Colonialism did not die: It only reinvented itself « Indian Realist 7 May 2009 by sanjaychoudhry Rajiv Malhotra’s brilliant analysis of neo-colonialism and how various tricks are used by Westerners to ensure that Hindu minds remain in a cage even today.
The Axis of Neocolonialism
By Rajiv Malhotra Srutis are not frozen canons either, as there is no unique or final revelation, in contrast with the Abrahamic revelations – Sri Aurobindo claimed to bring us new srutis in recent times, and so have many others. ... under Uncategorized 1 Comment VoPMay 8, 2009 at 5:00 pm
I am glad you put this up as a post. I have recommended this to be the #1 reading for all Indian, Indian-Americans I come across to understand the big picture. For the curious, the 1300+ comments that followed when it was first published on Sulekha are also worth taking a look.
The hallmark of a good education in an American liberal arts college is based on what is called the Western Classics. A study of Western Civilization starts with the study of ancient Greek and Semitic thought, before moving on to Classical Roman, modern European, and finally, American thought. Such an intellectual foundation is deemed important for one to be considered a well educated person in the humanities, regardless of one's religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and regardless of one's specific academic major...
I find similar deep respect and dignity for the Western Classics at Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago, Yale, Oxford, Paris, and virtually every top Western university. The benefit is not only intended for those specializing in the Western Classics. The Western Classics are in the core curriculum of many colleges, regardless of specialization.
Marginalization of Indian Classics in India's Higher Education:
It is important to carefully read the above rationale for the Western Classics program, so as to appreciate why this is deemed so relevant today in Western technologically advanced secular democracies, such as the United States.
Compare this to the tragic state of Indian Classics in India's own higher education. The equivalent to the Greek Classics would be India's Vedas, Puranas and other Sanskrit, Pali and Tamil texts. In a comparable education system, students would learn about Pannini, Patanjali, Buddha, Nagarjuna, Dharmakirti, Bharthrhari, Shankara, Abhinavgupta, Bharata Muni, Gangesh, Kalidasa, Aryabhata and dozens of other great classical thinkers produced by India.
Unfortunately, in the name of progress, modernity, and political correctness, Indian Classics have been virtually banished from India's higher education a continuation of the policy on Indian education started by the famous Lord Macaulay over 150 years ago.. While India supplies information technology, biotechnology, corporate management, medical and other professionals to the most prestigious organizations of the world, it is unable to supply world-class scholars in the disciplines of its own traditions.
The reason is that the nexus of Indology studies remains in Western universities, almost as though decolonization had never happened. The top rated academic journals and conferences on Indology and India related fields are in the West, run largely by Western scholars, and funded by Western private, church and governmental interests. The best research libraries in the Indian Classics are in the West. Religious Studies is the hottest academic field in the humanities in the US, and is growing at a very fast rate, but is non-existent as a discipline in Indian universities.
Therefore, to get an internationally competitive PhD in Sanskrit, Indian Classics, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism Studies, with the highest rigor in methods and theory, such that one may get an academic job in this specialty in a leading international university, a student is forced to go to a US, UK or German university.
Hence, one cannot find qualified experts of Indian religions in India, in order to debate Western scholars. The few Indian scholars within the Western academy who are educated in the Indian Classics, are either below the glass ceiling, or else are politically cautious given the risks to their career ambitions.
Furthermore, the marginalization of India's heritage in its education system, particularly in the English medium system that produces most of the leaders of modern Indian society, has resulted in the leaders of industry, civil service, media and education becoming a culturally lost generation. The result is today's self-alienated, cynical youth prevalent in many places, especially in elite positions.
The justification given for the study of Greek Classics in the West is not that they are considered 100% true today (whatever that might mean), or that better thought has not superceded them. Rather, the purpose is to understand the history of the Western mind, so that students may lay a sound and strong foundation for their thinking in order to move this civilization further into the future. The Western Classics provide the Western intellectual with the resources to be a serious thinker for today.
It is also about the identity of Westerners and their culture. Great emphasis is placed on the integrity of an old Western Civilization traced back to Greece (although the massive inputs received from non-Western sources are carefully suppressed see Part 3). This (re)construction of Western Civilization is an ongoing project, and is considered very critical for the survival and prosperity of what is known as the West.
