." I shall return to this later. b. The Role of English. The power of English is a problem not just in the NRI academy, but also in the Indian academy and indeed in Indian social life. Nothing "important" is done if it is not said in English. The demise of scholarly journals in languages other than English is a serious matter and one that many scholars have put their energies toward. I am struck that the work funded by Infinity is almost all in English. Does the NRI intellectual in the US spend his/her time "sneering at the natives down below," and is this "sneering" a posture that enables the intellectual to "become white"? These are the charges in RMN2. The history of the English language and of English education in India is contentious. Some scholars assert that it can be traced to Macauley's famous 1835 minute that denigrated Indian languages and knowledge in the service of a complete Anglicization of Indian thought. However, the education system put in place by the English came more from the Charles Wood's Despatch of 1854: Wood had a more pragmatic approach to Indian languages, because he felt that if there was a demand for it, these could be taught. The real purpose of education was not to Anglicize, but to ensure that the newly educated Indians had a fealty for British rule, formed a class that staffed imperial institutions and shared some of the values of their occupiers (Suresh Chandra Ghosh, The History of Education in Modern India, 1757-1986). The English had little interest in universal education, because just before the elections of 1937, three quarters of Indian villages and towns had no effective schools. Education under the republic did not challenge the class system in any dramatic way. Students who went to the English medium schools came from the dominant classes and they had the opportunity to take "all-India" jobs or else to go abroad. Others who worked in the "vernacular" had to be restricted to their states if they wished to work in management or in the knowledge industries, or else work in the manual trades if they migrated. Such is the class reality of language politics in India. The linguistic battles in the 1950s and 1960s demonstrated the awareness of the bulk of the population that their language had to be recognized or else they would remain in positions of subordination to either the English speakers or else, in the context of the language riots in the South, Hindi speakers. The politics of language in India is complex and I have simply offered a summary. English does provide a bridge between our other languages and many Dalits and others from oppressed communities have leveraged English to gain some social acceptance. Whatever one might think of the work of Christian missionaries, their English medium schools are still much in demand in rural and semi-rural areas - often by socially oppressed people for whom the English language is a ticket to social mobility. I would like to see the return of our languages in the scholarly realm, especially within India - scholars within India who struggle with English are compelled to write in this language even if it does not do justice to their research and their argument. Some of our languages still have scholarly journals that attract very high quality work, but they are few and far between. There is, however, a gap between the requirement that we promote our languages in the scholarly world and that we promote, what RMN2 calls, "native structures." There is a difference between the importance of thinking as well as writing in different languages, and the demand that we valorize "native structures." What are "native structures"? The Ones who Crossed the Waters, both the NRI intellectual and the NRI professional, benefit from the claim of authenticity and the role of English: Samir "Sammy" Pradhan or Mukesh "Mike" Patel have a vested interest in their powers of English (over other migrants, for instance) and in their claim to being the authentic Indian (to teach India or else to being the hard-working and obedient stereotype of the Indian). Many of us who lean left have been involved, for years, in the struggle against authenticity and in the struggle to dethrone the class authority of the elite. This is not news to us. (2) American Imperialism and the Knowledge Factory. RMN2 rightly asks me to clarify my understanding of the role of US imperialism in the US academy. My answer is long, but since I'm a historian, I can't respond without an excursus into the history both of the US academy and of Area Studies within it. a. Curricular Racism and Area Studies. RMN2 puts the cart before the horse. "South Asian Studies," writes RMN2 suffers "from a ghetto mentality in service of the establishment." I would rather say that the US academy suffers from habitual racism that makes a ghetto for studies of the rest of the world, and that many scholars within that ghetto try hard to break down its walls. The curricular arrangements in the US academy resemble the history of a modern city with ancient roots. In its earliest incarnation, the city had a blueprint and a rational plan: but over time it added neighborhoods, diverted streets, created new parks, built on old parks, destroyed water sources and powerlines, built new ones, and ended up with the layout (and sewers) of the old city holding together the chaotic construction of the centuries. Underneath the glitter, there is the structure of the original city. The early curriculum of the modern US academy was divided into departments based on disciplines: History, Classics, Biology, etc. As changes occurred in research areas and in methods, different departments emerged. For inter-disciplinary work, the home became a sub-department known as a program, and some, with time, became promoted to department. Disciplines formed associations and these created their own journals and held their own conferences. There is little coherent discussion of the logic of a campus curriculum, and I've been through enough futile and endless curriculum review processes to know that inertia favors conservatives who want to leave the underlying structure of European domination intact. Again, the problem is curriculum racism not South Asian Studies. The US academy remained some ways different from the knowledge produced in the British Empire, mainly because of the institutional gap between the rulers and the intellectuals: in the British Empire, the intellectuals often worked for the colonial service, and many of them produced works based on their fieldwork as colonial officers. This tradition is evident even in the US, notably in the study of Indian politics, for example: both Craig Baxter (who wrote on the Jana Sangh) and T. Anderson (who wrote on the RSS) worked in the US State Department. However, the US academy, mainly because of its size and its tradition of academic freedom, has stayed some distance from the US government - and it has continued to fight for the right of that autonomy (more on that below, on funds). There was no room in this early US academy for anything but disdain for the rest of the contemporary world. Some scholars wrote with admiration for the distant past for some of the achievements of the ancient civilizations of the darker nations, but nothing of value could be seen in contemporary Asia, Africa, Latin America. Missionaries dominated the early studies of such places: Yale's K. S. Latourette founded East Asian Studies (his 1929 book is History of the Christian Missions in China), Berkeley's H. E. Bolton pioneered Latin American Studies (his 1936 book is The Rim of Christendom: A Biography of Eusebio Francisco Kino), and A. C. Coolidge developed the contours of Slavic Studies (his 1908 book is The United States as a World Power). In its infancy, the Church and Washington held sway over Area Studies, even though most of its experts worked within the established departments. There was no South Asian Studies or Asian Studies, since most of its practitioners worked within Religion or Government departments. At the end of his monumental Orientalism (1978), the late Edward Said noted that in Middle East Studies, the US academy had taken over the Orientalist mantle from the Europeans after World War II, and the "area specialist" now lays "claim to regional expertise, which is put at the service of government or business or both." Indeed, with US domination of the world in the late 1940s, the question of knowledge held center stage for many who knew that you must rule by guns and words. 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." Since the US government had only a marginal interest in South Asia, the funds were not immense and the demands on the programs and their Graduates had been minimal. The real victims of governmental interference came in Latin American Studies, Middle East Studies, East Asian Studies and Russian-Soviet Studies. Area Studies received a major boost from the US government in 1958, with the passage of the Defense Education Act. Title VI of the NDEA ("Language Development") funded several centers of South Asia to train scholars in the languages of the region (the American Council of Learned Societies had picked six critical languages, of which Hindi-Urdu was one). The study of South Asia as a coherent area, then, began in this period, after 1961. The government funded centers around the country to mainly teach languages (for South Asia - Hindi-Urdu) and secondarily, to cultivate the study of the area. The Fulbright-Hays Act (Mutual Education and Cultural Exchange Act) of 1961 further pushed the government to fund education in foreign languages and in area studies. For South Asia, this meant that scholars at ten schools over the years collected their work into the South Asia Centers (Columbia, Cornell, Syracuse, Berkeley, Chicago, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Madison) and began to offer language study, area study and eventually doctoral degrees. Before South Asia Studies could get off the ground, the US academy felt a seismic shock from the campus struggles during the Vietnam War and the uprisings of students of color (notably the Third World Strike). Area Studies had to be rethought. 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." In 1964, the US government launched Project Camelot to finance scholars who would study the "social processes which must be understood in order to deal effectively with problems of insurgency." When anthropologist Eric Wolf and others revealed the scheme, scholars of Latin America and elsewhere rebelled against governmental intrusion. The Association of Concerned African Scholars emerged in 1977 to ensure that the famine-failure story of Africa not disguise continued imperial interests in the raw materials and markets of the continent, and that the US collaboration with South Africa not be reflected in the classroom. Said regrets that Middle East Studies did not have a similar challenge. South Asia certainly did, notably from the very forceful intervention by the scholars collected in the 1973 book, Imperialism & Revolution in South Asia, edited by Kathleen Gough and Hari Sharma (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973) - it includes an excellent essay by David Ludden, now senior professor of South Asian history at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the big fights on campus is to extend the reach of South Asian Studies, to study South Asians in the US, to study the many dimensions of South Asia itself, to ensure that our study of that part of the world is not considered parochial. For the past decade at least, there have been many debates on many campuses to ensure that the study of the rest of the world is not treated as the poor cousin of knowledge. The fight has not been able to overthrow the curricular racism, some of it habitual and filled with inertia, but it is not for want of trying. Rajiv's interventions seem to indicate that he is the first to make some of these points. Perhaps that is so to many of the readers of Sulekha and Rediff, but that is not the case to those who teach and study South Asia in the US academy. A bit of history of the struggle and a better sense of who is the problem would help the cause here: to target those who teach South Asia is to miss the problem, which is curricular racism, the lack of an ability to do institutional change in the academy, and the multicultural boxing in of the darker world (for the latter, see my Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting). With the fall of the Soviet Union, the US government has attempted to retake Area Studies from those of us who have a prejudice toward tolerance, negotiation and empathy. The first salvo came in 1991 from Senator David Boren's National Security Act. Congress wanted to "produce an increased pool of applicants for work in the departments and agencies of the US government with national security responsibilities." The bill would have become law, but for Newt Gingrich's campaign to cut government spending. 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." Last year, Congress debated HR 3077, "International Studies in Higher Education Act." If the Act becomes law, all those who receive Title VI money to study the rest of the world will be overseen by an International Education Advisory Board that will be filled with officials from the Defense Department, from the Office of Homeland Security, and from the National Security Agency "to increase accountability to providing advice, counsel and recommendations to Congress on international education issues for higher education." The government wants those who study to enter a War Corps, to provide translators, intelligence analysts and others to do the bidding of the Bush variety of Evangelical Imperialism. 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. Area Studies provides the platform for us to hold such a debate, for without it the US academy would have no room, not even a corner, for the study and discussion of South Asia. Will Infinity make a public statement against HR 3077, perhaps join in the struggle to maintain the relative autonomy of Area Studies? (for more info, b. The Neoliberal Academy. In 1994, the Council for Aid in Education (a subsidiary of that old Cold Warrior, the RAND Corporation) set up a Commission on National Investment in Higher Education. A year later, the chair of the commission, L. J. Dionne, told a U. S. senate subcommittee on education that the only way to save U. S. education is to "re-engineer to improve productivity and quality, and reduce costs....We need to foster re-engineering of the higher education system, just as we have done in the private sector, to maintain competitiveness" (February 2, 1995). The double-entry account book enters as the word on educational reform. The commission's report Breaking the Social Contract: The Fiscal Crisis in Higher Education, appeared in 1997 and offered stringent means to reconstruct the university system. For one, it called upon colleges to "restructure and streamline" departments so that "marginal activities" can be reduced or eliminated (what these are we are not told) and certain resources can be shared (through consortia arrangements for "classes, services, infrastructure, libraries." CAE has been at the center of the fight to privatize schooling and to encourage "partnerships" between business and the college. CAE proposed essentially what is already ongoing in the academy. The new corporate logic of "downsizing" and flexibility" has begun an economic reconstruction of the academy along the lines of that demanded by the International Monetary Fund on the states of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. Since 1975, part-time faculty increased by 97 percent while full-time faculty grew by only 25 percent. Of those in full-time positions, most are on short-term non-tenure contracts. Non-tenure faculty positions such as this increased from 1975 by 88 percent. Tenure track (probationary) hires fell by 9 percent in this period. Of these non-tenure part-time and adjunct positions, most are created for and held by women (who are once again seen as only secondary earners). The increase in tuition, most studies show, has gone not toward an increase in teaching faculty on campuses or to the salary of the teachers, but to the administrative section. Just as factory workers are expected to be made more productive through technological inputs, the teachers are being told that they can make use of computers and other such gadetry to increase their output (have more students per class, for example. This is the context for the neo-liberal academy that we now work within. The South Asia classroom must be seen in light of this structure. College for non-science students has been a necessary, but insufficient condition for entry into the middle-class. The vocational training of these young indebted students begins in professional school, and liberal arts education is now window-dressing for the onward march. The liberal ideal, in many ways, has been rendered anachronistic by the socio-economic pressure on students to pay back their loans, get a good job in a very competitive marketplace of "jobless growth" and think about their careers above all else. Teachers try to buck this trend, and we should be applauded for this, even if our task sometimes feels futile. Our classrooms are victims of the Fordism of education in which students read brief and scattered extracts and spend short, efficient periods (40 minutes, 90 minutes) learning as much information as possible as quickly as possible. The form of presentation in the fordist classroom is structural-functionalism, with complex social systems broken down into their most salient features and these are presented as the system's essence. Complexity is squandered for the purpose of comprehensiveness. China is dealt with through the concept of Confucianism, India with Caste, Africa with Tribe, South American politics with Caudillo, etc. There is only so much time, and so much of the world to cover in courses devoted to The Rest of the World. Within the Fordist classroom the teacher is encouraged to be "global," but to be so is to truck in stereotype. There is little doubt that the US academy, for all its interest in the rest of the world, continues to privilege European thought and US history, to divide its departments into those that work on things of Universal interest (with a European provenance) and those things that are of "ethno" curiosity (ethno-musicology, ethnic studies, etc.). The ghetto of the darker knowledge has made some impact on the academy, but it has not been much, and indeed the ghetto itself often trucks stereotypes that simply strengthen the citadel of Eurocentrism. The struggle of many of us in the academy is precisely to transform this relationship, to expose it and break it down. Just as NGOs have taken charge of areas of social life previously under the purview of the formally accountable state, and just as private foundations now help determine the agenda of these NGOs far more than the people who are to be serviced by them, so too in the relatively impoverished academy private foundations have appeared to try to ensure that their agenda determines what happens in the classroom. One foundation after the other has taken advantage of the structurally adjusted university to put forward its own pet project. This is so mainly in the humanities and social sciences: the sciences still get funds from the State, or else from corporations (the problems are separate and I won't get into them here). There is a serious problem with private foundations and funds, mainly because their work is not accountable and they generally fund what interests them, not necessarily what is intellectually and socially worthwhile. If we had a well-funded National Endowment of the Humanities, like the National Institute of Health or the National Science Foundation, and if the NEH had elected study circles that assessed competitive proposals, and if the policy of the NEH was to fund as many applications as it can (many small grants rather than a few large grants, as in the Canadian system), I feel that we would have a more democratic system to finance research in the humanities and social sciences. The state, regardless of the problems of the import-substitution era, remains the most formally accountable body, and we must fight for the state to be the venue through which we finance our research. This is why the battles in India over the various state funding bodies is so acute, as neo-liberalism begins to restructure the Indian academic world. People know the stakes of a open-ended, but academically accountable body, that is in the trust of a sovereign people, and is financed by their taxes, rather than of an unaccountable fund from the pocket of one person or a few people. The politics of funds for research are enormous. I rue the current academy where private foundations determine research leaves, and therefore make many academics invested in their continuance, and where private foundations now increasingly make curricular demands for the money they invest in colleges. (3) Indic Thought and Political Economy Finally, a note on Indic Thought and Political Economy, a subject that gets little attention in debates such as this. The tradition of the critique of Political Economy cannot be simply dismissed as "European," because its formation and development has drawn from people across the planet, from traditions of thought that emerge in many parts of the world, and from the resistance of our the globe to the dynamic of imperial capitalism. The Indian working class and peasantry, as well as the Indian lower middle class, continue to weather the storms of imperialism, now in its current "globalization" or "privatization" phase. No other tradition apart from the critique of political economy (of which Marxism is an important component) has offered an analysis of why this is so and how we can fight the impoverishment of the bulk of our people. I am aware of the fragments on money in Kautilya's Arthashastra, how he gives the ruler ideas on taxation and trade as well as on wages and rent. I am also aware of two books published by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (the BJP trade union), one by BMS head Dattopant Thengadi (Third Way, 1995) and the other by Vice Chancellor of Nagpur University (Hindu Economics, 1993). Finally, I have read many of the materials from the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, including their eye-opening pamphlet, Let a Thousand Markets Bloom. From these books, and from conversations with members of the SJM, I am not convinced that there is either the categories to offer a critique of the liberalization started by the Congress and continued whole-heartedly by the BJP. There is almost no discussion of the collapse of food security or of the sale of water sources, there is little concern for self-reliance and for the right of a people to control their national resources. I'm not certain that the tradition of "Indic Thought" has the resources to conduct such a sustained critique of national theft, of the sell-out by the BJP of the nation's wealth to global corporations and to what the Communist leader Sitaram Yechury calls RNIs, Resident Non-Indians. I know that South Asian Studies has generally avoided much critical discussion on the economy. In two weeks, Vamsi Vakulabharanam, Sripad Motiram, Anudradha Mittal and I will release Iowa Is Not Far From Telengana: an argument for food security in India (if you are interested in this, please let me know): part of our desire to produce this pamphlet is the utter disregard in the diaspora for the collapse of food security within India, for the lying over poverty statistics with the Above Poverty Line and Below Poverty Line caricature, and for the decline in nutrition rates among rural Indians. Any patriot should feel moved to comment on this crisis. Coming out of the tradition of the critique of political economy, we used whatever resources we could find to turn to the service of the silenced farmers. If there is an "Indic way" to make such a critique, I welcome it and would be interested in reading it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, not in endless restaurant criticisms and recipes. Be well, Vijay Prashad.

