Indology and "the disastrous ideology of the 'pure Aryan race'"

gruenendahl gruenen at MAIL.SUB.UNI-GOETTINGEN.DE
Mon Jan 8 11:43:48 UTC 2007

Respected contributors to this discussion,

Let me first thank you for your contributions, to which I shall reply shortly in a 
separate message (provided that privilege will be granted to me).

Here I'd like to make a statement of intent to counter possible misconceptions. As 
the subject heading indicates, the issue I proposed to discuss is:
Indology and "the disastrous ideology of the 'pure Aryan race'".

A few facts first, tiresome though this may be:

1) The quote in the subject heading is from Jan Houben's report on the proceedings 
of the indological section of the Leipzig congress of German orientalists in 1995.

2) The paragraph from which this quote was taken is headed "Vergangenheit 

3) The term "Vergangenheitsbewältigung" was specially coined, and is exclusively 
reserved, for efforts of post-1945 German society to come to terms with the crimes 
committed under the National Socialist regime 1933-1945 ("to come to terms with" 
being my provisional translation of "bewältigen") .

Now, if Jan Houben uses this term in connection with what he calls "German 
indology", it comes as a natural conclusion that "German indology" must have been 
invlolved in these crimes in one way or another - otherwise there would be no need 
for "Vergangenheitsbewältigung".

Next, Jan Houben's report gives an unmistakable hint as to the possible connection 
between "German indology" and those crimes, viz., "the disastrous  ideology of the 
'pure Aryan race'".

In this context Houben explicitly refers to Sheldon Pollock's "Deep Orientalism? ...", 
where it is maintained that "German Indologists qua Indologists, by means of their 
specific epistemological tools and sense of scholarly purpose as Indologists, helped 
to effect the "fascisization" of Germany Indologically" (Pollock 1993:88).

What Pollock conceives as the major contribution to that effect is stated in no 
uncertain terms:
"In German Indology of the NS era, a largely nonscholarly mystical nativism 
deriving ultimately from a mixture of romanticism and protonationalism merged with 
that objectivism of Wissenschaft earlier described, and together they fostered the 
ultimate "orientalist" project, the legitimation of genocide" (Pollock 1993:96).
And for this purpose, Pollock claims, "German indology" helped to fabricate "the 
antithesis and finally essentialized dichotomy between 'Indo-German' and 'Semite'" 
(Pollock 1993:82).

I hope not to overstretch my argument, or to offend Jan Houben's strict academic 
criteria, when I say that his stance on the role of indology in "the disastrous ideology 
of the 'pure Aryan race'" is very much the same article, only repackaged with a 
decorative "Aryan" label.

What I have done so far in this discussion, and what I'm doing in the book Jan 
Houben is waiting to review, is to assess the evidence advanced in support of these 

In principal, I see no reason why the assessment of his 1995 report should include 
his 1997 article and other material he introduces post festum. Frankly, his demand 
reminds me of another post-orientalist all-purpose stance, viz., "The line of 
argument in Said's 'Orientalism' (or you name it ...) may be defective, but so much 
progress has been made since then!", implying that it's perfectly acceptable to throw 
into the air whatever crosses your mind and then wait  what happens. 
Notwithstanding, I shall take account of all evidence Jan Houben adduces there in 
support of his 1995 claim of a connection between indology and "the disastrous 
ideology of the 'pure Aryan race'". But that will have to be done in a separate 
message (provided that I'm still granted the right to reply).

Again, all I have asked of Jan Houben is to provide evidence for the insinuated 
connection. My question does not imply a statement on "German indology" beyond  
expressing my reservation towards Jan Houben's way of 'theorizing' it. 

But as you will know by now, I have indeed made a statement on the validity of Jan 
Houben's theory in my recent contribution to the Festschrift Gustav Roth (2006). My 
statement is a negative one, and I arrived at it after examining all the evidence he 
provides there. Now, if Jan Houben sticks to his theory after he has read my article - 
both of which is evident -, I may be forgiven for having asked what evidence he has 
for maintaing it.

Another question would be how he intends to refute my objections to his theory, but 
I did not mean to raise a detailed discussion of my article here and now, considering 
that many of you do not know it. And I think if we want to continue this discussion in 
a useful manner, we should confine it to what we know! Here and the for the time 
being. the only thing I assume is a knowledge of Jan Houben's report, which can 
easily be acquired thanks to the online version.

Not so Houben, who now draws my article into the debate, knowing full well that 
most members of this list have probably not read it. Just the same, he insinuates 
beforehand that it is aimed at "liberating each and every German indologist of the 
1900-1945 period from any possible association with the German government and 
its disastrous ideology of the pure Aryan race". It is the nature of such accusations 
that the accused cannot reply to them in a useful way. So this point will have to be 
left to the discretion of those who read my article. But allow me to say this much: 
The point I really am trying to make is that I find the evidence - so far as any is 
provided in Houben's report, or in Pollock's article - inconclusive! 

The only hint at evidence that I can detect in Houben's report is his reference to the 
ZDMG (which Houben now tries to interpret differently). Consequently, that is what I 
have taken as the basis of my assessment, the result of which was that the ZDMG 
yields virtually nothing that could support Houben's case. All Houben or other 
members of this list would have to do in order to refute this part of my argument is 
to quote evidence from the ZDMG that proves me wrong. This doesn't even require 
knowledge of my article beyond what is said here, only of the indological articles 
published in the ZDMG between, say, 1939 and 1945.

EVIDENCE is the keyword here. A statement that cannot be supported by evidence 
may be taken as an opinion, a belief, an emotion, in short, anything but a verifiable 
argument. If anyone has opinions, beliefs or emotions about "German indology" and 
feel this is the place to air them, I shall be the last person to object. As for me, they 
are perfectly entitled to any opinion, belief or emotion towards "German indology" 
they can conceive of, or have others conceive for them - as long as they don't 
expect me to take them for something else like, say, detached scholarship.

Reinhold Grünendahl


Dr. Reinhold Gruenendahl
Niedersaechsische Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek
Fachreferat sued- und suedostasiatische Philologien
(Dept. of Indology)

37070 Goettingen, Germany
Tel (+49) (0)5 51 / 39 52 83
Fax (+49) (0)5 51 / 39 23 61
gruenen at

In English:

GRETIL - Goettingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages

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