[INDOLOGY] Indologist at Center of Sexual Harassment Mess at Berkeley

Jonathan Silk kauzeya at gmail.com
Thu Oct 6 03:31:14 EDT 2016


Perhaps a modest suggestion: is there a rationale for this discussion that
helps us, as scholars of Indian studies, understand our field and its
position better? With respect to issues of censorship the answer is
unequivocal: yes, this is a highly relevant issue to the field as a whole.
With regard to the behavior of individual academics, setting aside the
rights and wrongs of allegations (and by this expression I do not intend to
comment, even obliquely, on either colleague who is or was at Berkeley),
does consideration of the case(s) help us understand the situation of the
field? I think that the answer here is that it does not. Yes, as academics
many of whom teach, who intereact with others, over many of whom we may be
in positions of authority, it is essential that we be aware of issues of
abuse of power, but this is as general an issue as almost any other: there
is nothing specific to Indian studies, and therefore, it is reasonable to
conclude that we not discuss this on this particular list.
I think the wording of this particular discussion may have rubbed some
people the wrong way, if it was understood to imply that issues like sexual
harrassment and abuses of power are not important. I, speaking only for
myself, think that they are very important, but also not relevant for this
list. They _type_ of discussion, that is, its subject-matter, seems to me
quite different from that of censorship, which I think is perfectly
legitimately discussed here.
The modest suggestion, then, in the end: I tell my students that they are
free at any point to interrupt me and ask why I am discussing a certain
topic: I consider myself to have gone off track if I cannot clearly explain
to them the coherence of my discussion at any moment with the topic of the
course as a whole. Perhaps we could try to apply that reasoning here, and
think to ourselves whether the topic in question applies relevantly _to the
field of Indian studies_?
just an idea...
Jonathan

On Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 9:05 AM, James Stewart <james.stewart at lankamail.com>
wrote:

> Dear Walter,
>
> While I appreciate your point I should draw your attention to the fact
> that there have been vigorous discussions about censorship in India, a
> matter that pertains to contemporary Indology but is not explicit concerned
> with the "history and culture of ancient and classical India." I don't
> recall members being quick to shut down that discussion.
>
> Regards
>
> James
>
> Sent from my iPhone
>
> On 6 Oct 2016, at 5:19 PM, Walter Slaje <slaje at kabelmail.de> wrote:
>
> Might I draw the gentle readership’s attention to the purpose of this list
> as published on their guidelines page (http://listinfo.indology.info/):
>
>
>
> INDOLOGY forum for Classical South Asian studies:
>
> INDOLOGY is an internet discussion group whose primary purpose is to
> provide a *forum* for discussion *among professional scholars of
> classical Indian* (South Asian) *civilization*. *The central focus of the
> list is the history and culture of ancient and classical India* [...]
>
>
>
> It is clear from this statement – but also from the general practice
> followed so far by its members – that the list is to focus on research
> pertaining to „ancient and classical India“  – but not to pursuing the
> immoral conduct of selected American South Asianists. To this day it has
> served the purely scholarly purpose very well indeed.
>
>
>
> I am concerned that the shift now introduced towards naming and shaming is
> not only a violation of the guidelines above, but will undermine the
> reputation of the list and make scholars, who feel disgusted by public
> pillorying, turn away from it. After all, it is for the courts to assess,
> for the media to publicize, and for the tabloids to expose.
>
> I can see no scholarship in any of it which would befit this list.
>
>
>
> It is certainly legitimate to take an interest in the morals of South
> Asian scholars. Whoever does so and considers the issue important enough
> might perhaps want to establish something like The American South Asianists
> Immorality Discussion Forum. I really don’t think we should subscribe to
> such news feed here on this list.
>
>
>
> Regards,
>
> WS
> ​​
>
> 2016-10-05 20:56 GMT+02:00 Antonia Ruppel <rhododaktylos at gmail.com>:
>
>> Dear Audrey,
>>
>> Many thanks for the links and the excellent overview. You're absolutely
>> right that we need to be aware of what is going on. Whenever something like
>> this comes to light about someone who is a colleague or perhaps even a
>> friend, it is shocking and uncomfortable. Still, the more information we
>> have, the better we are able to find the right side to be on here. (And
>> yes, I think that unfortunately there are sides here, and many of us close
>> enough to the situation need to choose one.)
>>
>> All best,
>>      Antonia
>>
>> On 29 September 2016 at 16:52, Audrey Truschke <audrey.truschke at gmail.com
>> > wrote:
>>
>>> Dear Colleagues,
>>>
>>> List members may be interested in an ongoing sexual harassment scandal
>>> at UC Berkeley involving an Indologist, Blake Wentworth.
>>>
>>> Wentworth, who works on classical Tamil literature, was found guilty of
>>> sexual harassment and misconduct last year by the university, and three of
>>> his victims came forward with details of the case (here
>>> <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/10/uc-berkeley-students-professor-sexual-harassment-complaint>
>>> and here
>>> <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/may/27/uc-berkeley-sexual-harassment-scandal-blake-wentworth>)
>>> after being frustrated with delays in firing Wentworth.
>>>
>>> Now Wentworth is trying to silence the women he harassed with a
>>> defamation lawsuit (here
>>> <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/29/uc-berkeley-sexual-harassment-blake-wentworth-sues-victims>
>>> ).
>>>
>>> As many of you know, sexual harassment is an ongoing issue in many
>>> disciplines, and our corner of the academy, it seems, is no exception.
>>>
>>> Audrey Truschke
>>> Assistant Professor
>>> Department of History
>>> Rutgers University-Newark
>>>
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>>>
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> Antonia Ruppel
>> Richmond (UK)
>>
>> Out soon: The Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit
>> http://www.cambridge.org/ir/academic/subjects/religion/buddh
>> ism-and-eastern-religions/cambridge-introduction-sanskrit
>>
>>
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>>
>
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-- 
J. Silk
Leiden University
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, LIAS
Matthias de Vrieshof 3, Room 0.05b
2311 BZ Leiden
The Netherlands

copies of my publications may be found at
http://www.buddhismandsocialjustice.com/silk_publications.html
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