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Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Sun Dec 1 16:47:03 UTC 1996

Adi Hastings wrote:

>> It seems to me that the basic problem is that the agencies that fund
>> universitities these days are less and less interested in intellectual
>> matters and more and more interested in pragmatic concerns. Sinology is
>> being funded because China is economically and politically important, not
>> because the funders think that China is such an interesting place. In a
>Actually, at least in the U.S., "pragmatic" concerns were a main reason
>for the development of area studies programs--essentially products of the
>cold-war. Area studies got a big boost from WW II and its aftermath, when
>the U.S. government put a lot of money into funding programs teaching
>about various areas of "vital national interest" (e.g., Eastern European
>and Soviet studies, South Asian studies, East Asian studies, etc.), and
>this included linguistic training, of course. In the academic geography of
>the U.S., various "centers" stand out as being particularly important for
>this-or-that areal program (for South Asia, e.g., Chicago, Berkeley, and
>others). Funding, especially governmental funding, is _never_ for purely
>"intellectual" concerns.

Thank you for confirming my suspicion. I knew that this kind of attitude
went back a few years, but not to that extent. It seems that we have been
moving away from Humboldt's ideas about what university studies are about
(thinking for the sake of thinking, not for practical objectives) for a more
extended period of time than I was aware of. (Not that I have anything
against practical objectives as such, as long as they leave room for other
concerns as well). But in Europe, at least, I had the feeling that the
pursuit of knowledge used to be funded at least partly because it was seen
as a good thing in itself. This is the motivation that now seems to be
disappearing even here. Hard-nosed economics are getting into the way
universities are run and students "produced", and this is no advantage to
academic subjects that are not perceived as bringing many results that are
economically or politically "relevant" - at least in the eyes of the
funders. It therefore seems that academics who want to uphold traditional
academic values are caught between a rock and a hard place, and they are in
need of a strategy. They are, metaphorically speaking, faced with a snarling
dog, and to defend what is dear to them, they will have to throw the dog a
bone. In my opinion, finding such a bone and convincing the funders to
accept it (the trade-off being at least the partial preservation of
traditional academic values) is of the utmost importance to Indology.
Without the bone, there is a good chance that they will be going for our
throats before we know it. It is already happening in some places, if I
remember some of the previous messages correctly.

The alternative - and in ideal terms the best one - would be to convince
them to return to the old ideas about the inherent value of knowldege for
the sake of knowledge. Given the perpetual funding crises at a large number
of universities and the instrumentalisation of knowledge that has occurred
in Western culture after the second world war, I think, however, that
chances are slight that such a strategy would succeed.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

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