One should apply this logic to Classical Indian thought and see parallel benefits for India's renaissance. Unfortunately, a great disservice has been done to Indian Classics by equating them with religion. Arguably, the most comprehensive and challenging knowledge representation systems available outside the West are contained in the Indian Classics. The sheer magnitude of India's Classics is over one hundred times as large as that of the Greek Classics. For a brief glimpse into some of the potentials based on the recovery of Indian Classics, see the web site for an academic Colloquium on this very subject. Yet, whatever little is taught about Indian Classics tends to suffer from its ghetto like positioning as South Asian, whereas Greek thought is positioned as being universal. The dominant (European) culture, into which Greek thought became assimilated, claims to own the logos (the rational principle that governs and develops the universe), while non-Western peoples' indigenous ideas are mythos and exotica. Greek Classics are taught in mainstream academia and are not relegated to a particular ethnicity or area of the world. Indian Classics, on the other hand, are considered relevant mainly as a way to understand what is unique (i.e. peculiar) about Indian ethnicity.
Furthermore, Greek thought is referenced as being of Greek origin, whereas, when Indian ideas are appropriated, their Indian origin is erased over time: real knowledge is implied to come only from Western sources; all others must wait till they get legitimized by being claimed as Western. This is because the knowledge representation system is under Western control, and hence they are the final arbiters of what belongs where. Only when something falls under Western control does it become legitimate.
Indic Traditions in the Western Academia:
Interestingly, Western academia hires many Indian scholars in the departments of English Literature, History, Philosophy, Sociology, and Political Science, amongst other humanities. However, while the Western audiences think of them as spokespersons for Indic Traditions, the vast majority of them are unwilling and unqualified to explain Indian Classics seriously. But their Western hosts and colleagues are usually unaware of this shortcoming in most Indian scholars. For this deficiency to become public about an Indian scholar is tantamount to a minor scandal, because they derive much of their clout based on the false perception that they are representatives of Indic thought.
To cover up their ignorance, many elitist Indians resort to a combination of Eurocentric and Marxist rhetoric about Indian civilization the caste, cows and curry theory of India. They quote Orientalist accounts of India and even base their own scholarship as extensions and derivatives of colonial writings superimposed with Marxism. On the one hand, postcolonial studies are at the very heart of their specialization and career paths. But on the other hand, they are only trained in using Eurocentric hermeneutics and methods. Hence, they can deconstruct Eurocentrism with Western methods, but are completely inept at applying Indic categories and perspectives. They cannot replace the Eurocentric representation model with anything indigenous from India. Postcolonial studies often end up as Orientalism by the neocolonized.
Contrast this with Arab scholars, such as Edward Said and Abu-Lughod, who have led the deconstruction of Eurocentrism, not only generically but also specifically on behalf of Islamic and Arab civilizations. Consequently, it is now becoming fashionable to replace Eurocentric history textbooks with accounts centered around the Middle East, going back to the Middle Ages. Likewise, Nell Painter is amongst the leading critics of Eurocentrism on behalf of Africans. Enrique Dussel is amongst many prominent Latin Americans attacking Eurocentric models.
However, in the case of a specifically Indic deconstruction of Eurocentrism, some of the finest academic challenge is often being delivered by Westerners, such has Ronald Inden and Nicholas Dirks. Many Indian scholars who are entrenched in the Western academe of humanities seem reluctant to risk their loyalty ratings, and in many cases, are simply too ignorant of their own heritage and invested in attacking this heritage.
While pockets of such Indic challenges to Eurocentrism do exist, they are not empowered to revolutionize the fields of religion, history, sociology, anthropology, women's studies, Asian Studies, literature and art. They occasionally get their symbolic 'day in court,' but it is usually not the center court, where it really matters.
Indian Secularism ¹ American Secularism:
One serious misunderstanding amongst this milieu of elitist Indians has been their confused interpretation of secularism. The USA is a good nation with which to compare India in matters of secularism. It does not define secularism as alienation from its traditions. Even though tracing back American civilization to the Greeks is a big stretch, this link and continuity is emphasized. Certainly, the Judeo-Christian foundation of Americanism is made loud and clear. Recently, there is a new movement to rediscover the Native American heritage as being part of the New Americanism. On the other hand, secularism in India has come to mean anti Indic Traditions, especially anti-Hinduism.
To get certified that they are secular, many Indians line up to prove how they hate Hinduism, or at least how distant they are from what they perceive as a denigrated identity. The historian, Ronald Inden explains the root cause of this dis-ease:
Nehru's India was supposed to be committed to 'secularism'. The idea here in its weaker publicly reiterated form was that the government would not interfere in 'personal' religious matters and would create circumstances in which people of all religions could live in harmony. The idea in its stronger, unofficiallv stated form was that in order to modernize, India would have to set aside centuries of traditional religious ignorance and superstition and eventually eliminate Hinduism and Islam from people's lives altogether. After Independence, governments implemented secularism mostly by refusing to recognize the religious pasts of Indian nationalism, whether Hindu or Muslim, and at the same time (inconsistently) by retaining Muslim 'personal law'.