Posted by: manju Jan 21 2004, 03:57 PM

This dialgoue is awesome. Rajiv comes up with some superb ideas and questions that shake the very foundations of prevaling premises of public dialogue dominated by secular (what ever that means) thought in India. Off course, I am left clueless after reading Vijay Prashads babble. I end up as confused as I used to be after reading Frontline (for those not aware this is commie magazine) magazine in my school and college days. I think these leftist have one great tool. When somebody has a question and they dont have a clue, they never say "maalum nahi", they will confuse you with crap. God save these people from being strangeled in the web of lives they ceaselessly weave. Guys, this discussion is something like the epic battle at Kurukshetra. Satyameva Jyathei

Posted by: Hyagriva Jan 21 2004, 08:22 PM

What VP writes and what he means to convey: Part I. (short of time)

About what you call "name-dropping": my citations are offered as a way to both give evidence for the wider range of scholarship than the caricature of Marxism. My use of citations is not to rest on the authority of others, but to give you an opportunity to widen your sense of what Marxism is and has been.
You know nothing about the great theory of Marxism; therefore I am citing some 'range of Scholarship' 'to give you an opportunity to widen your sense of what Marxism is' - In other words - you are a fool, having no clue to what Marxism is - therefore, I, as your Professor, am giving you a book list for you to read before you appear in my class for my pontifications and lectures.
In his extended account of the idea of Left and Right, the Italian political theorist Norberto Bobbio argued that the distinction "corresponds to the difference between egalitarianism and inegalitarianism, and ultimately comes down to a different perception of what makes human beings equal and what makes them unequal."
Here, VP refers to a Leftist who states that there are only two kinds of people in this world - one who are egalitarianists and the other, inegalitarianists. In brief - Proletarian and Bourgeois. Same Commie crap repeated over and over again in different guises and words.
This is the precisely the kind of arena where the Left-Right distinction makes all the difference, because the "Left" in general pledges itself to equality and liberty (what Bobbio calls equaliberty), whereas the "Right" is more prone to liberty and less to equality (or else to formal juridical equality only).
VP on behalf of Marxism is trying to score the high moral ground here by trying to care for the poor and score some 'equiliberty for them. What it really wants is to abolish the rich- wipe them out. Capitalism wants Liberty for all. Liberty for the poor to become Rich. The capitalist does not want to kill the poor and abolish them. The Capitalist does not hate the poor like the Marxists hate the rich. The capitalist wants the rich to be rich and the poor to become rich too. It aims to provide the poor with equal liberty to rise and compete with others. Whereas the Marxist aims to bring the rich to the level of the poor, the capitalist aims to alleviate the poor to the level of the rich. Nice try to equalate the Right with Capitalism, though! Can't the left be Rightists? Like the Chinese who are communists but think that they are the origin of mankind and civilization- Superior to all other races? What VP with all his scholarship does not realise is that the world is moving from the old 'rich-poor' divide to a newer divide - that of technology. The Saudis might be rich in wealth terms, but nevertheless, they are on the poor side of science and technology. Welcome to the new world.
Liberation Hinduism. I am intrigued by this suggestion and I hope that it takes on a life of its own. There are, of course, many liberation Hindus
By putting in a term 'Liberal/Liberational', VP is indirectly trying to prove and ascertain that there is indeed a 'Fundamentalist' Hinduism. In the few coming days, one can be dead sure for VP to rope in the Bajrang Dal, RSS, BJP etc and prove that Liberal Hinduism is the fringe and that the Sangh represents Hinduism. And that they are the modern avatars of Hitler. Note that the left never refers to Stalin, who had killed equal number of people as did Hitler, nor to Pol-pot or any number of communist dictators, naxalite groups and revolutionary armed bandits, rebels who have plagued various parts of the world.
the late Pujari Laldas of Ayodhya who opposed the Ramjanambhoomi Movement and then was killed for his views, or else the formidable pujari of Hanumangarhi, Mahant Gyan Das (who says, "Bhagwan Ram is just a polling agent for the Sangh Parivar. But those of us who understand a little bit about dharma, the very thought of terrified women and children fleeing their homes is shameful. [The Sangh Parivar] has nothing to do with either god or dharma. They are rakshasas"). When Liberation Theology appeared in South America, it had to combat a very recalcitrant Catholic establishment and it continues to swim upstream against the Vatican and Catholicism's own version of the Dharam Sansad. I recommend that interested folk read Gustavo Gutiérrez' Theology of Liberation (1971).
This tactic, VP uses, is the 'Horse Mouth' tactic. That is, critisise Hinduism or parts of it, using the words of certain people, who would be connected to Hinduism. As if the critism becomes valid if it comes from those people from inside Hinduism. As if there is a great threat or wrong that even those from inside are trying to run away or trying against GREAT odds to rectify it. Thus, VP brings in 'formidable' (note how He praises those who critisise his foes) Pujari, Mahant Gyan Das 'who was killed for his views' (note how he is appealing to emotion and makes his supporters, Martyrs), etc. He also takes a diagonal comparison with 'liberation theology'. Liberational Hinduism against Sangh, and Liberation theology against the Catholic Church. Little does VP understand in spite of all his great scholarship that there is no Central Authority like the Catholic Church in Hinduism. Therefore there is no authority for the liberationalists to fight against. What liberty do liberational Hinduism fight for? What liberty is denied to them? By whom? Ah.. now, bring in the caste angle. The left will never accept caste as a social problem, and will always try to make it a part of Hinduism and thus demonize the religion, just as the missionaries do. NO wonder the Lefts, Missionaries and the Islamists sometimes speak with a single voice, copying each other in their efforts to eradicate and bad mouth Hinduism, and along with it, India. By giving the Sangh, an aura of authority, VP is trying to equalise the Sangh in Hinduism with the Church in Catholism. He is trying to say that we need a strawman in Hinduism to beat and break. THe Sangh fits our bill perfectly. Therefore, we say, The Sangh is Hinduism. The Sangh is the main representative of Hinduism and that the liberal Hinduism is fighting a great battle against this authority. You know why VP is trying this- Splitting Hinduism. (I love this - Feminist Hinduism, Liberal, Orthodox, Rural Hindusim, Urban Hindusim, Animist Hinduism, Brahminical Hinduism, and many other Hinduisms the leftists refer to!)

Posted by: k.ram Jan 25 2004, 08:41 AM

January 22nd 2004. Going forward... Hi Vijay, Besides agreeing with your statement about slowing, there is also the fact that the themes of dialog might explode, so that each response would have to be larger than prior ones just to address everything on the table every time. Therefore, I suggest that we structure the dialog into a manageable number of distinct (while overlapping) themes. We could either take each theme one at a time (say a month each, for instance). Alternatively, we could go on multiple themes in parallel, but with each individual post addressing one specific theme to keep the focus. What do you think of the following as a potential list of themes that would enable us to better structure the dialog? This list is just to put something on the table (in no special order): 1) Discussion of Categories: This includes examining left/right and alternatives. The category of religion needs to be discussed. What is “Indic” and is it useful? Is secularism contingent upon the category of religion, and what might be equivalent in Indian traditions? I have a lot of problematic categories that are rarely being questioned by South Asianists but are simply used as universals. This theme allows open and creative exploration of these matters. 2) Indigenous Indian liberation theories, practices and hopes: Here we could discuss the past, present status and future potential for liberation from within the Indian systems, without need for Ford Foundation’s $50 million/yr funding in India (which is equivalent to over $500 million/yr in US terms), or for that matter, from any other foreign sources. What are some resources available, what new inputs/changes are required, etc.? Liberation Hinduism would belong here. Does/should the Indian Left have a monopoly on the category of “progress”? 3) History-centrism: We agree that each faith has both kinds (a point made in my Sulekha essay on this topic). But exceptions do not prove the rule. The key distinction is in terms of the public consensus as that enjoys legitimacy (as opposed to persecution/denigration). The fact is that the Meister Eckharts (and their Sufi equivalents) were almost always hounded in their times, and only centuries later rediscovered, often after westerners had dipped deep into Hindu-Buddhist traditions and retroactively projected on to their own historical identities. This is also an important theme in uncovering the dynamics in India: Is Hinduism becoming history-centric, and what might be the consequences, and how might one view Hindutva in this context? Are there potential bridges between non history-centric peoples across faiths? It opens up new ways to do comparative religion. It includes examining itihas as a category that is distinct from history. 4) Power and Knowledge in India related studies: Not only is this a very theme one for both of us, but it seems we agree on many things here. I would bring the Guha comment as part of this. This theme should include many things, such as: (i) western institutions, (ii) Indians in western institutions (elitists and resisters), (iii) Indian NGOs funded by western institutions, (iv) Indian media and activists impressing the whites – including as pets, patients, children, sepoys, chowkidars, etc., (v) role of “theories” as indirect colonization mechanisms, (vi) Hinduja and other Indians’ funding of projects, (vii) the role of English language (historical, present and future), (viii) role of the economy/marketplace of symbols, (ix) curriculum/research biases, (x) racism, and (xi) recommended solutions (which we both have for discussion). 5) Globalization and Indian political economy: It seems we cannot decouple these themes, as globalization is here whether one likes it or not, and the question is what kind of globalization there should be. Since isolationism is not a serious option, one must negotiate globalization vigorously, and hence, the Indian political economy must be located alongside the issue of globalization generally. We must not ignore the role of multinational religious enterprises alongside commercial MNCs. I was glad to read Madhu Kishwar’s recent criticism of WSF NGOs in Indian Express on NGOs as MNCs. 6) Patriotism/Nationalism: I see these are distinct: defensive and offensive, respectively. But we should discuss what alternative grand narratives compete, both pro and anti, and what we each feel about the meaning of India going forward. Please let me have your changes to this so we may proceed. We may periodically take stock, modify, perhaps get a third party to summarize each theme. Regards, Rajiv

Posted by: vijnan_anand Jan 26 2004, 12:15 AM

Over the past 24 hours, my latest 2-part column on Rediff has appeared: PART 1 - AMERICA MUST RE-DISCOVER INDIA: PART 2 - PREVENTING AMERICA'S NIGHTMARE: It gives a US-centric perspective on why South Asian Studies today are out of alignment with recent geopolitical realities and policies. The thesis is structured as follows: 1) Sept 11 and the more recent Talibanization of Pakistan were completely unanticipated by the South Asian experts. Similarly, there is a real chance of unanticipated events that could lead to the Talibanization of India, and to the subsequent Talibanization of ASEAN. This scenario deserves examination, at least as a possibility. 2) Destabilizing India through separatist/subversive movements would contribute towards any such melt-down and chaos, eventually leading to its Talibanization. (Alternative forms of anarchy might emerge temporarily out of any balkanization, but would not have the sustenance and would merely play into the hands of Talibanization.) 3) Intellectual discourse can have a big impact in shaping the ground reality, especially when the discourse is backed by powerful forces. Example: The Iraq invasion was preceded by a month-long TV campaign to demonize Saddam and his WMDs as being an imminent threat to USA. One can find many such examples, including the way Nazis demonized the Jews prior to their holocaust, the Church’s demonology against Native Americans prior to their genocide, Church theology legitimizing slavery, etc. Hence, the discourse promoting various separatisms in India, no matter how well imagined and glorified in the name of fighting “human rights violations”, can have the effect of exacerbating #2, and hence #1. 4) However, current US policy is for a unified, stable and healthy India. Anti-India discourse may well have served some pre-911 (especially Cold War) strategy to pressurize India. But in the light of #1, #2 and #3, it would be a dangerous game to continue. 5) Therefore, western institutions must rethink their support for any and all South Asian programs that could be classified as having the character of #3, even if unintentionally. 6) However, step #5 would present a potential conflict of interest to many well-entrenched South Asianists in important places, because they have invested their careers in building intellectual and political capital of the kind that is now irrelevant and has dangerous possibilities. Furthermore, the systemic biases from past geopolitical eras have potentially assumed a life of their own. The columns DO NOT name names or blame SPECIFIC programs. Rather, the idea is to first debate the principles outlined above, and to THEN audit specific programs to see which ones fit this pro-separatist profile. Hence, South Asianists should not at this stage get defensive and assume that they are being blamed individually. However, they should introspect each of the propositions listed above with an open mind. They should also examine their non-academic activities that are carried out via various “independent” groups and organizations, especially those where they draw upon their academic credibility, contacts and resources. I expect two kinds of complaints from South Asianists against my thesis. I call them: (A) The Anti-India Grand Narrative, and (B) The Cover-up, respectively. They are described as follows: A) The Anti-India Grand Narrative: Only yesterday, a team of four Indian-origin scholars in South Asian Studies in important US colleges jointly wrote a critique of my views and posted it on H-Asia, which is the internet list for scholars of Asian Studies. I quote excerpts from their post below, as it very nicely illustrates the positions that are held by a large number of western-based South Asianists. I have been working on a major essay titled, “The Anti-India Grand Narrative,” to address this phenomenon. Yesterday’s post, excerpted below, brings this anti-India position out publicly and could serve as my purva-paksha for the future essay. The basic components of this anti-Indiaism, as evidenced below, are: that India has never been a unified entity (and hence not worthwhile); that attempts to do so marginalize the minorities and violate their human rights; that promoters of the notion of a unified India are Hindu chauvinists; and especially that this unification desire has always been a Brahmin conspiracy to oppress others; and so on... My challenge has been to try to wake up the educated mainstream Indians (both in USA and in India) to the well-entrenched anti-India thinking in western academia. Unfortunately, most ordinary Indians simply do not want to believe that such thinking could be so widespread, and especially like to deny that it could be popular among scholars of Indian origin. This is why the discourse on India has been so one-sided, because the pro-Indians have failed to understand or accept the nature of this Anti-India Grand Narrative, much less to be able to develop counter-arguments effectively. The four scholars [Neilesh Bose, History, Tufts University; Shefali Chandra, Women's Studies and History, U.Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Jayeeta Sharma, History, Carnegie-Mellon University; Usha Zacharias, Communication, Westfield State College] in this instance are very typical, and hence their anti-India views deserve serious attention. They wrote: “Mr. Malhotra's unrelenting attachment to a unitary vision of the Indian nation-state reflects a colonial-style allegiance to jingoistic nationalism, the kind that thrives on inventing unity where it doesn't exist... “The zeal with which the history of 'India' has been collapsed into an elitist and exclusionary narrative is most striking during the British colonial period and then during the present era of Hindutva politics. Both these systems of politics operate(d) by shutting down debate, by marginalizing the identity of minorities, and by favoring certain patriarchal and propertied interest groups. Most crucially, both were most interested in a territorial consolidation of land and resources, a consolidation that was swiftly mapped onto a hermetically bound and disputable notion of 'culture'... “First a geographical entity so named (in Persian sources) only because of its relative location, then a conglomeration of British controlled territories surrounded by quasi-independent princely kingdoms, "India" remained a term as well as a concept culled by 'outsiders'... the Indian nation-state we currently recognize was created because of a colonially-engineered, blood-stained partition that left hundreds of thousands of people dead and uprooted from their homes... “What about the various groups that were not (and have not been) prominently figured in the construction of this nation-state, e.g. low-caste groups, tribals and adivasis, religious minorities such as Muslims and Christians? Or members of regions that have threatened the unity the state has tried to coercively impose, such as individuals and groups from Assam, Kashmir, Punjab, princely states, etc., who have all challenged whatever unity post-1947 India claimed to have?... “The very confluence of a fixed national identity, global and corporate expansion, and the writing of history from such a unitary standpoint threatens to distort our recognition of the rights or voices of minorities, and to construct 'India' through the agenda of the propertied, elite classes who will be the only beneficiaries of the corporate sponsorship that Mr. Malhotra remains so attracted to encouraging. As historians we are immediately reminded of the colonial writing of Indian history, a process that fixed a static idea of 'India,' that settled minority populations and cultures, and that elevated the authority of brahmanical, propertied and patriarchal interests...” One should notice their sneering gaze of moral indignation at anyone who expresses love for India. Against my pro-India stance, the South Asian scholars bombastically charged me with things like “unreflective nationalist perspective”, “unrelenting attachment to a unitary vision of the Indian nation-state”, “singular, uncontestable presentation of India”, “fixed national identity”, “unitary standpoint”, “jingoism”, and on and on. This is standard South Asianism. However, this is not the time to give my critique of The Anti-India Grand Narrative. (That will come out separately in the future.) I merely use this opportunity (and their very timely post) to illustrate the existence of such a master narrative which guides much of South Asian Studies today. B) The Cover-up: The second kind of critic will deny that South Asian Studies are subversive against India. They come in two sub-categories: (i) Many of these critics are genuinely blinded by self-delusion, having decided to “see no evil, hear no evil...” and hence they remain in tamasic sloth. (ii) Others among them are part of the cover-up game, so that the virus of anti-Indiaism remains lurking and unnoticed, much like the HIV virus uses stealth inside the very same immune system that it seeks to destroy. It is often hard to tell which critic is which between these two sub-categories. But that is immaterial because the implications of denial are the same, be it stupidity or deception. I have responded to the four authors quoted in A, because I like their forthright approach (i.e. A), whereas the denial mode that is so common is simply dishonest. For example, John Laxmi’s recent Rediff guest column claimed to be a rejoinder to my earlier column, and took a very pro-India position. Yet it denied (without benefit of due diligence) that there is any anti-India sentiment in South Asian Studies. An important segment of my target readers is precisely those pro-Indians (real or fake) who claim that South Asianism = pro-India. I have a good friend in New Jersey who defines himself as a leftist and a patriotic Indian. Some of my recent writings have “been an eye-opener” to him, to use his own words. Very many South Asianists practice #1, while their public posture is #2. How do they manage this deception? Some of the tools of the trade are as follows: § Their talks, writings and courses use very benign/obscure titles and abstracts. Unless you sit through the entire talk and listen closely, or read their writings thoroughly, you will not catch the anti-India master-narrative being transmitted, often in code. § They have Indian/Hindu names; they display Indian/Hindu symbols in their events, web sites, etc.; they comfortably use words from everyday Hindi/Urdu and generally display a demeanor that pleases proud Indians. In other words, they have mastered the nuances of PR. They are either westerners who invested in anthropology of India, or (increasingly) they are the self-alienated desis who have proven their trust-worthiness to the system to be given plum jobs to interface with the ordinary unsuspecting Indians. § They use incomprehensible language which is only read by others of their ilk, while the ordinary person gets impressed with things like their “reputation” and brand affiliations with prestigious institutions and their credentials. Terms like “sub-nationalism”, “”hybridity”, etc. have recently joined previous staples like “human rights”, etc., with coded double-meanings and dual uses. § Many genuinely believe that they are pro-India, but that their ideology entails being anti everything that makes India successful today. Secretly – and you have to pry this out of them – they prefer India’s breakup for one of many reasons. There are two tiers of these scholars – producers and retailers. The producers spin new metaphors and rhetoric that can be added to the “My Anti-Indiaism” pull-down menu or file of canned rhetoric. Retailers are those who take such lists and bombard every classroom and forum with this stuff. Clearly, the recent post by the four young South Asianists referenced above indicates that they might be retailers aspiring to advance up the cadre. The system employs armies of sepoys to oust any critics. At their events open to the public, they often have campus security to throw out anyone who challenges them. The panel chair is usually familiar with the “trouble-makers” and will not acknowledge their questions. As an example, the following episode was relayed to me by a reliable source (but I have not verified it yet): Former Chief Justice of India, Mr. Verma, who was later the head of the top human rights group, was on a panel at Harvard chaired by Prof. Sugata Bose. Verma made a remark that one of the reasons why India had remained secular (despite the challenges in the third world) was because of its Hindu culture. I am told that Prof. Bose pounced on him like a pit bull very publicly, even though Verma is a very senior and eminent man with impeccable secular credentials. Impact on South Asian Studies fund-raising: Because of #2, the extent and severity of #1 remains hidden in front of parents whose kids go to these colleges and to NRIs who dole out millions to fund these programs. Recently, someone known to me discussed the anti-Indiaism at one such college to a major Indian-American donor of that college. At first the man refused to believe. He explained how Prof. X (a white scholar) always wears a nice sari and bindi to such gatherings, says namaste to him, and has enjoyed eating samosas for twenty years. He confidently cited how Prof. Y speaks fluent Hindi and “knows more about Hinduism than even he does.” He explained how Prof. Z was a most wonderful Indian who had to be very patriotic because his parents are well-known in India, etc. etc. But the person who relayed this to me insisted that none of these superficial markers would suffice if he were doing due diligence on a new investment as a venture capitalist or advising his client on a project. There had to solid substance in making assessments. The man then started to hide behind things like, “I don’t have the time to study all these academic details...” About two hours later into the discussion, the man was so aroused by the details he saw that he became angry at being shown so much “nonsense against India.” Then he suddenly promised to let the fund-raising department of the college know that he had changed his mind, and that until they changed their attitudes he would not give them one more penny. It is precisely this impact (which has recently happened) that has shaken up the system, and this is why so many attacks have been planned against whistleblowers that merely raise important issues and call for debate. If all this is “interference” as is commonly alleged by a defensive group of scholars, they should stop soliciting Indian-Americans’ money. Period. If they wish to solicit, they should also be prepared to handle criticism gracefully and to introspect honestly. At the very least, the existence of these two opposite grand narratives about India must be acknowledged publicly so that a debate between their proponents may begin in earnest and with mutual respect. The pro and anti India narratives (the latter being often subliminally applied) are my pragmatic method of segmenting South Asian scholarship, and I propose that it should replace the left/right as lenses. More on this final point will come later. Regards, Rajiv

