Regarding indology

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Mon Oct 23 14:38:45 UTC 2000

On Mon, 23 Oct 2000, nanda chandran wrote:

> Exactly who's an Indologist?

I've characterised the indologists in the "scope" document for this list,
in the following terms:

As a rough guide to subject content, if you enjoy receiving journals like
the JAOS, JRAS, BSOAS, IIJ, etc., then INDOLOGY is for you! If you don't
recognize these acronyms, think twice before joining. The forum is
targetted at professional participants in Indological studies, and is not
primarily a forum for discussions with undergraduates or scholars from
other fields who have an amateur interest in Indian history and culture.
For example, if you do not recognise any of the above acronyms, or never
read any of these journals, or if you never attend academic conferences in
some aspect of INDOLOGY, then perhaps another forum would be more
appropriate for you, since you will not be on the same wavelength as the
other members.

In a rather Buddhist manner, I think, I've tried to characterise
indologists by what they habitually do, not by what they are,  or what
formal qualifications they have.

> Do mere college degrees or years of study on the subject sufficient
> for one to earn this title?

More or less, yes.

> So let's not merely take refuge in degrees and papers published,
> but rather on the strength of the arguments posed.

It is impossible to know the "strength of an argument" unless you have a
thorough grounding in the field.

> And let's also not forget the "native factor" in this whole
> thing. An Indian born and raised in the culture in India,
> naturally develops certain knowledge/instinct for the culture
> and ideals of his people.

This "certain knowledge/instinct" can be profoundly misleading too, of
course.  Having grown up in a culture is absolutely not the same as having
an analytical knowledge of that culture.  That's why some Hindu students
fail courses in Hinduism (yes, it happens!).

> So an Indian, though he might not be academically trained, still
> can grasp the meaning of texts with more intuition and meaning
> than a foreign Indologist -

I'm afraid your argument is based on a grossly oversimplified fantasy of
the foreign indologist.  Almost all the people I know who study classical
India professionally (Indian and non-Indian) have complex, multi-racial,
multi-cultural backgrounds, have lived in many countries, including India,
and speak several languages.  The ability of an indological scholar to
enter empathetically into an understanding of Indian culture depends on a
number of factors, including how self-reflective the scholar is, how good
a writer, how well-educated, how interested, and so on.  This applies
regardless of birthplace, caste, or gender.  You can't essentialize
scholars on the basis of geographical origins in any simple or even
worthwhile manner.

Dominik Wujastyk
Founder, INDOLOGY list.

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