politicisation of `indology'

purushottama bilimoria pbilmo at deakin.edu.au
Sat Nov 5 23:54:51 UTC 1994

Like many I too joined the network for scholarly discussions and 
interchange, and I too am concerned about the manner in which highly 
emotional and political issues have intervened and eroded the objective 
pursuit of knowledge and understanding. I see both sides of the fench - 
the staunch supporters of the current re-Hinduisation project (variously 
defending the exclusivity and greatness of Hinduism, slipping into VHP 
rhetoric) and the supposedly detached scholars of SOuth Asia who 
apprently have no vested interest in the matter
; most Western trained south asianists or `indologists` would count 
themselves belonging to the latter camp. Why we have lowered our 
standards and entered into the bun-fight in cyberspace has, I believe, 
something to do with our own characterisation as members of a list called 
`Indology'. What is Indology, one may ask, and is different from 
Orientology, which after Said we grudgingly accept was largely a western 
construct of knowledge about the `other'? Now we have a new epithet by 
which we refer to this trade, namely Orientalism. It may be a bit fra 
stretched, but I already ventured (at the IXth World Sanskrit Conference 
in Melbourne) and suggested that there is much in our `discipline` we 
have inherited from the previousd two centuries we call (or refer to as) 
INDOLOGY which has elemnets of Indologism in it. It is this shadow that 
we have not thrown offin its entirely, and it is this that keeps 
intruding into even our most balanced, reflective and non-personal 
judgments as we unconsciously defer to a great deal of presuppositions 
and cultural discourse that have preceded our own scholarship in areas in 
which we stride to make comments. I am writing on Indologism, its roots 
and impact on a range of issues and treatment,particularly in philosophy 
(which is my speciality) through the overbearing interventions of 
philology. (I have copyrighted the term Indologism.) But this is another 

So Iam not surprised that there are periodic outbursts and tirades 
against the reach of Indology; but it detracts from scholarly discussions 
on lesser and more specific pursuits such as questions of etymology, 
texts on this and that, and general information seeking. So there we are,
some self-reflection on the grander pursuits we may not have even 
intended to flag could well be healthy, and can serve other intelelctual 

Purushottama Bilimoria


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