SV: Vicious Debate

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at BLR.VSNL.NET.IN
Thu Dec 3 09:46:11 UTC 1998

Viciousness and amateurism have already set in again, not surprisingly.
Now I can, and perhaps should, point out some examples to illustrate
what I meant.

Subrahmania wrote:

> It is ok to label people and attribute motives to Indian scholars
> .....but it becomes vicious to oppose existing dogma ?

There we are: two centuries of research is labelled "dogma", and "Indian
scholars" are portrayed as innocent victims of evil Westerners. (Which
"Indian scholars"? Do all Indian scholars toe the indigenous line?)

To explain what is happening, Madhav Deshpande (who, by the way, is a
scholar from India) wrote:

> The "indigenous Aryan" debate has a tendency to get vicious for a very
> simple reason. For people of Indian origin, this issue has close
> connections with their own perceptions of their identity.

This seems a simple and reasonable explanation. But not denying this,
and implicitly affirming it, Subrahmania wrote:

> But,I must say that it is the Europeans who have had more problems
> with perceptions about their identity - especially with their jewish
> heritage and religion.
> Thankfully, more scholars in the U.S are realizing that as well.

Again Subrahmania's ethnic bias shows: "Europeans are worse than
Indians." No proof given. Besides, it is irrelevant sidetracking.

> By focussing and looking at only the Indian people, there is a tendency
> to label and attribute motives. Why isnt anyone looking at the German
> interest in Indian studies ?

And he contradicts himself in one and the same message. Wonderful.

Back to the trash of "German Indology", which we had on the list some
time ago? That is for cheap Anglo-American paperback novels and war
movies, not for an academic list.

There has also been mention on this list of the U.S. scholars who wrote
about "German Indology". Here Subrahmania, with his usual stress on
ethnicity, could have immediately said that those scholars are biassed
because they are Jews; but he did not, for reasons best known to him.

(The majority position among critical European colleagues, by the way,
does seem to be that American-Jewish problems are not so relevant for an
adequate understanding of India, which is what Indology should be about.
And this is most reasonable. Nor does it have anything to do with the
other, good work which those American scholars have done.)

And, by the way, let us be fair: has any other nation done as much for
modern, critical, scientific Indian studies as the Germans have? Perhaps
Mr. Subrahmania does not know; perhaps he does not read German either
and cannot know.

> Why should it be - that it is always the Indian people who should be
> observed and the Europeans the observers ?

Because it is Indology and not Europology. (May we assume that North
Americans and Oceanians are included among the evil 'Europeans'?) And
Indians, Japanese and anyone can and do participate. Sorry, no
colonialistic conspiracy here! Everyone has a right to speak up: and
everybody has a right to criticise, on the basis of relevant material
and relevant argumentation.

Not like Rambabu Yarlagadda, who wrote:

> Is there any real evidence for Aryan invasion other than the theory
> one German scholar who never visited India?
> [...]
> What I mean is there any real evidence like archeological evidence?

This too is vicious (let us note that little word "real"!). Who is the
mythical "one German scholar"? (Max Mueller, perhaps? He gets the blame
for quite a lot these days. In that case, let us look again at
Ambedkar's quote from Mueller, posted on this list on 18 November by
Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan, to rehabilitate him.)

And Subrahmania wrote:

> It is high time that the motives of eurocentric academics be studied and
> commented upon.

This has already been done: hence I referred in my earlier message to E.
Said and his "Orientalism", the falseness of which has been amply
pointed out by several scholars in different forums. Subrahmania is just
not up to date -- and yet this does not deter him from maligning the
professionals. (_Why_ does he keep doing this? Why? What have we done,
besides being non-Indian? Is he suffering from Said's reifying

As for amateurism, Ashish Chandra wrote:

> But I can easily point out to you that Swami Vivekananda himself had
> debunked the Aryan invasion theory. In fact, the Vedas themselves
> mention the word Arya and not Aryan, which means noble, as I am sure
> you know.

(N. Ganesan has already taken care of "Dravid = wealth". Yes,
linguistics does matter.) Vivekananda is _not_ an authority on scholarly
matters concerning history, linguistics, religious studies or whatever.
Professional researchers will not make such a mistake. Just as Biblical
concepts like 'Israel', 'the chosen people' etc. were 'reinterpreted' to
suit non-Jewish Christians, a good deal of what passes as 'Vedic' has
been 'reinterpreted' too by later religious and political leaders.
Perhaps Mr. Chandra was not yet on the list when, already some time ago,
I quoted racist passages from V.'s writings. If one goes through
Vivekananda's writings and does not notice his racism and Hindu
supremacism, one is remarkably insensitive (or reads very selectively.
Modern excerpts from V. as a rule do not contain the uglier passages).

Anyhow, I continue to believe that we do have the humanistic right to
study and learn about fellow human beings in any part of the world along
critical, rational lines, without present-day political activists (and
their forebears) from such parts dictating to us what to believe. And we
*are* free to use useful materials from publications of sincere
researchers of old, irrespective of where they are from, also if the
final conclusions in those old publications prove to be not tenable,
because that is how science progresses.

And now I am going back to serious matters and probably will not return
to this 'debate'. Have a nice day.


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