Posted by: Hauma Hamiddha Feb 4 2004, 05:46 PM

Prof. Wendy Doniger, Prof. Paul Courtright and others have alleged that the criticism I have made of their scholarship is illegitimate because their writings have been peer-reviewed. Therefore, they claim, my writings must be classified as "attacks" on them, and not as fair criticism, because they do not emanate from within the scholarly world. The implication here is that those who are not licensed by their academic system should not be allowed to argue with their positions, and certainly not as equal partners in dialog. This attitude is, in my view, part of a larger problem in academic discourse, especially in anthropology, sociology and the study of religion, where it is assumed that (i) the non-academician can only be positioned as a native informant, and (ii) the native informant should not talk back.
....................... While I believe that this whole attempt of Malhotra talking to Left is unlikely to have any major impact. It is parallel to the process of trying to talk to the Islamists- one can talk only within a basic axiomatic frameowrk that is shared. Without something like that you will only talk past each other. In any case the above statement is very significant. It also illustrates one of the reasons why many scientists from foreign countries gravitate towards the US. Even in science and more so in social studies there is the cartel and the need to be an insider to be published. In science this is helpful in keeping out quacks who are abundant but can sometimes have a major influence on what is considered "hot" and "non-hot". However, in the social sciences the effects of cartelization are even more drastic and dangerous. Firstly, the discourse there is set up with the political objective of building negative images of competing cultures. The Christian/Abrahamic constructs are deeply embedded within the practices. So these cartels are greatly threatened when the Hindus strike back. What is important is that the Hindus create a parallel system that they can rely on for their intellectual backend. We all need to sponsor and support a Hindu school of social scholarship that lives independently of the West.

