To seek knowledge of my culture, immerse yourself in it, the way I do!

Sandeep H sandeeph at INAME.COM
Tue Oct 31 15:59:42 UTC 2000

Some correspondents here fighting Hindutva ghosts do not seem to
realize that Indians' apprehensions and suspicion  of western
Indology stem in part from their collective experience of the
past 100 years; from such havoc as the byproducts of this scholarship
such as Aryan "invasion" have wrought on their society, and are
continuing to do so. Few would unsuspectingly and cheerfully submit
to the claims of the "outsider" of having answers to questions
concerning one's roots and identity, no matter how much "scholarship"
the "outsider" musters to bolster his claims. After all, it
can be argued, not a long while ago theories of aryan "invasion"
were state of the Indological art.

In this context, an excerpt from Prof Arvind Sharma's bio, an URL
to which was posted here, seems quite appropos:

The present self-understanding of each major civilization is based, by and
large, on the work of sch
olars who belonged to these civilizations, but such self-understanding as
the Indic civilization pos
sesses today is the work, to a much larger degree, not of its own scholars
but the result of the wor
k of Western scholars. This fact sets Indic civilization apart from other

If the self-understanding of one civilization is thus mediated through
another tradition, then the q
uestion naturally arises: to what extent does the work of the scholars
belonging to another civiliza
tion correctly reflect the assumptions of the civilization they are writing
about? For instance, non
-Muslims writing about Islam may not accept the Qur'an as the word of God,
which is a foundational I
slamic belief. To the extent they do not do so, their presentation of the
civilization, of which it
is a central text, will reflect their own views about Islamic civilization,
rather than the civiliza
tion's own view about itself. If, therefore, future members of Islamic
civilization relied on the wo
rk of non-Muslims for their own understanding of Islamic civilization,
their self-understanding of t
heir own civilization will have deviated from what it would have been had
it not been mediated in th
is manner.

So a unique question now arises in the case of Indic civilization in a way
it does not arise to that
 extent in the context of other civilizations: to what extent has its
foundational self-understandin
g been affected by the intellectual intervention of another civilization?
If such a civilization wan
ts to form a concept of its true identity, then there is no escaping this

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