Making the Argument for Sanskrit : a Real Problem and Directions for a Solution

Antonio Ferreira-Jardim antonio.jardim at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 5 02:46:14 UTC 2007

With regard to some comments,

Perhaps Professor Witzel and I disagree about the effectiveness of
letter-writing campaigns by academics generally. That said, I have
personally written a short note myself in solidarity to the relevant
State and Federal Education Ministers as well as the German equivalent
of the Berlin University Vice-Chancellor. Others should do so as well.

My essential point however remains. We should perhaps begin to frame
our arguments in different ways and not rely on letters from
international scholars to persuade the bean-counters in various
University administrations. Without a realisation of the growing
commercialisation of Higher Education around the world, Indologists
risk being swept away in its wake. Professor Witzel does raise an
excellent point about the international sanskrit association however.
Surely it is within the aims and objectives of this association to
take an activist role in challenges such as this? Would it be
appropriate for someone to update this list on the Association's
response to the Berlin situation?

Professor Kirk I am very aware of the ongoing battle in the US with
the forces of Hindutva revisionism. It goes without saying that
academic researchers should never accept funding by those who wish to
tie funding to ideological and revisionist outcomes.

At this stage though, as far as I am aware, the US situation seems to
be relatively contained therein. In Australia and the rest of Europe
(to my knowledge) we don't have elected school boards or an elected
judiciary so there is far less scope for the kind of tactics that the
saffron forces have used in the US.

In a peculiar way though, perhaps the California case will inspire
more people to learn sanskrit as its ongoing relevance in even modern
political debate becomes more obvious!

Kind regards,

Antonio Ferreira-Jardim

On 1/5/07, Michael Witzel <witzel at> wrote:
> I welcome the useful discussion initiated by Dominik. However, I cannot
> refrain from some comment and even some nindaa. It has been suggested:
> > >> I would really favour moving away from the hackneyed and
> > often ineffective route of letter-writing to senior University
> > bureaucrats <<
> FYI :  Letter writing (to the state minister in question) has
> * saved the both the Institutes at Bonn and Cologne in the early
> Nineties  (the state of Northrhine-Westfalia, wanted to combine them).
> This before internet and email.
> * saved the Cologne institute just a few years ago.
> It has *not* worked for Muenster, and we learned about Bochum too late.
> (NB: all 4 universities are in the same rust belt state!).
> The same applies to  Cambridge: we heard about it too late.
> To repeat myself, a clearing house and concerted action, e.g., by the
> Skt. Association, is required.
> If I count correctly, out of the 18 participants in this conversation
> only 5 have actually taken action and written to the Berlin authorities.
> Looking at all the energy being spent here, why can't the other 13
> colleagues spend 2 minutes and write 4-5 lines to :
> berlinindology at
> (or if you prefer, ask me for pertinent email addresses of the various
> authorities involved, and then write to them individually).
> This stance is typical of many lists: talk, no action.
> I remind members of the meta-discussion about the CA schoolbook matter
> on the RISA (Religion in S. Asia) list: again talk, no action, and only
> when the initial damage had been done. (One RISA member even was well
> informed before this happened but intentionally did not take any
> action...) Of course, taking action brings about  its own (personal)
> risks. NOT in the current Berlin case though.
> (Sure, all other points, such as local communities, local politics,
> modern languages,  etc. granted.)
> Cheers,
> Michael
> >
> Michael Witzel
> Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
> 1 Bow Street , 3rd floor, Cambridge MA 02138
> 1-617-495 3295           Fax: 496 8571
> direct line:       496 2990
> <>
> <>
> <>
> <>

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