Neo-Orientalism (Was Re: RAJARAM EPISODE)

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Wed Oct 4 08:39:13 UTC 2000

--- Robert Zydenbos <zydenbos at GMX.LI> wrote:
> Neither should any community be
> arbitrarily
> ascribed to me (whose relatives are from nine
> countries and adhere
> to various religions)

Is this what you declare at the Immigration counter
when you go to India?  :-)

My own intention was however not to arbitrarily
ascribe a community to you but to pose a scenario to
you.  You wanted the temples of the Jainas and
Bauddhas restored to them, I urged you to be fair to
the Celts :-)

You wrote on Wed, 27 Sep 2000 17:42:56 +0200:

> Typically the talk of a mathematician: 'let x be
>  parallel to y,...' But who says that x and y are
> parallel in the first place?

I notice that somebody did object to this arbitrary

You wrote on Thu, 28 Sep 2000 15:08:13 +0200
> Perhaps it indeed is asking too much, :-))) after
> the performances of 'scientists' on this list from
> time to time. Let me assure you that
> I have nothing against mathematicians per se;

One more of those ascriptions!

You wrote in reply to Chandran on Mon, 2 Oct 2000
10:59:38 +0200
> I do not know your qualifications
> for participating in discussions here, but your
> writing suggests that you are not in touch with
> current research, nor with methods of scholarly
> enquiry.

No doubt a scholarly warning but I'd like to draw RZ's
attention to one of his posts dated Wed, 30 Aug 2000
21:55:53 +0200 in the thread History of Mughalstan, a
thread incidentally started by a habitual

> This is more of the same, viz. another faulty
> comparison, this one popularised by Vivekananda, who

> has done a lot to propagate the myth of 'spiritual
> India' vis-a-vis the 'materialist West', where such
> a contrast does not really exist; but the myth has a
> certain political use

Vivekananda (born January 12, 1863), RZ's pet peeve,
yields precedence to popular novelists like Wilkie
Collins in their formulations of Hindu spirituality.
Consider, for example, the Prologue to his Moonstone
(published 1868), held to be the first suspense novel
in English:

The contrast between the spirituality of Brahmins, the
'rapacity of the conquering Mohammedans' and last but
not the least (the background to the story), the
plundering, pillaging English is quite clear from this

Wilkie Collins was a friend of Charles Dickens and, in
his own lifetime, was arguably more popular even than

You might also want to read the novel 'Kim' by Rudyard
Kipling (published 1901?) for his detailed remarks on
oriental spirituality. Or some of his poems, The Road
to Mandalay for the contrast between East and West.
This is just a sample.

Evidently RZ's bookshelf does not run to Victorian era
productions. I daresay even Indological scholars need
to do background reading before they 'establish their
qualifications' (RZ's words) to participate in
discussions on  meta-Indological issues.

But as for name calling ?!

> I am grateful for the two abovementioned
> demonstrations of the
> communalistic mentality. They should give the
> readers on this list
> something to think about.

Your gratitude does you credit but are you on a soap
box here? Anyway this sloganeering just reminds me of
an Intifada time cartoon in which a Nazi urges a
Palestinian stone thrower not to be beastly to the
Israelis since the Jews suffered so much during World
War II.

If, according to you,  one individual seemed to speak
for all Hindus, you do seem to discourse like you have
cornered the market on humanism, pacifism as well as
liberalism and all the other desirable qualities that
give a warm and fuzzy feeling to an Indological
do-gooder, figuratively speaking :-). In other words,
you seem to speak for all 'western scholars' whatever
that stands for :-)

> The first thought that should arise is that any
> decent, rational
> discussion between persons becomes impossible if the
> communalistic mentality is at work. *This* is the
> issue under
> discussion here;

While on this soapbox, are you formulating an "Us"
(internationalists) and "Them" (nationalists, called
communalists by you) position here?

In one of your posts (already cited above) for
example, on : Wed, 30 Aug 2000 21:55:53 +0200, you

> India should be compared not with any single
> European country, but with Europe as a whole. (I
> have in fact been arguing this, also in print,
> for at least eleven years.)

I guess eleven long years of thoughts which
must be understood as a form of ill-conceived
neo-Orientalism since it only serves the interest of
the emerging post Cold War Colonialist force viz.,
globalization. Perhaps we should call it ideological
globalization. Consider Said paraphrasing Mayoshi et
al "There has emerged a new transnational order in
which states no longer have borders, labor and income
are subject only to global managers, and colonialism
has reappeared in the subservience of the South to the
North". (E. Said, Orientalism, Vintage Books, New
York, 1979, p. 349)

My primary objection to your neo-Orientalist discourse
as well as to that of others who are mired in obsolete
Orientalist perceptions of Hindutva e.g., the yugAnta
thesis, is that it lacks sympathy for the peoples it
purports to study. The yugAnta type formulation is
clearly retrograde and is certainly reminiscent of
Paul Johnson. "In the April 18, 1993 issue of the New
York Times Magazine, by no means a marginal
publication, Johnson published an essay entitled
"Colonialism's Back - And Not a Moment Too Soon,"
whose main idea was that "the civilized nations" ought
to take it upon themselves to re-colonize Third World
countires "where the most basic conditions of
civilized life had broken down," " etc etc . (ibid.,
p. 347-48)

 While clearly serving the purpose of internationalism
(and consequently a devious sub-nationalism), RZ et al
mode of discourse does not have the theoretical
apparatus to deal with or otherwise take a scholarly
view of multi-cultural nationalism. That is why you
can engage only circus clowns like Rajaram but not
their Indian opponents.

I'm afraid a spade has been called a bloody shovel
because many of the scholars (incl RZ) seem to be way
out of their areas of specialization, way out of their
depth in a subject of considerable complexity and
stuck in a state of ideological constipation. They are
therefore reduced to name calling. Maybe name calling
is the appropriate strategy to deal with Rajaram-ites
but there are others too on this list.

Needless to say, this is quite outside of any
discussion of the  Rajaram episode and concerns only
RZ's mode of discourse. We need hardly discuss Rajaram
in  this thread because it doesn't take much to hit a
sixer off a full toss, even people who hadn't heard of
Vedic orality until recently seem to be doing such a
good job of it :-).

Thanks and Warm Regards,


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