[ADMIN] closing of the list
ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Sun Apr 15 13:29:09 EDT 2001
When I started INDOLOGY a decade ago, I had in mind a list for fifty or so
of my professional colleagues.
Over the years, INDOLOGY has become something else entirely, and
membership now stands at about 650.
This is very flattering, in a certain sense, and it has been an
interesting experience for me personally, since it has brought a certain
fame and/or notoriety. Scholars I've never met often know me from the
list, and kindly greet me with warmth and recognition because of it.
Usually there is a certain amout of wry commiseration too, since everyone
knows that with its great success, INDOLOGY has also become unruly, and
the signal-to-noise ration has deteriorated badly.
I have always rather like the fact that INDOLOGY was an open, public
forum. I work for a library which is very scholarly, but is also open to
the public, and I value that highly. Anybody can wander in off the
pavement and order up a Sanskrit manuscript in the reading room. There's
something great about that. And the same with INDOLOGY: the fact that
complete newcomers, who have never read anything from the scholarly
literature of classical Indian studies, can join in a discussion with the
top professors from all over the world is truly remarkable. In fact, I
think it is more than remarkable. I think it is an example of a certain
democratization and flattening of heirarchies which the internet can cause
to happen. In many cases this is a good thing. But perhaps not in all
There are still significant gains to be made from human heirarchies in
certain situations, not least in the situation of student and teacher.
Today, with the growth of tertiary education, it is not unusual for the
teacher to be younger than the pupil, but the "gradient of knowledge" is
what counts in the situation, and the fact that an epistemological
heirarchy exists is important and valuable. That someone says "I am a
student, and I will approach my teacher with a desire to learn" and
someone else says "I am a teacher, and I will do my best to enable this
student to learn what they want to learn" creates a heirarchical situation
in which learning can happen. (Next day, the teacher may be in accident
and emergency, being treated by the student, who has an evening nursing
job: the heirarchy then is quite different.)
The flattening of heirarchies which has happened in INDOLOGY has meant
that people who have spent entire professional carreers developing
scholarly skills in indology have been accessible to complete beginners.
This is a fascinating situation. In some fields it would, I suspect, be
sustainable. But in humanities, there are fields like economics and
politics in which the most unlettered person considers it a mark of honour
to have a strong opinion on all questions connected with the
topic. Apparently indology is also such a subject. Anybody with any
connection to India seems to feel qualified to argue with people who have
spent a lifetime in the profession.
This is aggravated, of course, by the ideology of the current Indian party
in government, which is not neutral on matters of indology.
In the present situation, I think the value of INDOLOGY as a forum for
scholarship has been eroded to the point at which it is no longer as
useful to professional scholars as it can and should be.
In the next message I shall explain what I am about to do next.
Founder, INDOLOGY list.
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