Axel Michaels edited book "The Pandit"

hans henrich hock hhhock at UX1.CSO.UIUC.EDU
Tue Oct 30 10:01:52 EST 2001

My apologies, dear colleague,

Hans Henrich Hock

>Dear Mr. Hart,
>Thank you for the attention you gave to my e-mail, BUT:
>1. Are nowadays "reviews" or comments on books acceptable before even
>leafing through the book?
>2. The book is not only on Sanskrit Pandits! The name Monika Horstmann
>should have indicated that. She deals with a non-Sanskrit Pandit (H.P.
>Dvivedi). Similarily Madhav Deshpande and Ashok Aklujkar discuss at
>length Maharashtrian scholarship as I have partly in my article focussed
>on the non-Sanskrit/Brahmin legal adviser of the king of Nepal. Moreover,
>ustads and professors are also traditional scholars: both are discussed
>in the book.
>3. The book deals with traditional scholarship in India (and Nepal, by
>the way: another severe case of hegemony?), but not with all traditional
>scholarship. I can´t see why your impression that it is a book on all
>traditional scholarship in India should be automatically implied by the
>title. Titles are always cutting a long story short. A more precise title
>could have been: "The Pandit: On traditional and modern Vedic, Sanskrit,
>Hindi, Nepali, Kannarese, Marathi etc. scholarship in India, Nepal, North
>America and some parts of Europe." But the times are over when publishers
>accepted such titles as we are both aware. (Do you remember the full
>title of Hobson-Jobson?: "A Glossary of colloquial anglo-indian words and
>phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and
>discursive").They wish to have an interesting, concise title which does
>justice to the contents and is not too misleading. I think the current
>title does exactly that.
>4.Further, the book is a Festschrift for P.Aithal who is a renowned South
>Indian not North Indian Scholar.
>5. All who know me (or my publications) are aware that I am the last
>person (by  German indological standards at least!) who stands for the
>superiority of Brahmins or Sanskrit in terms of Indian literature and
>religion. The South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University, with a focus
>on modern South Asia and its languages (including Tamil) where I am
>employed leaves no opportunity for such an attitude nor does my own firm
>commitment to a field-work oriented research of several Indian religions
>(plural!). My book on Hinduism (which is currently translated into
>English by Princeton University Press) is further proof of this.
>Given these facts, I find it astounding and hurtful to be accused of any
>STEREOTYPING" and can only hope that you reconsider those comments after
>a careful look at the book and in
>the light of my comments. (I shall ask the editor to send you a
>complimentary copy).
>Best wishes,
>Axel Michaels
>p.s. I had hoped that this list would not get again into discussions on
>moral or political topics. However, as an editor I  felt that I should
>answer you in this open form in order to "protect" the contributors.
>George Hart wrote:
> > Might I humbly suggest that when Mr. Michaels entitles the book he
> > edits "Traditional Scholarship in India," he perpetuates an extremely
> > wrong and unfortunate stereotype: that in traditional India, only the
> > Brahmins were learned.  The fact is, most of Tamil literature is by
> > non-Brahmins, and it is quite as extensive as Sanskrit.  And, in
> > Sanskrit and the Prakrits, an enormous amount of literature was
> > produced by various non-Brahmins (e.g. Jains and Buddhists) who were
> > not Brahmins and Pundits (which, incidentally, is a Dravidian word).
> > Even low castes have their own literary traditions in South India --
> > are we to suppose they are somehow inferior as human beings and their
> > rich traditions are not worthy to be placed beside that of people who
> > happen to be Brahmins?  WE MUST GET BEYOND RACIAL AND CASTE
> > hope, George Hart, Prof. of Tamil, Berkeley.
> > --

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