Posted by: k.ram Feb 8 2004, 11:06 AM

Post-Modernism, Neo-Liberalism and Shoddiness. Vijay Prashad. February 6, 2004. I can't speak for Wendy Doniger, Paul Courtright or others whom Rajiv mentions in his note ("Peer Review Cartel"). I don't know them personally or professionally and I don't want to answer his charges laid at them. I'm not a participant in the world of Hinduism Studies, and I don't know the specific details about Jeffry Kripal's thesis or other such matters. What I do know is that I do not agree with the view that academics should not have an open dialogue with those who are not academics. Indeed, many Leftists with whom I walk in step take it as obvious that we must not only breach the academy's wall of privilege, that we should not only investigate processes outside the canon of the academy, but also that we should take its hoarded knowledge to those who cannot access it as well as have discussion about its knowledge in a broader context. The purpose of the non-university based schools that are the legacy of "radical pedagogy" (some of it learnt from the Brazilian Paolo Friere) is just the latter point. So I am not sympathetic to the refusal to engage. All those who work within the academy are not of a piece with regard to status and prestige. It may be that scholars have other reasons not to engage in a debate, so I can't speak for them. If indeed their principle objection is that the academic can only speak to an academic, then that is plainly wrong. Rajiv does not cite any specific statement, but only offers a summary of what he says they said: it's not that I don't trust you, Rajiv, but I would like to hear their reasons for non-participation in their own words (if they give you permission to post them). On citations (and again, please remember this is not the same as "name-dropping"), it would be useful to know who the "some academicians" are who "raised the red flag of censorship" or else what is the name of the "guide" that you quote so often. I can't take this on faith: I would like to have something concrete upon which to base your remarks, and then to discuss them. I seem to have taken up the following role in our own dialogue: Rajiv makes exaggerated denunciations about the academy, while I come in and offer a structural analysis of the specific problems within the academy. Mine is certainly not a defense of the academy (indeed, it is at times much more sharply critical than Rajiv, as for instance, on peer-review, as you shall see). What I offer is an approach that is empathetic and transformative rather than Rajiv's scorched earth admonitions. I am utterly in line with Rajiv's frustrations with the racism and the elitism of the US academy - although I think that his analysis misses the wood from the trees. In that spirit, here are my modifications and elaborations on the themes raised by Rajiv. (1) Alan Sokal and the Scientific Temper. For a reader who has no prior experience with the "Sokal hoax," Rajiv's summary must be quite confusing. Rajiv uses Sokal to do this work: to show that the peer-review system is bunk, "a famous instance of exposure of the lack of quality controls in liberal arts scholarship," indeed, that Sokal's hoax shows "the fallibility of the peer-review system," that it shows "serious weaknesses in the peer-review process," and that it angered the "whole liberal arts establishment because he exposed its pretentiousness." Then, Rajiv quotes Sokal saying, "After all, I'm a leftist too." Why "too"? Who else is a Leftist? The "whole liberal arts establishment"? The editors of Social Text? What Rajiv does not do for us is to offer the context of Sokal's hoax, indeed to show why a well-known Marxist physicist would take on an intellectually fashionable journal edited by other Marxists (and several non-Marxists); nor does he tell us what the relationship this journal has with the "liberal arts establishment" which is hardly Marxist or even sympathetic to the tradition. Context is one of the crucial elements in the social science method, and Rajiv's lack of context muddies the original Sokal debate, which had nothing at all to do with the peer-review cartel. Social Text, after all, is not a peer-reviewed journal. In the July-August 1996 issue of Lingua Franca, after Sokal had exposed the hoax in the May-June 1996 issue, Social Text editors Andrew Ross and Bruce Robbins explained the status of their journal, "As a non-refereed journal of political opinion and cultural analysis produced by an editorial collective (and entirely self- published until its adoption four years ago by Duke University Press), Social Text has always seen its lineage in the 'little magazine' tradition of the independent left as much as in the academic domain, and so we often balance diverse editorial criteria when discussing the worth of submissions, whether they be works of fiction, interviews with sex workers, or essays about anti-colonialism. In other words, this is an editorial milieu with criteria and aims quite remote from that of a professional scientific journal. Whether Sokal's article would have been declared substandard by a physicist peer reviewer is debatable (it is not, after all, a scholarly contribution to the discipline of physics) but not finally relevant to us, at least not according to the criteria we employed." Peer-reviewed journals include the Journal of Asian Studies, American Historical Review, American Quarterly, Indian Economic and Social History Review, and other such journals. A discussion of their practice would better serve Rajiv's point. Sokal was not interested in the problems of peer-review. He has bigger fish to fry, as he, along with Jean Bricmont, shows in the title of their 1998 book, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals Abuse of Science. Sokal's problem is not with the "peer review system," but with post-modernism. In a paper given at the Socialist Scholars Conference in March 1997 (published on April 18, 1998, in Mumbai's Economic and Political Weekly), Sokal wrote, "The debate is principally about the nature of truth, reason and objectivity, and its implications for progressive political action." He went on, "My aim isn't to defend science from the barbarian hordes of lit crit or sociology. I know perfectly well that the main threats to science nowadays come from budget cutting politicians and corporate executives, not from a handful of postmodern academics. Rather, my goal is to defend what one might call a scientific worldview - defined broadly as a respect for evidence and logic, and for the incessant confrontation of theories with the real world; in short, for reasoned argument over wishful thinking, superstition and demagoguery. And my motives for trying to defend these old-fashioned ideas are basically political. I identify politically with the Left, understood broadly as the political current that denounces the injustices and inequalities of capitalist society and that seeks more egalitarian and democratic social and economic arrangements. And I'm worried about trends in the American Left - particularly in academia - that at a minimum divert us from the task of formulating a progressive social critique, by leading smart and committed people into trendy but ultimately empty intellectual fashions; and that can in fact undermine the prospects for such a critique, by promoting subjectivist and relativist philosophies that in my view are inconsistent with producing a realistic analysis of society that we and our fellow citizens will find compelling. It seems to me that truth, reason, and objectivity are values worth defending no matter what one's political views; but for those of us on the Left, they are crucial - without them, our critique loses all its force." On the panel with Sokal that day was the late great biologist Stephen Jay Gould and the Indian scientist, Meera Nanda. Nanda's work is now well-known through her articles in Frontline, and I also recommend her book from Three Essays Press, Breaking the Spell of Dharma. Both Sokal and Nanda (and Gould), from the Left, have engaged with post-modern thought to defend truth, reason and objectivity, or what Nanda calls, "the scientific temper." One of the cheapest critiques of this "temper" has been to name it "Western" and to associate it with the "instrumental reason" of imperialism (such as in Claude Alvares' 1992 Science, Development and Violence, and in Shiv Vishwanathan's 1997 A Carnival of Science). "Eastern" thought, in contrast, is seen as inherently non-violent and holistic. Such a division of the world into East and West is not only utterly simplistic, but it also disguises the violent traditions within the "East" and the non-violent traditions in the "West," and it renders the "East" without reason and science. Science and superstition, reason and un-reason are common to all human societies: Caraka's medical treatise, for instance, must by necessity produce verifiable knowledge and proceed by rational investigation because if it failed to heal, it would be worthless (applied science in the ancient world has to be instrumental). Similarly, because of the lack of understanding of germs, early modern Europeans trucked the superstition that disease traveled through "miasma"; accidentally, the clearing of bogs or the moving away from stagnant water did help decrease disease, but for superstitious not scientific reasons (only after Pasteur was there a cogent explanation for disease). India, as elsewhere, produced both astrology and astronomy, and we should marvel at the ability of ancients to make deductions about the skies with the naked eye. The current return of the study of astrology to the post-Graduate institutions of India makes a mockery of the wonderful ancient traditions developed in India. By emphasizing astrology over astronomy, and by rejecting the scientific temper, we are only retarding the ability of our youth to live scientifically in the modern world. Swami Vivekananda put it best, "You will find that astrology and all these mystical things are generally signs of a weak mind; therefore as soon as they are becoming prominent in our minds, we should see a physician, take good food and rest" (but with a lack of health care infrastructure, hunger rates on the rise, and overwork, Vivekananda's prescription cannot be filled by most contemporary Indians). There are some scientific problems with astrology that bear notice: it uses a geocentric model (the earth is still at the center of the universe), it makes charts based on the belief that there are only five planets (our ancestors did not know that Uranus, Neptune and Pluto existed), it relies upon two planets whose existence is not known to astronomers (Rahu and Ketu), and astrologers have no professional consensus (one horoscope can tell you will die young, another that you will live till 100). (I have written critically about this elsewhere: We are a long way from Jai Singh's 1734 Zij-i Muhammadshahi. There is no "western" theory (Rajiv uses the term as well - it is too general and its inverse is Orientalist). There are many scientific traditions within South Asia, some of them that derive from the rationalism of very ancient schools of thought, but others that benefited from the efflorescence of Arabic and Persian scholarship that fortunately had a mark on our scholars. All this predated the colonial interaction with Europe. These scientific traditions have been in contest with superstitions, both imported and indigenous. Of course the main body of what is known as "scientific thought" was reformulated within Europe in the 18th Century, drawing however on the wisdom from the Arabs and from elsewhere in Asia, at the very least. Denis Diderot, who complied the famous Encyclopedia, noted of the Enlightenment, "The purpose is not only to supply a certain body of knowledge, but also to bring about a change in the mode of thinking." Meera Nanda explains that this change is "from a contemplative, deductive reasoning from intuitively-grasped, god and tradition sanctioned a priori beliefs to an insistence on deriving any claim regarding nature's order from the data of experience alone." South Asia, too, benefited from the Arabic corpus of Graeco-Islamic philosophy, the tradition that brought Arastatlis (Aristotle) to early modern European thought. Alberuni's Kitab-i Hind is a central text of the bridge between traditions. Bahwa, in the 16th century, not only mined that tradition, but he also delved into Ayurveda to produce his medical text, Ma'dan-ush Shifa a-i Sikandar Shahi. But, as Abul-I Fazl wrote in 1595, the great scientific breakthrough did not occur within India, as the "heavy wind of tradition [taqlid]" dimmed the "lamp of wisdom," as "questioning and enquiry have been deemed fruitless and the act of a pagan [kufr]." In historian Irfan Habib's assessment, the practical sciences did not develop because the elites turned to science for amusement and not to develop science for agriculture or manufacture, to push the forces of production. The main scientific temper comes to South Asia despite the barbarity of colonialism, as the 19th century thinkers wedded the best of the Enlightenment to their own traditions and values. In the world of dharma, the pursuits of Rammohan Roy, Dayananda, Vivekananda, and Gandhi opened the door to making Hinduism modern. What they did not do, however, was to test Hinduism and its great traditions with the potential of science. In the world of Islam, we have one contemporary figure, the Iranian intellectual Abdolkarim Soroush (written about by Nanda), who argues that Islam must be reinterpreted according to the protocols of modern science. He does not deny the transcendental divinity of the prophecy of Islam, but he does deny the human interpretation of it. No human can know the Transcendental, in Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, without mediation (what in Christianity is known as hermeneutics). The need for human mediation or interpretation means that human beings need to update their ability to interpret, and therefore must constantly update and challenge their doctrines of mediation or interpretation. There is no Islamization of science for Soroush, only a scientization or rationalization of Islamic doctrine (Reason, Freedom and Democracy in Islam. Essential Writings of Adbolkarim Soroush, Oxford, 2000). If Rajiv's Liberation Hinduism is to adopt the same general method it would be of great value for India today: what we need is not to Hinduize science ("Vedic" everything in the curriculum), but to challenge the basic tenets and premises of the Vedic and post-Vedic corpus based on rational scientific knowledge. Rajiv's assertion that all non-science work is not objective is a post-modern conceit ("empirical verification is unavailable"). It is both an obvious statement and it is wrong. It is obvious in that few of us labor under the illusion that our work in the humanities and the social sciences seeks to reveal the Truth - when Nietzsche wrote (in Gay Science) that "God is Dead," he meant that the dominance of scientific thought has disenchanted the universe: we don't believe that things simply just are, because now we seek to find out why they are, or how they are. Our belief in an enchanted universe is now gone: there are no goblins and unicorns, only quarks and strings which, even if they cannot be seen, can be explained and can explain the world. If we don't believe that we explicate the Truth, we do believe that our methods give us a sense of reality that is not arbitrary. This is the main point: our work does not produce arbitrary results. All inquiry is provisional, it is not "value free," but it is not made-up or false. Our protocols of inquiry demand that we show verifiable evidence for our claims, that we produce a theory that is rational and defensible, and that we are open about our values so that someone with another set of values is able to see the contradictions in what we claim. The best work is saturated with multiple, contestable readings. All is not, as Nietzsche wrote, chaos. "Men invent order and impose it on the world - they come to think the order was there in the first place - then they come to see through the order they invented and all beliefs and morality begin to break down." Nietzsche was a deeply pessimistic man who did not find any value in the de-sacralization of the world, in the creation of the scientific temper. Sokal's project is to create this temper. Given Rajiv's own background in the sciences and in his frequent use of scientific analogies, I doubt that superstition or unreason is his compass. Given that, we are perhaps on the same side of the debate on the value of truth-claims, of verifiable knowledge and of the pursuit of a scientific temper. (2) The Camps of South Asian Studies. Firstly, Rajiv misnames the system of review: it is called the "peer-review" system, but it should really be called the "establishment-review" or the "ivy-league-review" system. In one sense the system is a peer review, because in certain journals only peers or one's cronies get to publish (even with an external evaluation). An editor gets a number of submissions and must chose who to send which article to whom: the editor will know which author will get a favorable review from which reviewer, and vice versa. The die is often fixed. I haven't done the empirical research, but I bet that the rate of replication of authors (and their students) in the major journals might be quite high. I don't know this as a fact, but only as an impression. For Graduate students or recent Graduates, and for non-tenured and tenure track faculty, to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal is crucial to final entry into the guild. I remember this well: sending off revised chapters of my dissertation to journals, who sent back heartless and harsh criticisms. My own problem was, as one reviewer for a journal based in the UK put it, "his un-reconstructed Marxism. He does not seem to have read anything since the 1970s" (and this was in 1990)! A finite number of establishment journals and a finite number of university presses make or break the entire career of a junior academic. With the financial crunch on university presses (who publish both books and the journals), they are less willing to take financial risks, and they are therefore more willing to publish already established authors or else to publish books that may have a market. Stephen Greenblat, the head of the Modern Language Association, in a letter to its members in July 2002, put the problem squarely, "Under financial constraint, universities have been unable to provide adequate support both for library budgets and for university presses. Responding to the pressure of shrinking budgets and of skyrocketing costs for medical, scientific, and technical journals, libraries have cut back on the number of books that they purchase. And university presses, suffering severe financial losses as a result of this shift in library purchases and a general decline in book sales, have cut back on the number of books they publish annually in certain fields." The MLA, therefore, sent a letter to departments asking them to rethink the high output expectations from junior faculty in their probationary, pre-tenure period. Given this structural position, the Established Hands have much more power to determine the course of scholarship than ever before. Since they are known, their books sell well, and with their experience, they can often write more general books for a wider audience (the Ph. D. after all demands a level of microscopic specialization that makes a wider readership impossible). When Rajiv writes of the academy as "a cozy club [which] often promote[s] each other by supporting the papers as much as possible," he is right about what happens in the context of the neo-liberal cut-backs in the ability of non-establishment voices from making it into the dominant, establishment-controlled journals. Rajiv does not mention this but many Established Hands are also very cozy with private foundations that fund not only individual research, but also coteries of scholars to meet at such vacation spots as Bellagio, Italy or else at the Fort Aguada Beach Resort in Goa to hold private conclaves. Such activity is the Davos of the US academic world. Those who are less worried about tenure (because we already are tenured or we don't care to be tenured) often found their own journals or else publish in unconventional spaces. Many of us are not invested in building professional power, and we live more in the world of ideas. I should say that this is the case of many of those academics who are in the FOIL network, many of whom write for the FOIL irregular journal, Ghadar, or else who write pamphlets and reports, and who write for newspapers and magazines, many of which are based on the web. There are also a number of non-canonical journals that welcome those who are not comfortable in established schools of thought. Social Text, as it happens, is one such journal that welcomed post-modern thought before it attained a fashionable niche within the still empiricist and anti-theoretical US academy. Subaltern Studies is another journal of this character. The International Journal of Hindu Studies, a venture that began in 1997, is another outlet created by scholars across North America to provide a forum not fully controlled by the Established Hands. The editorial board is a mix of prominent and not so prominent academics. Incidentally, they published both Paul Cortright and James Laine, both now in the spotlight for their work on Hinduism. When Rajiv writes of the "academy" there is the assumption of homogeneity, that there is one academy that all those within belong to equally. Here is Rajiv on two different camps that he merges: "On the one hand, we have the whole academic discourse about how power shapes knowledge, but this is being conveniently excluded by the very same scholars when they put on the South Asian Religious Studies hat, because it would focus the spotlight upon their own uses of power." The camp of South Asian Religious Studies (I expect Rajiv means people like Wendy Doniger of Chicago, Robert Goldmann of Berkeley and John Hawley of Columbia, among others) is hardly well-known for its subscription to post-modern beliefs. Many of these scholars work on texts, have an empirical relationship with the texts and are much closer to Indological methods of inquiry than post-modern ones. The only one within South Asian Religious Studies (and he is more a Sanskrit scholar than a Religious Studies scholar) who has written about the relationship between power and knowledge is Chicago's Sheldon Pollock. By the way, Pollock and Goldman are the translators of the multi-volume English language Ramayana. [There are also a number of desi academics in the US who have turned their critical arsenal against the bastion of Classics, as in the terrific work of Classicist Phiroze Vasunia - for an example, see "Hellenism and Empire: Reading Edward Said," parallax, vol. 9, no. 4, 2003.] What Rajiv does not get is the camp structure of the academy, where scholars of different political and methodological views fall into different camps that both produce knowledge that can be read by each other, but who also produce critical work on each other's work. These are important methodological divides and debates, and often, because of the way the academy is organized, they do not happen - people live within their camps unless controversy breaks out at the border. Those who study South Asia could be divided by discipline: English, Religion, History, etc. However, those distinctions don't tell us about the real distinctions that rend the study of the subcontinent. In my experience, the field of inquiry on South Asia is divided more along the axes of empiricism-theory and classicism-historicity. All scholarship is both theoretical and empiricist, both built on data and driven by models (or theories). That is obvious to many of us. Nevertheless, some traditions argue for more reliance upon unmediated facts (such as political science, economics and history), whereas others understand that the scholar has to be aware not only of how data is produced, but also what kind of framework is being adopted. Some are more theoretical and some are more empirical, even as neither can do work without a dose of the other's principle interest. Finally, there are camps that are fundamentally interested in the Past, or in an unchanging or unchangeable tradition without history (the Classicists) and there are others who believe that the passage of time fundamentally alters culture and social relations, and that therefore one has to pay attention to these changes as much as one seeks to study continuity (the historically minded scholars). These are the real divides in South Asian Studies. And, these divides make for significant battles over journals and book contracts. The Classicists and the Empirically minded scholars still dominate the high ground of the profession. They control the journals and the associations. The post-colonial scholars who are more historically-minded and who are driven by theory are not in power, and many have indeed migrated out of South Asian Studies to their various disciplines or else to an emergent Post-Colonial association of scholars (with its own journals, meetings and associations). The most well-known historically-minded and theory driven current within South Asian Studies in the US is the group that is led by the journal Subaltern Studies. Since the mid-1980s, the journal took a post-modern turn (I want to recommend Sumit Sarkar's "The Decline of the Subaltern in Subaltern Studies" among the other essays collected in David Ludden's 2001 book, Reading Subaltern Studies). The most well regarded editors of this journal do give keynote addresses at the South Asia conference in Madison, but the journal itself has not superceded the more traditional authority of the Orientalist and quasi-Orientalists who continue to be dominant over the institutions of the field. Because of the fractured nature of the academy, there are many, many internal critiques of how people operate in the field, for instance. Rajiv's criticisms of anthropology (the para that beings "To illustrate" and ends "politics and personality") is hardly novel. It is essentially a summation of the late Edward Said's landmark speech at the 1987 meeting of the American Anthropologists Association ("Representing the Colonized: Anthropology's Interlocutors," published in Critical Inquiry, 1989), of the critical essays from James Clifford, and the very strong 1994 book from Kamala Visweswaran, Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. (3) The Role of Theory. Rajiv has a tendency to switch horses in mid-stream. We ride together, with different emphases, on the problem of peer-review or establishment-review. Then, as we seem to be in agreement, Rajiv jumps on another horse, on whose side is emblazoned the words - Western Theory. "A peer-review," he writes, "is mainly intended to verify that the [western] theories are being properly applied." What is wrong with theory? On the surface of it, nothing, because all thought requires a framework, or a theory. That is a truism. You cannot simply have a jumble of facts: as you begin to arrange them, the arrangement is guided by a theory. So, what is wrong with theory? There are, indeed, plenty of people in the academy who use the names of theorists as a talisman against genuine thought. That is plainly shoddy thought. If someone uses Freud to study a South Asian tradition, and if that person has no knowledge of the history of psychoanalysis or of its critique, then that person's work is sub-standard on that score. If someone writes a book that amounts to nothing more than a string of impressive names, then that is simply braggadocio, not scholarship. If students are "taught to produce hyperbole," that is poor pedagogy. The value of theory itself should not be assumed by the shoddiness and mediocrity of its use. Is all theory European? Certainly Rajiv is right that the colonial attitude to knowledge from around the world was this: to discredit the philosophical systems of the lesser world, and to reduce their books to simply data that can be mined and rethought based on European theories. The same sort of trick applied to living Indians and Africans - the ethnographer is less interested in adopting the framework of a person and more on the person's fragmented thoughts and ideas. Certainly a study of the Rig Veda is helped by an understanding of mimamsa, of the six darsanas, indeed of Jaimini's Mimamsa Sutra. That is a legitimate approach, but not the only one: for the mimamsa tradition itself broke into the Prabhakaras and the Bhattas who disputed among each other, and then, in a later period, the Vedanta tradition offered its own key to the Vedas. However, you could also offer a more socio-economic lens to these texts, as is done by Kosambi. This is not to say that Kosambi's approach is the only one, but it draws its own theory from frameworks developed in Europe, but that are not exclusively about European history. I am not a cultural relativist, who believes that only one culture (which is seen as singular) can understand itself. If you go back and read the quote from Sokal he mentions the fundamental belief in universal knowledge - but not to the exclusion of the traditions of thought from outside Europe. That is the main point: theory is not exclusively European, although theories that emanate from Europe have been very useful in our understanding of aspects of our own history (for example, the liberal theory of economics helped the great nationalists of the 19th century come up with the Drain of Wealth theory that produced the economic nationalism, the main ideology of the Freedom Movement). Marxism, after more than a century of its germination across the planet, is not European, just as liberal thought or neo-classicalism is not simply European. In India, it has been massaged by any number of committed and bright scholars who have produced a Marxism that is not identical to the tradition elsewhere in the world - Kosambi's Marxism is not identical to the Peruvian Jose Carlos Meriategui's Marxism or to Mao's Marxism or to other Marxisms that had been nourished by intellectuals who produced a Marxism in line with the history and sociology of their societies. To think only of the provenance of a "theory" is to miss the way in which it is adopted, transformed, often made unrecognizable. To dismiss Marxism as "foreign" or "European" is to miss the reincarnation of the theory in its various social settings. (4) Occlusion of Imperialism. I personally find it very difficult to stand before an American audience to fulminate against atrocities in India. The last time I talked only about India, about a decade ago, I felt the faces before me relax, some nod periodically, and many of them offer that veiled smile that says something like, "I'm glad I don't live there. I feel terrible for the poor sods that do." There is something pornographic about depictions of violence elsewhere in the world to an American audience, especially since such an audience is too frequently able to disavow complicity with that violence and to forget that such violence often occurs in our midst. I suppose this is one reason why I now write more about the US than India, or else that I find myself unable to talk about India without endlessly making comparisons with the US, or else showing how the liberal hand is bloodied overseas. On this frustration I am pleased to find common ground with Rajiv. He is right that there is a "reluctance to raise certain human rights problems that are being caused by Western culture around the world," although I would say European states and the United States governments rather than "Western culture." He mentions Henry Kissinger in Latin America, but that is only one small instance of the brutality. The trails of tears for the US must include Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, and onward. Chalmers Johnson's two recent books are a good summary, particularly since they come from a man with impeccable CIA credentials. Then Rajiv points out that South Asian Studies scholars "do not adequately bring in statistical comparisons about abuses of Western women when discussing dowry deaths and other cultural evils that are blamed on Hinduism." Hinduism does not hold the monopoly on violence against women and against subordinated ethnic communities. I'm not sure we need to have statistical comparisons, but at least our framework for a discussion of dowry deaths and honor killings should not leave out the fact that such violence is sanctioned by other cultural traditions. This is not to say that such violence is acceptable or any less barbaric, but to point out that the blame for it does not rest solely on some "lesser culture," but on a series of factors some of which are shared by societies outside South Asia. I recommend the work of legal scholar and American University professor Leti Volpp on this theme: she generally publishes in legal journals (some stuff available on-line). For example, on dowry deaths, as Rajiv points out, the problem is not simply on the traditions of Hinduism, but on "modernity and Westernization," what I would rather call capitalism (his examples are demand for a Ganesha statue in gold/silver, a color TV or car or dishwasher - in other words, commodities that have commercialized the dowry exchange). In truth, there is a large scholarship that does just this to cultural phenomenon like dowry - such as the very valuable book from Veena Oldenburg (Dowry Murder. The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime, Oxford, 2002). The work of the six million women strong All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has always made this link, from its pioneering work in the 1980s to this day (see a report on their nation-wide survey of dowry: Rajiv accuses those who write about dowry and sati of ignoring honor killings in Pakistan, and of giving more weight to the problems within Hinduism than other traditions. The AIDWA survey I cited above and its work, however, is not restricted to the Hindu community: they take on mangni among Hyderabadi Muslims and jamai patha among adivasis in Tripura. Furthermore, the South Asian Citizens' Web (run by Harsh Kapoor) constantly reports on the honor killings in Pakistan, and is as adamant to criticize it as any other such atrocity (often reporting the work of feminist activists Asma Jehangir and Hina Jilani on this issue). There are, incidentally, not that many scholars who work on violence against women in India - it is simply that the dowry deaths of the 1980s among the urban middle-class shocked the media and the intelligentsia, whereas honor killings in both India and Pakistan, among Hindus and Muslims generally takes place in the rural village or small town, and is therefore, often forgotten. AIDWA recently held a convention on honor killings in India - this is an issue that is buried in India as well ( We need more such scholarship. Finally, Rajiv makes the correct point, "Scholars have not brought in economic correlates with the same vigor as cultural correlates. Perhaps the fear is that it the social problems are found to be economically caused, this would reduce the glamour of ethnographic studies." Even if Rajiv's imputed motivation may be excessive, it is certainly a fact that there is a tendency among many scholars to seek cultural causes for dilemmas and problems that may have socio-economic causes or where socio-economic factors play an important role. It is easier to see "Indian Culture" as barbaric than to see the hand of imperialism in the intensification of the bad side of cultural and social processes. OnwardŠ.

