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Peter J. Claus pclaus at
Sat Nov 30 17:00:15 UTC 1996

Date: November 30, 1996 
Indology List
indology at
Dear Members,
I no longer remember what started the original thread
on Hindi vs. the other languages of India, but it seems
to me it had something to do with declining academic
support for the study of India.  If that is true, it
also seems to me much of the discussion is not only self-
defeating, but misses the point.  As someone long back
mentioned, language teaching at universities is
primarily meant to enable budding scholars to carry out
research in specific regions, not to facilitate visits
to India by tourists or the scholar as s/he may travel
around India for various personal reasons.  If that is the
case, population statistics and the quality of
communication outside the region in which one works is
not particularly relevant.  

Most researchers (anthropologists, political
scientists, historians, etc.) rely on their
universities to provide them with the language skills
necessary to carry out their work. If they have already
chosen a region then they have to seek a university
which offers the languages of that region, sometimes at
the expense of studying under the most appropriate
guide within their discipline. Most, however, choose
their university according to their disciplinary
interests and secondarily their region of research.
What seems more to the point of some of the discussion, is that there is
an unfortunate imbalance developing in our knowledge of Indian tradition,
with an excessive concentration on a few areas (Hindi, Tamil, Bengali
speaking regions) largely, I think, because those are the languages which
aretaught most widely.  Some regions -- Andhra Pradesh,
Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc. -- have been
sorely neglected despite their acknowledged importance
to Indology (broadly defined).  Western nations have
not gone about the teaching of modern Indian languages
in a academically rational way.
Departments of South Asia, it seems to me, would do
well to assess the needs of the faculty of other
disciplines who specialize in India before they make
their choices in hiring language teachers, and language
teachers would do well to acquire at least basic skills
in SEVERAl related languages so that they may offer
broader service to graduate students in academic
disciplines other than literature.  
Renewed efforts will have to be made toward convincing
various agencies of the need to understand India as a
whole, and to point out the problems resulting in the
severe unevenness of our understanding of it.  It is
precisely these regions which are most vulnerable to
absorption into both a constructed national identity
and the global spread of Western culture.  Time is
truly running out for us.  It seems grievously silly of
us on an academic LIST to be arguing about these
matters on the basis of how well we can travel around
India as if we were only tourists. 
Peter J. Claus                        
fax: (510) 704-9636
pclaus at

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