Posted by: Mudy Feb 15 2004, 05:28 PM

The Cartel's "Theories" By Rajiv Malhotra I had planned a second part to my earlier post ("The Peer-Review Cartel," February 2, 2004) to explore the cartel issue in further depth. But given the misunderstandings reflected in Vijay's February 6, 2004, post, I shall restrict this post (and its companion) to responding to his message. Vijay complained that "Rajiv jumps on another horse," because I moved between discussing political issues of peer-review and issues of Western-centric cultural theory. However, these are indeed two distinct though interrelated criticisms that I make, one challenging the academic cartel's discriminatory practices due to the power of certain vested interests and the other questioning the shortcomings of certain "theories." Both phenomena reinforce each other. Theories sustain and privilege the established power structure. Conversely, the dynamics resulting from this asymmetrical structure tend to cultivate "theories" that justify and preserve the underlying power relationship. The cartel flies on both wings. I clarify this dualist nature in The Peer-Review Cartel with the following statement: "There are two levels of abuse: the general blindness of the episteme, as Foucault would put it, and the incestuous power relationships that prevent even people who know better from blowing a whistle. One is an intellectual problem of method and perspective, and the other is a "governance" issue within academics. Both are pernicious, but they are not the same. The former requires the guild to open itself up, while the latter requires dealing with in-house corruption." To correct the misperceptions apparent in Vijay's post, I have structured my response into two separate articles: This article deals with issues of theory, and a separate one in parallel deals with issues of power imbalance and non-transparent academic governance. In this article, I will address Vijay's misunderstandings by clarifying the following: a) The theories I criticize are literary theories dealing with culture and are not scientific (as in the natural sciences). Vijay drags in science as a diversion from the discussion on cultural theories. B) On science (even though it is off-topic), I have opposed the project of "Vedic Science" / "Hindu Science" very publicly, and this was after considerable debate before launching our own History of Indian Science and Technology project (i.e. the Needham project for India). Yet, Meera Nanda (whom Vijay quotes as his authority) has foisted false allegations on me. Furthermore, Nanda's critique suffers from her ignorance about the academic discipline called "Science and Religion" that is prominent in Western universities. Just as I reject "Vedic Science," I also consider notions like "Leftist Science" to be equally nonsensical. I shall point out that Nanda's error is the result of a confusion between correlations and causation. c) The theories I deal with in my critique of the cartel are not merely about postmodernism, but cover the entire tool-box of literary/critical theories that are the staple in liberal arts. d) The scholars of Indian culture cannot claim to be using "empiricism," if that term is to be judged according to the standard of science. It is just another example of liberal arts scholars wanting to associate with symbols (in this case from science) to upgrade their personal symbolic portfolios. In essence, I will take the position that science is neither "Vedic", nor "Western", nor "Leftist," nor to be mixed up with "cultural theory". This will hopefully free us from this diversion to return to discuss the cartel's cultural theories. Vijay misses the point of my use of Sokal's Hoax. I explained in my prior article that using that example had nothing to do with one's philosophical positions. I wrote: "This essay does not take any stand on either side of the universalism/relativism debate in philosophy [of science] that Sokal is involved in." Therefore, Sokal's loyalty to the left or to any epistemology is irrelevant to his demonstration that theories often blind the editors of prestigious journals in liberal arts. While Vijay may try to disown this example as not pertaining to his own ideology – sort of like saying, "this does not happen to us leftists because we run fool-proof journals" - it is illustrative of the academic system in liberal arts/social sciences at large. Science is neither "Vedic," nor "Western," nor "Leftist" I have rejected theories of "Hindu" or "Vedic" science. I have given one of the proponents of these theories my list of what he must produce in a concrete and verifiable manner in order to have any scientific case at all. He has yet to come back to me. But Meera Nanda gives them far too much credit for understanding the philosophy of science and postmodernism. When The Infinity Foundation started the project to develop a twenty-volume set on Indian science modeled on Needham's magnum opus, we took great care to exclude any scholar with the "Vedic Science" mindset. I raised the issue of "Vedic Science" with the team of scholars, just to make sure that we had common ground rules. We discussed that while Sanskrit was very important in many other contexts, in this particular project we would exclude any claim that was solely based on Sanskrit texts, because it would introduce controversies about dating the texts, determining the geographical origins of the texts, and about interpretation. We would rather focus on compiling the enormous academic-grade material that already exists based on empirical (physical) evidence. We decided to stick to concrete areas like textiles, steel, medicine, agriculture, shipping, water-harvesting, etc., for which the primary evidence is archeological and not classical texts. I used the following example to drive the point home: If one day archeologists find an ancient spacecraft, then, for sure, it would be within the bounds of this project to inquire about the claims of space travel. Pending such a physical discovery, mere reference in a text about travel to other planets cannot be admitted as scientific evidence, because literature could also be metaphorical, fictional, poetic or otherwise imaginary. We wanted the project's output to be credible among scientists of the highest caliber. The project team agreed on the following position, which is excerpted from the project web site: "Some writers have tended to exaggerate claims of Indian scientific accomplishments, by stretching statements written in classical texts. Based on such textual references, for which there is no physical evidence as of now, they have concluded that there was space travel in the Mahabharata, along with nukes, intergalactic missiles, and just about every modern hi-tech item. This has justifiably earned them the term "chauvinists," and the entire activity of writing about Indian science has become discredited, thanks to them. IF considers it very important to distance itself from such discredited scholarship. This is why the series being described here is being built on solid academic scholarship only, and not on wild extrapolations. IF believes that researching unsubstantiated claims about old knowledge has its place, but that facts must be separated from unproven hypotheses. Therefore, IF's project does not include Puranas as scientific sources. There is no reason to cloud the issue..." Meera Nanda's disingenuous juxtapositions: Unfortunately, however, Meera Nanda disregarded the rules of evidence before drawing conclusions, and wrote [Postmodernism, Science and Religious Fundamentalism: ]: "How do these postmodern arguments play in the construction of Hindu sciences?...First, the more sophisticated, Western educated ideologues among Hindu nationalists (notably, Subhash Kak, David Frawley, N.S. Raja Ram, K. Elst, Rajiv Malhotra and his circle of intellectuals associated with the Infinity Foundation), have begun to argue...that modern science, as we know it, is only one possible universal science, and that other sciences, based upon non-Western, non-materialist assumptions are not just possible, but are equally capable of being universalized." I posted the following response on-line where her article was published [15/11/2003]: I was surprised to see my name in this article, especially amongst those classified as believing in Vedic Science. As a physicist by training, I am well aware that there is ONE universal set of scientific laws. I don't believe in postmodernism or any form of cultural relativism when it is applied to the natural sciences. There is neither any Vedic Science nor any Hindu science, just as Newtonian Laws are not Christian, and nor are Einstein's theories Jewish laws. At the same time, I do believe that there have been considerable Indian contributions to science that have gone unacknowledged. Therefore, The Infinity Foundation has launched a 10-year project to publish a 20-volume series similar to the seminal work by Joseph Needham on China, except that our series will be on Indian science. What makes it Indian is not a unique epistemology but that it was Indians who did it. For details on this project and its current status, please visit: A policy that was explicit clarified right up-front was that Indian science for our project does not include claims based on textual reference that "might" be interpreted as science. The acid test is physical empirical evidence. For instance, the focus of the books so far has included: steel and metallurgy; ship-building; agriculture; medicine; water harvesting; textiles; civil engineering; etc. [nothing even remotely linked to "Vedic".] We have distanced ourselves from claims of space travel in Mahabharata, atomic weapons and other exotic and far fetched ideas that require extrapolating the Sanskrit texts with speculation. At the same time, we are not denouncing such claims that others make, the fact being that they cannot be proven or dis-proven as of now. So we simply exclude them, rather going out of our way to denounce them as many writers have made a career doing. We simply wish to focus on the monumental task based on physical-empirical evidence we have set out to do. Therefore, it was disheartening that Meera Nanda, with no empirical evidence or homework, made outlandish claims about my position on these matters. It goes to show the sloppy and over-politicized state of Indian scholarship. It is the blind leading the blind, since the colonial masters seem to have built a whole generation of English language based babus and neo-brahmins, who can simply mug-up and copy the standard line, even without verifying the facts. They will, undoubtedly, be able to market their services and accents to call-centers profitably. Finally, I have no relationship with Frawley, Elst and the whole "Hindutva scholar's" lot, and nor do I share in Hindutva political ideology. Hopefully, Nanda in future will bother to establish contact with third parties and ask them for their positions directly, along with backup data, rather than insinuating based on her own wild extrapolations or fourth-hand information to brand people simplistically. It is dangerous to place everyone in a few fixed boxes, and Nanda seems good at doing that. There is a whole cottage industry of brown sahibs good with the English language feeding whatever the dominant culture rewards them to dish out. Their criticism is so predictable and now overdone. It's time for their sponsors to send them new scripts. Why don't they want to have open dialogs with opponents, in forums where both sides get equal and fair time to respond? I would be happy to accept such an invitation. Why is Demonology the accepted methodology to avoid the real issues at hand? For any further details on my work please contact directly at: Unfortunately, by blindly quoting Nanda, Vijay goes down the slippery slope right behind her. Furthermore, Nanda does not live up to Vijay's view that leftists should be open to dialog with others, because she has not even acknowledged my public comment above. (In her defense, I did notice that she removed my name in subsequent writings from her list of scholars whom she accuses of just about everything political that comes to mind.) Nanda must first ask me (in the same above-board spirit as I started this debate by sending Vijay my list of issues/questions) to explain my views on whatever topic she likes. It must be clear by now that I am hardly shy in expressing my opinions openly. Then she would have every right to criticize whatever I stand for. That's the purva-paksha Indian tradition (which, by the way, is neither Vedic nor Hindu specific!), and differs radically from the tradition of opponent-is-evil demonology by the Indian Left. Clearly, she lacks a basic understanding of my views on these matters and merely imputes my positions based on hearsay and political fads. Meera Nanda has fallen into the trap of hit-and-run politicized scholarship. Vijay's remark about astrology in Indian colleges is a delayed echo of what I wrote years ago when the program was announced. I had felt strongly that this ill-advised program would discredit Indian science. I would have liked instead to see a program introducing research on mental health and meditation, yoga and health, and Ayurveda – each being actively researched at several mainstream institutions around the world for many years. The Kira Group: Let me also give the other side of this epistemological debate, of which Vijay may not be aware. Bas van Frassen (a professor in the philosophy department at Princeton University) sees nature as text that is being read by scientists. There is therefore the potential for the application of some literary theory principles to his philosophy of science. He develops non-dualistic theories without acknowledging the Vedantic or Madhyamika Buddhist influences that are fundamental to some of his work. One of his major postulates is that the subject-object mutually sustain each other rather than having separate inherent existences. Despite being one of the most eminent philosophers of science in the world, he is discouraged from such lines of inquiry by his academic peers. So he has a parallel intellectual life, using a private non-academic group (called The Kira Group) along with some other well-known academicians. Some years back, The Infinity Foundation gave a research grant to their group enabling its pursuit of off-the-academic-record ideas on the philosophy of science. This resulted in the creation of several interesting papers/discussions that eventually fed back into academic discourse. One of Kira's other research leaders is Piet Hut, whose formal career is as the top astronomer at The Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton (the famous place where Einstein worked for twenty years). Some years back, Piet went public about his support for the notion of first-person empiricism. This is empiricism based on phenomena in the inner (adhyatmika) realm, as contrasted with third-person empiricism of observing external data that is the basis for modern (so called "Western") science. Every one of these scholars (at Kira) privately acknowledges their profound respect for and debt to Indic thought and practice in reaching these first-person theories. They also recognize and admit that it is politically safer to use Buddhist philosophy in public. This is because references to Hinduism evoke derision, thanks in large part to the Indian Left's persistent negative campaign in both India and the West, though the epistemological basis of first-person empiricism is a shared concept among the Indian traditions. But here is the interesting fact: Piet was attacked by the top brass at the world's most prestigious theoretical research institute where he works. They officially terminated him from a tenured post, and he filed a lawsuit against them. The head of the institute was also the head of the World Bank (or maybe it was IMF) and not easily out-done politically. Piet's alleged offense was that he was too much into "this Buddhist thing," which other (more politically powerful) scientists could not accept even as a line of inquiry with an open mind. (It is an interesting conjecture that had he been using Judeo-Christian frames of reference instead of Indic, he might have been considered acceptable – see discussion on Templeton later.) Piet fought publicly and we supported him until the issue became an embarrassment for the institute. Eventually, they had to retreat and reinstate him in his tenured job. He is now being left alone to inquire what he pleases. This episode relates both to the importance of allowing innovative new epistemologies to be investigated, and to the ground reality of "academic freedom." Bottom line: What Piet and his group are investigating shows legitimacy for Indic worldviews as topics of inquiry (that are today having to be bootlegged and renamed for political safety), but this profoundly threatens the Western epistemological framework. Hence, these scholars, despite holding some of the world's most prestigious posts in academic research, were simply hounded by the system. (By the way, the Meera Nandas of India's Left are largely non-entities in this league.) The Templeton Foundation: But now there is also a thriving field of Science and Religion in academic research – which Nanda is probably ignorant of, and hence reacts defensively to. The Templeton Foundation leads this field, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent already on major programs in at least twenty top universities, with several Nobel Laureates as their paid consultants, and many large five-star conferences each year. The world of scientists who philosophize (which most hard scientists refuse to do formally in their academic work) may be divided into those who are funded by Templeton and those who are not. My guess is that Nanda did not yet manage to get into the five-star circuit, so she is playing hardball. The relationship between Templeton and Judeo-Christianity is a double-edged sword: (1) On the one hand, Templeton legitimizes Western thinkers who appropriate ideas from the Indic traditions into Judeo-Christian frameworks and discard the Indic sources. This boosts the cultural, intellectual and political capital of Judeo-Christianity. Furthermore, the removal of India as the source of such ideas makes it easier for South Asian Studies scholars (who are independent of Templeton) to reduce Indic traditions into the "caste, cows and curry" cultural theories. I find this problematic. (2) But on the other hand, Templeton's clout (and lots of money) has already brought respectability to this discipline in the highest circles of Western academe. The upside is that Hindus-Buddhists may now re-enter this field, under the cover of Templeton, because the Indian Left cannot offset Templeton's clout, and, in fact, might be in awe of its power and salivating for its carrots. To illustrate #1 in the foregoing paragraph, I am trying to locate an old email exchange that I had with one of Templeton's eminent board members, a physicist at Harvard, who commented in the board meeting that his fact-finding trip to India showed that Indian ideas of science were mainly about urine-therapy and astrology. (Note: This was his "empirical" data-gathering!) The few other Indians who were present pretended to look out the window like embarrassed sheep, or giggled along in tacit support in front of about 50 persons, including some billionaires, Nobel Laureates and other celebrities. But I spoke my mind out, and later followed up by an email sent to their board and to some other scholars. In my response, I reminded the scholar that one of his fellow Templeton board members and fellow Harvard professors, Dr. Herb Benson, is widely known to have (i) appropriated the theories and practices that he learnt from Maharishi's TM program, which he had researched in the TM movement back in the 1970s, (ii) repackaged TM to spin-off his own thriving research business based at Harvard, and (iii) claimed this as his "original" research that was now being promoted by Templeton, often relocated into Christian historical narrative. There was pin-drop silence. (My unpublished U-Turn Theory has around 50 similar case studies of Westerners' unacknowledged debts to India.) Meanwhile, the Indian Left is completely absent in using these Indian models (adopted by increasingly mainstream Western scientists of considerable renown) for participating in serious work that is redefining the contours of science and its interface with religious traditions. Instead, they remain stuck in the fossilized post- Enlightenment science/religion dichotomy based on Judeo-Christian epistemology. This emerging field is also different from the scientific relativism from the post-colonials that Meera Nanda is mixing it up with. In fact, for liberal arts theorists, science itself has become a mysterious religion, which they do not understand but pay obeisance to, just to derive legitimacy-by- association. Correlation and causation: The overall relationship between science and religion (regardless of which religion) is complex and multi-faceted. Are the similarities in assertions (between science and a religion) mere correlations or are they causal? Some religious statements might lead to (as a necessary condition) a scientifically verifiable fact, while other religious statements might simply not contradict a scientific theory – these are different types of science-religion links. Also, is it a weak link, i.e., a sort of hypothesis only, or a strong claim of being proven? Furthermore, there are thousands of distinct propositions in a given religion, and one must subject each individually to such rigor. So one cannot make sweeping generalizations about a given religion being scientific or not. The questions in the philosophy of science are deep, universal and abiding, and pertain to the very nature of knowing. Unlike Nanda and many trendy Indian Leftists, I do not think the significant theoretical positions on these topics have anything to do with the latest Indian politics. But Nanda cannot help creating a mumbo-jumbo of the philosophy of science and political flavors-of-the-day by sprinkling every article of hers with the bashing of Hindutva (into which she lumps what she calls "neo-Hinduism"). Her arguments in the philosophy of science are derived from what might help or hinder her political career against Hindutva. This might impress the politburo (or other sponsors), but it de-legitimizes her in the eyes of serious scientists. Many Indian Leftists are confused between correlations with causation. Suppose one has found that there was a high correlation between Nazis and eating bananas. This should not be confused to mean a causal link in either direction: Nazism does not lead to eating bananas, nor does eating bananas make one a Nazi. Now, suppose A and B are beliefs that are commonly found among Hindutva people. This does not imply a causal link, as A and B could be independent of one another. It might be that A and B are non-causally correlated, or that both are separately caused by C (e.g. wanting to get votes). So when you come across a Hindu who believes in A, s/he should not be assumed to also believe in B or in Hindutva. Lack of this understanding leads many Indian Leftists to impute that a Hindu who wants to pursue the relationships between science and religion (A) must be a Hindutva proponent who also believes in B, etc. So the Indian Left has dumb-minions (described in the companion article) whose radars are scanning for any one of many patterns that correlate with Hindutva. Upon detecting one, they falsely assume causation: that all other beliefs that could tenuously be linked must also exist in that person, hence the person must be Hindutva, and hence the attack starts. In doing so, they have alienated themselves from many open-minded Hindus, and thereby pushed these moderate Hindus into the Hindutva camp. Science is not a cultural theory The philosophy of science is a vast field in and of itself and has nothing to do with wacky socio-political ideologies. While scientific theories require proof of causation, cultural theories are unable to meet this standard and are often based on correlates and political consensus. There are many layers of credibility that Vijay seems to not bear in mind: 1) Most scientists (i.e. scholars in the natural sciences) do not take philosophers seriously, while, in reverse, philosophers are in awe of scientists and like to see themselves as being in the same league as scientists. 2) Most philosophers do not take literary theories seriously, while, in reverse, literary theorists are in awe of philosophers, and fancy themselves as knowing philosophy, including philosophy of science. 3) At the lowest end of this scale of knowledge are political ideologues focusing on the advancement of political positions and not on the serious advancement of knowledge. Many Hindutva proponents and Indian Leftists can be placed in this category. It is not surprising then that neither Hindutva nor the Indian Left has made any serious contribution to the advancement of universal knowledge. 4) The average desi ends up getting positioned even lower, by gazing up in awe of idolized literary theorists and political activists. This means that at the highest end of the legitimacy scale there is science, in the middle sits philosophy, and near the lowest end there is literary theorizing. The "liberal peace activist" sits at the bottom and must make the greatest noise to get heard. They are like the "extras" shouting in a movie. Each of these disciplines disowns and disrespects its neighbor who is lower on the credibility scale, except for the tight political axis between literary theorists and their support base of political activists. My problem is with literary theorists and activists pretending to be philosophers, especially philosophers of science, when all they have is the ability to name-drop and compile bibliographies. When one adds politics as the overriding lens on top of all this, it turns into a lot of nonsense. I do not accept literary theory as currently promulgated (especially with its political overloading) as a philosophy of natural science. My criticism of "theory" was about literary/critical theories. I wish to separate philosophy of science from philosophy of cultures. Therefore, my stand on scientific laws is that they are universal and not culture-specific. On the other hand, my stand on existing trendy cultural theories is that they are certainly not universal, and may not in most cases be valid at all. To be scientific a theory must meet the rigorous tests of being universally applicable, experimentally verifiable, replicable, and so on. These two stands are not in mutual contradiction, as science and culture are orthogonal issues. I am more than ready, if Vijay wants, to add the philosophy of science to our list of discussion themes. But it would deserve to be a separate theme, and should not be used as a diversion tactic the way Vijay brought it here. Socio-political consequences of `Science and Religion' Vijay promotes the scientific reconstruction of Islam: "In the world of Islam, we have one contemporary figure, the Iranian intellectual Abdolkarim Soroush (written about by Nanda), who argues that Islam must be reinterpreted according to the protocols of modern science. He does not deny the transcendental divinity of the prophecy of Islam, but he does deny the human interpretation of it..." It is amazing that the superimposing of science to re-imagine Islam is glorified by the Indian Left, whereas the superimposing of science to re-imagine Hinduism is being condemned as "chauvinism." The following problems/contradictions in the advocacy of Soroush/Nanda/Vijay are noteworthy: a) Islam is highly history-centric, and hence it is acknowledged by liberal Islamic scholars that it would be very problematic to bring into scientific frameworks the many geography- centric and history-centric necessary conditions to be a Muslim. Hinduism is less burdened with similar necessary conditions, and is easier remodeled in a scientific manner. There are many alternative sets of sufficient conditions to be a Hindu – a big difference from having necessary conditions, especially those which are history and geography centric. Are Soroush, Nanda and Vijay willing to take a public stand against the history and geographic centric mandates of Islam? Alternatively, are they willing to argue how the "protocols of science" may be honored while retaining mandates of history and geography centrism? B) The grip of the orthodox clerics on the common Muslim has always been far more intense than the grip of orthodox Hindu clerics on ordinary Hindus, simply because of vastly different levels of institutional powers and canonical mandates between Islam and Hinduism. (This, in turn, may be due to history-centric necessary conditions coming under the control of Abrahamic institutions.) c) Hinduism is multi-textual: One may pick and choose from the Vedas, and/or Upanishads, and/or Gita, and/or Puranas, and/or one of the many other traditions, including various 20th century new traditions such as Sri Aurobindo's. Furthermore, Hindus may (and many do) practice unwritten/uncodified dharma – through a non- ritualistic life of karma-yoga or dance or bhajans, etc. So belief in texts is not a necessary condition as in the Abrahamic religions. (In the Indian Left's understanding of Hinduism, there is a big confusion between necessary and sufficient conditions to be a Hindu. They mistake sufficient conditions to be necessary conditions, because the Marxist critique of religion was based on Christianity only.) d) Hindu orthodoxy is blamed by the Indian Leftists for doing such remodeling, whereas in the case of Islam the rare scholar who wants to remodel it is glorified by the Indian Leftists even though he faces an uphill battle internally. Why would one remodeling be worthy and the other be condemned so fiercely? It is amazing that little critical reflection has gone into such questions of asymmetrical positions of the Indian Left. Why would they not encourage both Hindus and Muslims to scientifically remodel (i) for the socio-economic benefit of their respective followers, and (ii) because scientific-minded beliefs are likely to find more common ground than history-centric ones? This could legitimize the very project that Nanda condemns, i.e., making Hinduism more scientific. Vijay writes: "If Rajiv's Liberation Hinduism is to adopt the same general method it would be of great value for India today: what we need is not to Hinduize science..." But Vijay fails to understand the research relationships between the two directions: testing religious assertions for potential scientific value, and making a scientific upgrade of a religion. There is a large commonality between these pursuits, and there are many physicists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, philosophers, religion scholars and psychologists who are pursuing the Consciousness Studies field in both directions. Several hundred of these academic scholars meet in Tucson every two years. (Nanda should go there and learn in political safely, especially about first-person empiricism, because these scholars are white non-Hindus, so her comrades will not make fun of her.) Surely, if the Indian Left would love to see the philosophies of Islam and Hinduism become more scientific, they should go about encouraging the very same Hindutva scholars who are at the forefront of "Vedic" science – a sort of redeployment in a slightly different direction. If the average Hindus/Muslims were to become more scientifically minded, it would make them less dogmatic, more open to changing with new empirical evidence, and more appreciative of each other. Vijay has argued against himself, it appears. Back to cultural "theories" When Vijay writes, "There is no `western' theory...," it is obviously true of natural sciences, but false of culture. Vijay is juxtaposing contexts (which, ironically, he accuses me of doing) because I do not remember ever saying that there are separate Western scientific laws – that would be ridiculous. What is Western (in the Edward Said sense) is the theorizing that is in the domain of cultures. Vijay writes: "All inquiry is provisional, it is not `value free,' but it is not made-up or false. Our protocols of inquiry demand that we show verifiable evidence for our claims, that we produce a theory that is rational and defensible, and that we are open about our values so that someone with another set of values is able to see the contradictions in what we claim." The "provisionality" of inquiry and the corruption of the "protocols of inquiry" are due in large part because (i) data-gathering is subjective and filtered by biases, (ii) the theories deployed in a given instance are ad hoc, and (iii) the theories merely represent a consensus of the power structure at the time. That is why the system for which Vijay is an apologist is like the Christian Church protecting its "theories" against Galileo and others. Vijay writes: "The camp of South Asian Religious Studies (I expect Rajiv means people like Wendy Doniger of Chicago, Robert Goldman of Berkeley and John Hawley of Columbia, among others) is hardly well-known for its subscription to post-modern beliefs." This statement is false (when you insert "literary theories" in place of "post-modern beliefs") in the case of Doniger, who is big on her "tool- box" of theories, which her students must learn, not necessarily from her but as part of the requirements. In fact, Sarah Caldwell (Doniger's student) once remarked that she regrets not having studied Sanskrit or Indian texts because she focused on studying "theories" – Caldwell is an authority on applying "theories" to analyze the Hindu Goddess. I don't know enough about Goldman's work at this point to be able to comment. Jack Hawley is a complex man, because what you see is not all there is. For instance, he gave a talk at Stanford whose title and abstract was all about "Krishna Bhakti," but he spent most of his time profiling me personally as a "rich NRI" who is "meddling" by trying to "construct" a new kind of Hinduism. (Vijay should go back to Hawley and argue that "constructing" Hinduism in accordance with science would be a good thing, just as in the case of Islam!) Furthermore, just because someone studies Hindu texts or rituals does not make their scholarship authentic. Christian missionaries came to study Hinduism, and ended up defining it in categories that still persist, and that have become adopted even by our swamis lately. Religion, per the Christian worldview, is what (a) a priest does (B) in a church, © using canons (d) to help others comply with God's Law, (e) to be saved (f) from Eternal Damnation. I do not wish to get distracted here, but none of these six components is applicable to Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism. Not one of these six is a necessary condition to be a Hindu. Therefore, much of what is being studied is not true to the traditions, because of the 19th century loss of Indian categories. Certain non-translatable words contain the Indic worldviews (note the plurality), but these have been removed from the discourse and substituted with distorted translations – to be discussed at a later date under the separate theme of "categories." Cultural data-gathering is not scientific empiricism: Vijay wrote: "In my experience, the field of inquiry on South Asia is divided more along the axes of empiricism-theory and classicism-historicity. All scholarship is both theoretical and empiricist, both built on data and driven by models (or theories)...." But Vijay must take the claim of "empirical" data in cultural studies with a grain of salt. Bertrand Russell in "Western Civilization" wrote: "The anthropologist selects and interprets facts according to the prevailing prejudices of his day." And Russell explains how this impacts the native informant: "...the savage is an obliging fellow who does whatever is necessary for the anthropologist's theories." As a concrete example, Uma Narayan did extensive research on the Western axis of empiricism-theory about dowry-murder. She concluded that data-gathering was driven by the definition and categories that already contained Western agendas. [Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third World Feminism, By Uma Narayan, Routledge, NY, 1997, pp.86-114.]. I summarize her findings using her words, as follows: a) Statistical data is agenda-driven: "The ways in which `issues' emerge in various national contexts, and the contextual factors that shape the specific issues that are named and addressed, affect the information that is readily available for such connection-making and hence our abilities to make connections across these contexts...." B) Different agendas drive the emphasis on studying wife-murders in USA and India: "There is a striking contrast between the lack of focus on fatal cases that enters into the construction of the category `domestic violence' in the United States context, and the focus on deadly cases of domestic violence in the Indian context that has given visibility to the category `dowry-murder.' I believe that this `asymmetry in focus' contributes to the lack of perceived connection between dowry-murders and domestic violence in the minds of many Americans." c) While detailed statistics on wife-murders are gathered in India, by month, by state, and by other minute details, there is no data-gathering of this kind in USA: "I did not come across any book or article that centrally focused on U.S. women murdered as a result of domestic violence...I found no data about the number of women who are annually killed as a result of domestic violence [in USA]...None of several American feminist friends I called knew off-hand roughly how many women were killed by partners each year in the United States. Nor could they find this figure easily when they went through their collections of books and articles on the subject. We were all struck by the fact that it was quite difficult for anyone of us to find this particular piece of data, and also struck by the degree to which deaths resulting from domestic violence have not been much focused upon in U.S. literature on domestic violence." d) Agendas have shaped the way categories are formed: "We need to understand the ways in which feminist agendas are shaped...One `effect' of these contextual differences is that there is a visible category of `dowry-murder' that picks out a lethal form of domestic violence in the Indian context, while there is no similar, readily available category that specifically picks out lethal instances of domestic violence in the United States." e) The different categories result in how and what data- gathering takes place: "The conclusion I arrived at was that the construction of `dowry-murder' as a specific public issue had had institutional effects, such as the generation of `official national data' on the phenomenon...What I have pointed out in this section is how different kinds of `focus' and `lacks of focus' on various aspects of domestic violence in India and the United States also shape the kinds of data that are readily available in the two contexts...While the activism around dowry-murders in India has undoubtedly contributed to the collection of official national data on `suspected dowry-murders,' it might well be that the lack of focus on `domestic-violence murders' in the United States has resulted in there being no widely available official data on suspected domestic-violence murders..." f) There is a blind spot that prevents depiction of American crime as being Christian: "What I am calling `cultural explanations' of dowry-murders all too frequently invoke `Hindu religious views on women'...The tendency to explain contemporary Indian women's problems by reference to religious views is by no means a tendency exclusive to Western writers, but crops up quite frequently in writings by contemporary Indians...While `Christian values' have probably coexisted with domestic violence, fatal and nonfatal, in the United States much longer than `Hinduism' has coexisted with dowry-murder, one doubts that our journalist would be inclined, either on her own or as a result of her conversations with most Americans, to explain contemporary domestic violence in terms of Christian views about women's sinful nature, Eve's role in the Fall, the sanctity of marriage and the family, or the like..." Narayan found that wife-murders scaled for population were at least as high in USA as in India, but that this was not an interesting topic for scholarship in women's studies in USA. Indian Left's Denial Mode: Despite these findings, Vijay insists: "In truth, there is a large scholarship..." to remedy this misperception. He cites Veena O's excellent book that refutes the prevailing thesis, which I have referenced a lot. He then writes: "Rajiv accuses those who write about dowry and sati of ignoring honor killings in Pakistan, and of giving more weight to the problems within Hinduism than other traditions." To try to refute my position, Vijay then gives a few counter-examples. But Narayan, of course, is clear on her position on this bias: "The assumption that `Third-World women's problems' are fundamentally problems of `Third-World women being victimized by Traditional Patriarchal Cultural Practices' not only looms large in Mary Daly's chapter on sati, but also seems to be a pervasive assumption within Western public understanding of Third-World contexts, and of women's issues within them." Vijay should also read Veena O's book closely and appreciate the scholar's angst at the misrepresentation that is pervasive even today. Just as the act of writing a book on atrocities against Dalits does not mean that the matter is resolved, so also the massive cultural bias against Hinduism is too deep to be "taken care of" just because one book (or a few) got written. Therefore, I propose to Vijay that we should go beyond listing isolated counter-examples, as they do not define the ground reality. Instead, we should use scientific empiricism to conduct a joint survey of South Asian Studies journal articles over the past twenty- five years, and tabulate comparative statistics about where the preponderance of work has been. This survey would compare (as an illustrative list): Criticizing dowry-murders vs. criticizing honor- killings; blaming dowry-murder on Hinduism vs. blaming it on Indian Christianity/Islam; blaming dowry-murder on Indian culture vs. blaming US wife-killings on Christianity; media treatment using the same comparatives; perceptions of these cultural-associations amongst educated Americans (such as schoolteachers...) and amongst Indians; and so forth. I would be glad to move forward on this concrete project. My contention is that such a survey would show massive asymmetries, and reveal that Vijay has a blind spot, being inside the system, which makes him see equality of treatment. The mere existence of an article/book, while being good for the scholar's CV, does not imply diffusion into the public. There are far too many filters along the way, which are institutionally controlled by their chowkidars. I have discussed cultural biases with school systems, with textbook publishers and with ETS (who designs the questions on world history tests which then become the basis for what teachers must teach in class). The systemic biases are far too deep for Vijay to appreciate from 50,000 feet above ground level. Vijay complains: "Rajiv's criticisms of hardly novel." But I never claimed that it was novel, and what is relevant is whether my criticism is valid or not. If it is valid, it contradicts Vijay's apology that "empirical data" drives scholarship. On the other hand, what I did claim to be novel was simply ignored in Vijay's response, namely, my suggestion to Ann Gold (whom Vijay lavishly praises) that she should subject her scholarship to a new kind of peer-review. The peers in my proposal would be Ghatyali village women who she has studied for 20 years, and not fellow-cronies in her discipline. Can Ann Gold face her native informants in a symmetrical arrangement? "Theory" and Indian pseudo-intellectualism: Western cultural theories emerged out of a combination of (i) the past two centuries of sociopolitical events that were specific to Western history and (ii) the intellectual responses from the specific protagonists in those societies. By definition, these theories are Eurocentric. Leaving aside the issue of present or future viability for these theories within the West itself, one must seriously question their transferability and applicability to India. What sustains these trendy theories is that a tiny elitist Indian minority has adopted this "gaze of theory" as their way to "become white" or at least "honorary white." This avant-gardism is presented to other Indians as proof of their membership into the Western milieu, while the face presented to the West is the contradictory claim of being the authentic voices of India. Furthermore, these theories are powered by the unproven belief that in order to enjoy the fruits of modern technology, Indians must adopt these Eurocentric cultural theories and reject their own native worldviews. How this belief has itself been a part of the colonial agenda remains unexplored because it would expose the desi theorists. Indian postcolonialists (who started with good intentions) have failed to successfully challenge either the theory or the academic politics. In fact, these scholars are under the domain of both (a) Western-controlled cultural theories and (B) Western-controlled academic governance. They are like outsourced coolies who sustain and enhance the theory and the politics of the Western Knowledge Factory. In other words, they are working for the cartel. I can sympathize with Vijay that his cohorts are heavily invested in this endeavor and cannot easily afford to write-off these investments. My forthcoming post will deal with the academic cartel's power politics.

Posted by: rhytha Feb 15 2004, 10:44 PM

can any member( other than mods) following the exchange between RM and VP post all thier exchanges in a seqential manner so that it can be archived for good?? K.ram, SSR, any takers ?? thanx for the co-operation in advance smile.gif

Posted by: k.ram Feb 15 2004, 10:50 PM

QUOTE(rhytha @ Feb 16 2004, 11:14 AM)
can any member( other than mods) following the exchange between RM and VP post all thier exchanges in a seqential manner so that it can be archived for good?? K.ram, SSR, any takers ?? thanx for the co-operation in advance smile.gif
I already sent them to Viren, few days ago. Viren, do you still have the time/date based discussions that I sent you?

Posted by: Viren Feb 15 2004, 10:58 PM

Sorry k.ram. Didn't receive it - let me hunt my in-box again (there's only couple hundred mails that need attention B) Can you email it once again if you have it and I'll post it.

Posted by: k.ram Feb 16 2004, 09:17 AM

QUOTE(Viren @ Feb 16 2004, 11:28 AM)
Sorry k.ram. Didn't receive it - let me hunt my in-box again (there's only couple hundred mails that need attention B) Can you email it once again if you have it and I'll post it.
Viren, they should be in your mail box on IF However, anyone can get here to check the chronology of the articles and how the debate is being developed

Posted by: narayanan Apr 4 2004, 05:59 PM

Can any member provide a sound-bite-level summary of this? Who is winning? blink.gif I am really too human to waste my limited stay on this planet reading the cra* put out by morons like VP. Pls. post a score-card of really good insults, points, combacks etc.

Posted by: acharya Apr 4 2004, 07:01 PM

RIght noe they are talking across each other. VP and his group are trying to maintain and create social-political paradigm. RM is trying to break it and has provided explosive materials. VP has not replied nack since they question the basic foundation of his arguments and his being supported by govt agencies.

Posted by: narayanan Apr 4 2004, 07:51 PM

Government support, eh? Cool. I hope someone sends him and Malhotra the "Lashkar-e-Pinocchio Rides Again".

Posted by: narayanan Apr 17 2004, 05:39 PM

Here is more wisdom from Comrade Vijay Prashad:

This approach does not go down well within the academy. "We are not in the business of marketing a nation state," said Vijay Prashad, an international studies scholar at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in a recent Internet debate with Malhotra. "That is the job of the ambassador of India, not of a scholar."
BUT... gushing praise for the Marxist Communist regime in West Bengal is fine for an "academic" Flush.gif

Posted by: Viren Apr 17 2004, 10:30 PM

This approach does not go down well within the academy
Now we see no name community colleges being referred to as academy and Prasad as international scholar tv_feliz.gif
We are not in the business of marketing a nation state
So now marketing our nation is a business. Guess what else has been up for sale mad.gif at the 'academy'

Posted by: Mudy Oct 21 2004, 09:14 AM

Debate: Ms. Alisha N. Bhagat vs. Mr. Rajiv Malhotra Following the defeat of the Leftist Prof. Vijay Prashad in a one on one debate with Mr. Malhotra, Can Ms. Bhagat do any better? Ms. Alisha N. Bhagat, Carnegie-Mellon University Mr. Rajiv Malhotra, Indian American Intellectual/ Entrepreneur Dear Ms. Bhagat, I enjoyed our interactions during my talk at Carnegie-Mellon University two days ago, and feel that such dialogs are important to learn each others' perspectives. There are a couple of key issues raised by you which I wish to address further below: A question was raised on what is my basis and credibility for doing this study of the academy. I give the following reasons: 1. Corporate institutions are the backbone of American society, not Britney Spears' belly button. No understanding of American society is complete w/o a serious understanding of how its institutions work. I have extensive expertise to study America's corporate institutions, while liberal arts academics' training applies mainly to the study of pop culture. My contention is that most liberal arts scholars simply lack the necessary competence to be able to understand institutional mechanisms in US corporations, government, religious institutions, media, etc. I have had 35 years of hands-on successful experience inside American corporate from the lowest to the highest levels. This gives me an insight into America that the liberal arts cocoon is largely ignorant of. 2. I also have a serious involvement in academic Whiteness Studies, which goes far deeper than Postcolonial Studies in the understanding of American culture. Few Indians have had the courage to get involved in this field thus far, and I hope to bridge these two disciplines. (Please read my recent column on Whiteness Studies at: ) 3. Diaspora donors are being solicited by US colleges to fund programs and chairs. Hence, we have a legitimate right to do due diligence on the academy, from our position as investors. I get frequent requests from potential donors seeking my opinion. 4. Indian students in US colleges are consumers, and their parents spend heavily on tuitions. I worked for Nader's PIRG in the 1970s to represent consumers, and I feel we have a similar right to critique what the producers of India Studies dish out. 5. Just as there is public scrutiny over political, business and media corruption, the public also has a right to review academic bias and transparency issues. On your friend's question about what is my `agenda,' I wish to point out that there are two diametrically opposite positions with respect to relationship with the West that are already well represented. One is that of India's intellectuals in US liberal arts, and the other is China's position. China favors investments by USA, but in the area of US human rights intervention, China is firmly opposed to any foreign involvement in its sovereign socio-cultural-religious space. India's intellectuals take the opposite stance on both matters: They are opposed to US investments, BUT FAVOR U.S. INTERVENTION IN HUMAN RIGHTS. This is very puzzling. They oppose Ford Motor Company's investments in auto production in India, but want Ford Foundation's interventions in human rights!!! My position is similar to China's, and opposed to that of many Indian intellectuals. Furthermore, there are a growing number of US think tanks, corporate and political leaders who now favor a stable India. I support this. I oppose those forces which prefer to erase Indian identity and problematize India's status as a nation state. The latter posture is where many Indians in the liberal arts are. My positions against fragmenting India are similar to those of many corporate people, US government policy makers, etc. But I do bring a few new derivatives ideas, such as the following: 1. The US Religious Right's ideologies are driving: (A) US Domestic politics, (B) Middle East policies, and © Proselytizing in India. Indian intellectuals attack A and B, but are allied with C. I examine this contradiction. Inadvertently, they are supporting the very imperialism they claim to be opposing! 2. I wonder: Are some Indian intellectuals positioning themselves as potential Chalabis in the future? 3. Do some Indian intellectuals have undisclosed links to political fragments in India? This amounts to a conflict of interest with respect to transparency of disclosure. 4. Many Indian intellectuals suffer from an identity crisis: whiteness is denied to them and they are ashamed to be Indian, forcing them into the identity-less space. Does this inferiority complex get projected on to their teachings and campus activism? 5. I wish to highlight the need for starting India Studies in India. 6. I wish to bridge Postcolonial Studies with Whiteness Studies. 7. To what extent is the liberal arts academy in the West the nexus of the growing mainstream American Hinduphobia? These are all issues which I wish to pursue and would appreciate any collaboration/debate available from any side. Furthermore, as a patriotic American, I am also concerned about the adverse implications of the fragmentation of India, as that could lead to eventual Talibanization and would become a US nightmare. You indicated that similar criticism of US culture also takes place in the academy. However, I wish to argue that it does not have equivalent effects to that of the academic attacks on India. My reasons are as follows: 1. All significant US political parties are fiercely patriotic, never representing separatists. (Fragments get a assimilated/diluted into the two parties.) However, India's three national parties (Congress, BJP, CPM) combined represent only half the parliament and popular votes. Hence, India's political forces are fragmented. Therefore, academic dissent against the US does not fuel sociopolitical fragmentation: Impotent scholars merely talk to one another. On the other hand, in India, intellectual dissent is linked to the realpolitik of social fragmentation on the ground. 2. In USA's case, No external enemies are represented in domestic political parties. Indian domestic politics is heavily invested/funded by foreign forces, making India more vulnerable. 3. In USA, corporate vested interests bring cohesion to political agendas. Both parties dance to the political funding sources in their own ways Nader is right here. In India, the agendas are highly fragmented. 4. Maturity of the US nation state and its relative prosperity has stabilized the status quo of American society. India's socioeconomic distress pressures its national unity. 5. US Christianity is secure as the unifying ethos (unlike in Europe). In India, the social fabric of Hinduism is constantly under attack. 6. Discourse on US, even when it is against its culture, is under its own epistemic control. It is protected via white culture's domination and epistemic privilege. But Indians must play by the rules of Western epistemology to have a voice in the marketplace of ideas. Hence, the counter-discourse that offsets the criticism is weaker in India than in the US. 7. Furthermore, I wish to point out that my positions about identity and cultural projection in USA were developed after years of study of Japan Foundation, China Institute, Korea Foundation, and similar culture specific groups in the US. I invite you to study these, and then argue why Indian culture should be treated differently. 8. Finally, let us address the issue of identity: Many Indian scholars in US colleges argue against Indian identity using postmodern theories. Yet, they implicitly slip into structuralism when they promote South Asian identities and when they champion their favorite identity-ridden activists. I find this to be a contradiction. I respect your courage to disagree and to argue your case forcefully. I hope you also respect my right to do the same. Finally, you might wish to read my extensive on-line debate with Prof. Vijay Prashad that is posted on, and that consisted of nine extensive essays posted by both of us. The opening piece links to the subsequent posts and is at: If a faculty member at CMU would like to initiate a similar debate with me, I would be happy to discuss further. Dialog which respects differences of opinion is something I have tried to foster and participate in, whenever the chance presents itself.

Posted by: rajesh_g Nov 18 2004, 11:52 AM not related but a fantastic article by RM

Posted by: acharya Nov 18 2004, 04:15 PM

Yes, Fantastic. Introduction There are two current trends in Hinduism that were born of a perceived 'threat' to Hinduism. These are as follows: There is a movement to focus Hinduism in terms of God's interventions in Indian history, most commonly associated with Avatar Ram's history and the related geography. Such a version of Hinduism is History-Centric. (See my earlier writings.) The term is also explained later in this essay. The second trajectory is less formal and less institutionalized, but is far more pervasive and subversive. This is to unbundle (or break up) Hinduism into a set of separate generic ideas, practices, symbols, etc., that any religion or non religious worldview may appropriate in a modular fashion, assimilating what fits and rejecting (and demonizing) what does not. I call this the Sameness Myth because it is the result of the false premise that Hinduism is the same as any other religion, thereby making its parts individually available for appropriation. Both these trends feed and are fed by a 'threatened Hinduism', i.e., the sense that Hinduism is facing pressures from within and without. However, this essay does not examine such threats or pressures. (I have other essays on geopolitics and Hinduism.) History-Centrism (#1) provides any religion with an identity fortress, which is both defensive and useful for an offensive. It also tends to collapse internal differences and encourage homogeneity. I shall argue against the merits of this kind of essentializing of Hinduism, and will suggest alternative ways of bringing cohesion and identity that preserve difference. After a brief overview of History-Centrism, the main purpose of this essay will be to explain the problems that Hinduism is facing because of #2, i.e., the false myth that it is the same as other religions. I shall show that the Sameness Myth suffers from at least three problems: Sameness with all other religions is incompatible with authentic Hindu dharma. Sameness is making Hinduism irrelevant and redundant. It is sliding Hinduism towards extinction by dilution and assimilation, in the same manner as Christianity's inculturation strategy made many pagan religions extinct. It positions Hinduism as a takeover target by History-Centric predators, with a friendly takeover of some components and a hostile takeover and/or outright cultural genocide of other components. In the aftermath of such takeovers the predators become stronger and the world less safe. Hence, sameness can at best be a short-term alternative and antidote to History-Centrism but it leads to unstable states of power that eventually feed more History-Centrism. The opposite of sameness is difference. Many scholars have considered 'difference' to be the source of tensions and violence. Hence, they promote the sameness myth. However, this is a European view based on their experience with Abrahamic religions that are History-Centric. This view does not apply to non-European cultures such as the Indic traditions that have a worldview of difference-with-respect. 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'. My thesis of difference-with-respect is at odds with both #1 and #2 poles above. Furthermore, each pole's frenzy feeds the other: Moderate Hindus recoiling against religious violence have tended to gravitate towards sameness in order to dilute their distinct identities, and hence absolve themselves of 'Hindu shame'. Conversely, many Hindus who are concerned about the way the Sameness Myth deconstructs (and eventually destructs) their faiths have jumped on the History-Centrism bandwagon for identity protection, in the form of Hindutva. The following factors have contributed to the Sameness Myth: U-Turns and American Perennialism: Historically, sameness emerged out of 19th century neo-Hindu leaders' constructions of Hinduism that often mapped Indic categories on to Western ones[1]. For instance, Swami Vivekananda successfully popularized Hinduism in 19th century America. But later, many of his important Western disciples and sympathizers genericized Hinduism. Several of them eventually did U-Turns back into Western identity and Western thought. Perennialism and the New Age movement were by-products of such movements[2]. Meanwhile, the mainstream History-Centric Christianity did not dissolve itself or melt itself into sameness, but, on the contrary, it strengthened its positioning by appropriating from Hinduism. Opportunistic Hindu gurus: The Sameness Myth took a quantum leap in the 1960s when many Hindu gurus arrived in America. They attracted huge followings and piled up vast donations by playing the sameness game to appeal to the pop culture at the expense of authenticity. They lowered the bar for Westerners to enter into pop Hinduism, but this also lowered the bar to their exit once the fad had died and once enough components from Hinduism had been successfully appropriated into Western systems. (See details.[3]) Postmodernist intellectualism: Postmodernism is the academic equivalent of pop Vedanta as an intellectual framework to deconstruct identity. (While Vedanta deconstructs the individual ego, postmodernism mainly deconstructs the collective cultural identity.) It has intellectually disaggregated Hinduism into a library of random clip art that may be clicked-and-dragged into any belief system under the control and discretion of the new owner. (For instance, postmodernist frameworks allow scholars such as Courtright to misinterpret Hindu symbols arbitrarily, and to sell their works successfully at the highest levels of the academy.) Politics of South Asianism: It is a glaring contradiction that the very scholars who attack Indian identity (where Hinduism is the core value system) as being 'chauvinistic', are the same scholars that, simultaneously, promote (i) the divisive sub-national/separatist identities of Dalits, Dravidians and minority religions, and (ii) the South Asian identity that pressures India externally. Furthermore, these scholars suffer from various conflicts of interest as their careers are in institutions of education and funding where Western identity and chauvinism rule. Meanwhile, Western supremacy remains unaffected by the fringe activities of its liberal scholars. Besides USA and European states, Russia, China, Japan and Arab states remain highly nationalistic. Therefore, as Ziauddin Sardar and others have pointed out, the criticism of nation-states and related identities has indirectly served to empower the very imperialism, which the intellectuals attack. Many trendy postmodernist theories are being exported to colonize third world intellectuals who use them to impress white liberals. Unfortunately, many Indian intellectuals have facilitated 'softening the prey' on behalf of the predator empires – in effect serving as sepoys[4]. Popular Hinduphobia: Hinduphobia is systematically institutionalized through education systems, media portrayals and popular English literature, thereby pushing many Hindus into sameness as a safe harbor and a place of refuge. Modern Westernized Hindus are being pulled towards sameness as a way to appear less old fashioned. 'Secular Hindus' have made it cool to say things like, “Hindus believe in everything,” “All religions are the same,” etc. This is done either out of confusion or simply to project a public identity safely. The greater the Hinduphobia experienced in an environment the greater is the pressure towards sameness as a way to offload the liability of being associated with demonized Hindu symbolism. The rest of this essay consists of the following three Sections: Section II defines History-Centrism, and explains its centrality in institutionalized Abrahamic religions and also explains why Hinduism has not depended upon History-Centrism. Section III refutes the Myth of Hindu Sameness, and explains the problems it causes. Section IV proposes a Constructive Hinduism project as the way forward in the 21st century, with the objective to build a positive Hinduism while avoiding the two competing pitfalls of History-Centrism and the Sameness Myth. (I am dissatisfied with the term 'Constructive Hinduism' for a variety of reasons and this is a tentative term only. See details[5]. It is my claim that non History-Centric faiths offer the only spiritual alternative available to the Darwinian clash among History-Centric religions, i.e., the clash between one religion's jihad and another religion's jihad. Therefore, if the projects of the kind outlined in Section IV fail, one of the following two scenarios shall prevail: (i) Either Hinduism shall be forced to become History-Centric and this will result in a three-way clash of History-Centric religions: Islam vs. Christianity vs. Hinduism, which Hinduism cannot ultimately win. (ii) Or Hinduism shall get digested into Christianity via the Sameness Myth, in which case the two-way clash between History-Centric Christianity and History- Centric Islam shall worsen. Myth of Hindu Sameness To evaluate the popular notion that Hinduism is the same as Christianity, let us consider some specific issues. Shruti and Smriti: One of the foundations of Indian thought is the separation between shruti and smriti as two different kinds of knowledge. Shruti is authorless. It is heard as direct inner experience without any intermediary, not unfiltered through one's own conditioned mind. It is available only in high states of consciousness achieved by rishis and advanced yogis. Smriti is constructed by persons in a historical, cultural context, and is conditioned by its authors. Hence, it must change with time and context. Shruti is eternal truth, while smriti is meant to be changed and is to be applied like case law with great care taken for each context to determine its applicability and the required adaptation. Shruti is the rishi's/yogi's present moment embodied experience of the ultimate reality. Smriti is disembodied knowledge that is objectified and discursive. Shruti is kept alive by living enlightened spiritual masters. The Bible and Koran combine shruti and smriti into one. Furthermore, smriti prevails over shruti in these canons: Shruti was collapsed into smriti. All Shruti has been reduced to Smriti - unchangeable text rather than present realization. History became the supreme smriti of the institution as that enabled it to collect taxes, impose its police authority and to expand via imperialism. Shruti was sacrificed in the process. Therefore, the finality of canon forces a freezing and imposition of old smritis that were meant only for a given historical context. The key factor is that they regard History-Centric events as though they were shruti. This drags into the already frozen canons, many incidental historical details about the way Prophet Mohammed or Jesus or their respective followers lived. Hinduism's and Buddhism's itihas (history) are viewed as smriti, and not as shruti. This separation allows changes in smriti as per human society's needs. But unfortunately, most of the condemnations of Hinduism cite smriti as though it were shruti. These critics mimic the colonial agenda to demonize native traditions and native identity. They use educational institutions and media to manufacture and/or distribute false interpretations. Hindu submission and acceptance leads to Hindus internalizing these falsities, and they often becoming pathological self-haters. One may classify cultures as shruti centric or smriti centric. The yogi is shruti centric and seeks to ultimately transcend Nama-Rupa. Shruti refreshed by living spiritual masters prevents the fossilization of old smriti. But institutionalized religions drift away from yoga. Jihad (Islamic, Christian or Hindu), is a product of smriti that has taken over shruti. People have asked me what is wrong with U-Turns. My simple response is that the appropriated shruti gets collapsed into History-Centric smriti. Postmodernists rightfully deconstruct smriti, but they suffer in two ways: (1) They lack the yoga to be able to receive shruti and are stuck in disembodied intellectualism. (2) They de facto tend to use Western smriti, because their education, mentoring and career advancement are embedded in Western smriti. Karma: The Biblical historical narrative is the essence of mainstream Christian denominations. When examined through the Indic lens, the core historical narrative of the Bible is incompatible with karma theory: Karma is not transmitted via biological reproduction: Adam and Eve committed Original Sin when they violated God's commands. As a result of their act, God cursed the entirety of mankind forever, i.e., Adam and Eve's children, grand children, and so forth, ad infinitum, were forever condemned by God. This is known as Eternal Damnation. However, the karma of Adam and Eve cannot be transmitted to their biological offspring, and Adam and Eve must pay for their karma in their own rebirths. A given person carries his/her own personal karma into his/her own next life, and one's karma does not get transmitted to one's biological children. I do not suffer from the karma of my parents and nor do my kids suffer from my karma. I brought my past life's karma into this world and will take this life's karma into my next birth. Rebirth is not in the form of one's biological progeny. A white Christian could have been an Iraqi Muslim in a prior life, General Musharraf could have been a Hindu, Shiv Sena's head could have been a Muslim, a man could have been a woman and vice versa, and so forth. Karma is always finite and its phala (consequence or fruit) cannot be infinite: Regardless of how bad Adam and Eve's misdeed was it could not cause eternal phala, which is what Eternal Damnation is. Every karma is finite and its phala is finite, even if it lasts a million years. Phala cannot precede the karma: Karma theory states that first the karma has to occur and only then can its consequences occur. Effect (phala) never precedes cause (karma). But Jesus is said to have suffered (the phala) 2,000 years in advance of our birth today, and his suffering was to redeem our karma of today. This implies that Jesus suffered in advance of our karma, but phala in advance of the karma is impossible. The claim seems to be that Jesus established a sort of 'phala bank' and deposited infinite amount of phala in advance, and all those who accept his offer may neutralize all their karmas by drawing against this 'phala bank' account. This is simply impossible in karma theory. [10] These points do not necessarily falsify Christianity but point out the deep incompatibilities between the two systems. This is merely an example of the kind of engagement that would have to take place before any sameness could be stipulated. During the centuries of darshana debates in India among various schools, the above arguments would have been put forth between Hindu and Christian theologians. It is not un-Indian to engage in such discourse. The tragedy is that by the time Christianity was taken seriously in India, the support systems and resources needed to do an adequate purva-paksha had vanished. Because of colonialism, Christians started dominating the discourse. Hundreds of Christians institutions exist that study Hinduism seriously, and thousands of Christians study it. Yet, we have few if any Hindus and Hindu institutions that systematically study Christianity. This is a necessity before an adequate purva-paksha can be done. Meanwhile, we are left with nonsensical sameness talks by leaders who have failed to do an adequate purva-paksha of Christianity. Time: Biblical time is finite, with a specific beginning and an end. It is said to have begun a few thousand years ago only, and the End of Time is coming soon according to many mainstream denominations. [11] This finiteness of time boxes many Christians into haste, and eventually into terror that time is running out. The peculiar combination of (i) Eternal Damnation (i.e. an infinite problem) and (ii) Finite Time has produced a state of desperation in Christian societies. Every person is born into the infinite horror of Eternal Damnation, and the finiteness of time does not give enough opportunity to resolve this condition. Therefore, one must always be in a hurry and not waste time. The consequence of not getting saved is Eternity in Hell, and one simply cannot take any chances. This is why horrific images of Hell play a critical role in pressuring people to convert. Reincarnation doctrine was banned in Christianity so as to raise this pressure, and this is especially effective as one becomes older. This is the one and only life that a person will ever have and Time is running out! The reward offered to those who become members of this History-Centric belief is also infinite: Eternity in Heaven amidst God, along with one's family, friends and other 'good' people. The price of failure is unimaginable, the reward is too good to miss out, and the effort is trivial as one merely has to admit that the Historical Grand Narrative is true – and one is in! This turns dangerous when it becomes extroverted and fuels the centurion-like militaristic evangelism. Institutional authority: The Church's institutional authority over all men lasted for centuries, and similar theocracies existed in the case of Islam. (In fact, the serious study Islam entails in large part a study of Islamic Law.) This does not have a parallel in Hinduism, where the raja was supposed to protect the diverse dharmas of every person and not impose his own personal dharma upon others. The Christian and Islamic concept of enforcement of religious laws on people is different from the principle of voluntary dharmic compliance. The Gita is not a book of rules that any authority is supposed to enforce, nor was it ever the 'law'. It does not even say, “Thou shalt do this and not that...” It explains how the system of karma operates and what the consequences of various choices are on the individual choice maker. The individual remains with the freedom of choice and the knowledge of possible karmic consequences governed by the cosmos and not by human authorities/institutions. It is a description of natural rta/dharma, and not man-made laws. [13] This is why Indian gays/lesbians do not need to have a parade in Delhi to 'fight for rights' (like the parades in major US cities), because no authority took away these rights from them in the first place. Even the much maligned Manusmriti was never enforced as the law of the land, except under the British rule when it was enforced to prove that the colonizers were ruling in accordance with 'Hindu Law', a canon they constructed with the help of local pundits hired for the purpose. A primary difference between Indian and Western approaches to institutional authority is that the living gurus are given a high status by Hindus, whereas institutions occupy the preeminent status in Abrahamic religions. (This is why Hindu gurus have now become a prime target of demonology, because Christian strategists realize that no destruction of physical temples or texts or institutions will erase Hinduism as long as its new gurus continue to appear and enjoy large popular followings.) The institutionalization in Biblical societies has also brought about a culture of conformity with other members. Canonized knowledge leads to normative thinking and social standard for everyone to emulate. Conformity is also the seed of social competition. Such a society is more vulnerable to advertisement driven consumerism. The role of Hindu leaders: After India's independence, the leaders betrayed Gandhi's vision to re-imagine India in a manner that would respect India's culture, and which he felt lived in its villages. Instead, they filled the Englishman's shoes and became the brown sahibs ruling over Indians, using most of the same structures and ideas that the departed British left behind. This is ironic because Gandhi had emphasized that he did not oppose the English people, and merely opposed their English ways. The vacuum left by the British was a tremendous bonanza for Anglicized Indians. They preserved the English ways and replaced the English people. In this milieu, Hindu gurus had few prospects within India and went to the US to teach. There, a thirsty audience awaited them. But unfortunately, they got trapped by their own instant marketing success. The gurus and/or their Western followers mapped Indic categories to Western categories, so as to gain quick legitimacy. This mimicry appealed to the Western followers, who could have their cake and eat it too, i.e., they could remain embedded in their Biblical identities and/or 'secular Western' chauvinist equivalents and yet gain the benefits of Indic traditions. In effect, Hindu gurus facilitated U-Turns. Hindu leaders also betrayed their own darshana traditions in which they are required to do purva-paksha of other worldviews. This means a genuine, authentic and deep understanding of the prevalent worldviews must be developed in such a profound manner that a scholar from that other tradition would acknowledge it as being a true representation of their position. [15] While in the past, the purva-paksha opponents were typically Buddhists, Vedantins, Jaina, Mimamsikas, and various others in India, today's globalized purva-paksha has to be of Christianity, Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment, as these are the three major strands out of which Western worldviews are built. False information is more dangerous than acknowledgment of one's ignorance. Most Hindu leaders naively equate Christianity with Catholicism, US Christianity with European Christianity, and see all Christian denominations as being the 'same'. They lack any purva-paksha about Christian Liberation Theology, Inculturation strategies, constructive theologies, Christian Zionism, and so forth. When they gleefully quote that church attendance is down in the US, they fail to consider that home based Christian prayer groups have replaced church going in many communities across America, and such groups now represent a major component of fundamentalist Christianity. Furthermore, they simply lump all 'secularists' and 'leftists' as the 'same', because they are untrained in Enlightenment and Post-Enlightenment theories. Yet individuals (including Indians) who are grounded in these Western theories drive global culture, human rights, law, business codes, property rights, literature and media. This means that Hindu leaders are simply obsolete. At the same time, one comes across many Hindu scholars who are chasing useless and chauvinistic bandwagons that are disconnected from today's relevant issues. For instance, they seem to be obsessed with 'proving' the age of the Mahabharata or geographically locating the Vedas, as if any Hindus were converting because the Mahabharata is not proven to be old enough! They are like ostriches with their heads stuck inside the temple, ashrama and/or political arena, while the globalized world has already passed them by. [16] Being so isolated and inbred, these Hindu leaders failed to develop any effective 'home team' to represent Hinduism in the important global debates today. They have alienated themselves from large communities of intellectual Indian youth and have lost the enormous cultural capital that once existed amongst the white Americans practicing yoga/meditation, who number 20 million.

Posted by: rajesh_g Nov 24 2004, 10:37 AM

RM has always been promoting the idea of a hindu purva-paksha of the abrahamnic cults.. His latest post on Sulekha..

HINDU PURVA-PAKSHA OF TEN COMMANDMENTS: An important article (and/or discussion) would be to develop a Hindu view of each of the Ten Commandments. Since there are multiple versions of these commandments, I quote below the prominent versions, and at the end I state the list of punishments sanctioned in the Bible. Which of these are okay or partially okay in Hinduism? Which are violations of Hinduism (such as #2 is clearly a violation of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!)? Which are incomplete and/or superficial and hence misleading for Hindus to adopt? This is important as there are legal activities in the US to make the Ten Commandments the universal religious edicts, and others who are challenging this in the US Supreme Court. Hindus must formulate their stances on the subject. Where are the intellectuals and swamis and experts – why have they been inactive on practical matters? Protestant 1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. 4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord lessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. 5. Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. 6. Thou shalt not kill. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 8. Thou shalt not steal. 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. -- King James Bible Hebrew 1. I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 2. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; Thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; And showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments. 3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. 4. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the sabbath in honour of the Lord thy God; on it thou shalt not do any work, neither thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. 5. Honour thy father and thy mother; in order that thy days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. 6. Thou shalt not kill. 7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 8. Thou shalt not steal. 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. -- Bloch Publishing Company (1922) Catholic 1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. 3. Remember thou keep the Sabbath Day. 4. Honor thy Father and thy Mother. 5. Thou shalt not kill. 6. Thou shalt not commit adultery. 7. Thou shalt not steal. 8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. 9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife. 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods. -- Peter Gasparri, “Catholic Catechism” (1932) Which Ten Commandments? Positive Atheism Magazine The First Tables of Stone (Ex. 20) (later smashed by Moses) 1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. 2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. 3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. 4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 5. Honor your father and your mother. 6. You shall not kill. 7. You shall not commit adultery. 8. You shall not steal. 9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 10. You shall not covet. -- Adapted from Microsoft Bookshelf 98 The Second Tables of Stone (Ex. 34) (“the words that were on the first”) 1. Thou shalt worship no other god (For the Lord is a jealous god). 2. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods. 3. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep in the month when the ear is on the corn. 4. All the first-born are mine. 5. Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh thou shalt rest. 6. Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, even of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. 7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread. 8. The fat of my feast shall not remain all night until the morning. 9. The first of the first fruits of thy ground thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God. 10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk. -- K. Budde, History of Ancient Hebrew Literature Ten Punishments 1. Ex. 22:20: He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed. 2. Lev. 24:16: And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death. 3. Ex. 31:15: Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 4. Ex. 21:15: He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. 5. Ex. 21:17: He that curseth his father or his mother, shall surely be put to death. 6. Ex. 22:19: Whosoever liethwith a beast shall surely be put to death. 7. Lev. 20:13: If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. 8. Lev. 20:10: And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. 9. Mark 16:16: He that believeth not, shall be damned. 10. Mal. 2:1-4: And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name,... behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces. -- Jyoti Shankar, Bubbles Online Magazine
I think this purva-paksha concept needs to become mainstream. In order to educate young folks (macaulayites) like me the public discource needs to highlight this concept and be made aware of the strengths of the Indic civilisation. We macaulayites have been giving way too much respect to these cults for too long.

Posted by: rajesh_g Nov 24 2004, 10:42 AM

More on Indic Purva-Paksha of the abrahamnic cults..

Arun, thanks for clarifying the virgin birth issue better than I did. The point is the one must look beneath the veneer of sameness and tolerance as projected by PR departments. Abrahamic religions are run by very sophisticated institutions that have been at the job of FORMAL purva-paksha of others very systematically. They are like MNCs' strategic planning departments looking at 'others'. Hinduism's lack of purva-paksha of them is crude by comparison. Virgin Birth as per Islam is an insult to informed Christians. Likewise, Hindus' pop statement about Prophet Mohammed being a great avatar is an insult to Islam. Mohammed was not an incarnation of Allah, and Allah DOES NOT HAVE INCARNATIONS ever. There is an INFINITE DISTANCE between Allah and man and this never gets bridged. Communication from Allah is therefore via an intermediary called a prophet, and this prophet is a mortal man, simply a mouthpiece. In this regard, Islam is closer to Judaism as both deny that God has ever incarnated himself on earth. Only Christianity makes that claim, as Jesus was God's incarnation. Hence, the closest to avatar in any Abrahamic religion is in Christianity but not in the other two. In particular, Vaishnavism and Christianity have many overlaps in the way God comes to earth as man. So Islam CANNOT accept Jesus as being who Christians say he was. What is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for Christianity's validity (i.e. Jesus as Son of God) is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE in Islamic cosmology. To insinuate that God incarnated in flesh is BLASPHEMY in Islam because (as imams will tell you) that would falsify Koran's core cosmology which must be taken as the EXACT WORDS of God. Our swamis must attend a seminary and take Comparative Rreligion 101. The same also applies to all Indian intellectuals. Until then they will continue to make a fool of themselves and create more morons. This requires a Ralph Nader style of consumer revolt by common Hindus against their preachers, politicians, journalists, writers and all sorts of so-called 'intellectuals' who supply superficial and misleading information. Imagine if the International House of Pancakes proclaimed that dosa is just one of their pancake flavors. (Suppose they add coconut to their pancakes and sell it as dosa.) Only an uninformed person would fall for this. It could even be well intended, perhaps, but the reality would be that sameness asserted by IHOP does not really make dosa = pancake. regards, rajiv

Posted by: rajesh_g Nov 24 2004, 11:03 AM

Something that needs to be kept in mind while doing Purva-Paksha. An insightful post made by user "Atithi" on sulekha..

Slightly orthogonal to Rajiv's point on ten commandments: what if a society had a "commandment" saying "thou shalt not eat thy neighbor"? We can say that the society was struggling with cannibalism and that was their most pressing problem. Similarly, if a society has a commandment saying "thou shalt not eat goat sh1t" we know what problem it faced (or faces). Looking at the ten commandments we say a lot about the society that has them because the commandments address the most urgent problems.

Posted by: Mudy Nov 24 2004, 11:59 AM

Imagine if the International House of Pancakes proclaimed that dosa is just one of their pancake flavors. (Suppose they add coconut to their pancakes and sell it as dosa.) Only an uninformed person would fall for this. It could even be well intended, perhaps, but the reality would be that sameness asserted by IHOP does not really make dosa = pancake.

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