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

gruenendahl gruenen at MAIL.SUB.UNI-GOETTINGEN.DE
Tue Jan 9 10:42:48 UTC 2007

(I appologize for falling behind with replies, and sincerely hope that this debate does 
not distract attention from more important issues, as Jan Houben implies [see 
below]. But then, I cannot recall that anyone ever objected against maintaining 
several threads at the same time, and it is the decision of individual members 
whether they join or ignore this discussion.)

Anyway, here is my reply to Jan Houben's contribution dated Fri, 5 Jan 2007 
10:13:01, some aspects of which have already been taken up in Roland Steiner's 

Jan Houben wrote:

> I still insist you first have a look at the
> articles (...). I am very happy
> with my 1995 conference report (...) but it
> is a conference report and not a research paper.

I cannot see where I gave Jan Houben reason to accuse me of having mistaken his 
remarks for "research" or anything of the kind, considering that I made it a point to 
show that they are entirely unfounded. And yes, I shall examine his articles, as he 
insists, but separately, provided this discussion is not shut down.

> By the way, did you notice that it has become
> quite silent on the list since you tried to open
> the discussion on the "Indology and the
> disastrous ideology of pure Aryan race" topic (on
> which see also Halbfass 1988: 139-140)?

(Cf. my introductory remark.) When I decoupled the said issue from the thread 
"Making the Argument for Sanskrit", to which Jan Houben had introduced it of his 
own accord, I only did as he had proposed, it will be remembered.
My reasoning may again be "marred by distortive readings" when I assume Jan 
Houben refers to "Halbfass 1988:139-140" because that's where he has found 
evidence for a connection between indology and "the disastrous ideology of the 
'pure Aryan race'".

This is a typical example of the kind of discourse strategies I have made it my 
pastime to examine, simply by following up the references provided by the author in 
question. I have stuck to this approach throughout the article in which Jan Houben's 
report is treated, and shall do so in the book to follow - which gives Jan the 
opportunity to come forward with a preview of my book, should he lack the patience 
to wait for the occasion to write his review.

Now, the passage Jan Houben refers to is from a chapter in which Halbfass deals 
with "Developments Following Hegel & Schopenhauer", both of whom can hardly 
pass off as indologists. In fact, Halbfass does not deal with indology at all on these 
pages, but with "the Aryan myth and speculative ideas about India", and the 
protagonists he mentions in this context are (in order of appearance):
Gobineau, E. de Michelis, G. Lanz-Liebenfels and his "Ariosophic" movement 
(whose "Ostara" journal was read by Hitler), A. Schuler, G. von List, Mathilde 
Ludendorff and the "Ludendorff movement" (fought in a seven-years legal battle by 
Johannes Hertel; just the same, he features in Pollock's illusory "NS indology"), 
Alfred Rosenberg (NS ideologist and author of "Der Mythus des Zwanzigsten 
Jahrhunderts"), H. Blavatsky and H.S. Olcott, founders of the Theosophical Society 
(basic information on the key figures is easily available on the web).

Within the confines of two pages, Halbfass's survey cannot go far beyond naming 
these protagonists. (Some of them are also treated in my article.) What is important 
here: Halbfass does by no means suggest that any of these figures should be 
regarded as indologists, nor does he propose a direct connection between their 
"speculative ideas" and indological research.

So will anyone be so kind as to enlighten me how Halbfass's survey can serve as 
evidence of a connection between indology and "the disastrous ideology of the 'pure 
Aryan race'", as Houben insinuates?

If this approach can be discarded as a "construct" with such ease as displayed by 
Jan Houben (Fri, 5 Jan 2007 03:19:49), I have little hope that the former standards 
of academic debate can survive the constant doses of ignorance and charlatanry 
dispensed to them in postmodern / postorientalist / postcolonial (you name it) 
discourse for much longer. Let me give a brief example (which cannot be unfolded 
here in all its complexity): Pollock corroborates his musings on the would-be 
problematic side of indology with the following quote from "the proto-fascist Houston 
Stuart Chamberlain" (whom no one will seriously consider an indologist, I hope):  

"Indology must help us to fix our sights more clearly on the goals of our culture (...)" 
(quot. Pollock 1993:86; no reference provided). 

However, Chamberlain's exercise in opacity actually reads (1905:25):
"(...) der Indoarier muß uns helfen, die Ziele unserer Kultur deutlicher ins Auge zu 

I leave it to the discretion of the reader whether this switch from "the Indo-Aryan" to 
"Indology" at the beginning of Pollock's "quote" should be attributed to ignorance, 
charlatanry or whatever, but I, for one, cannot see anything "healthy" in this, as Jan 
Houben has argued.

That said, I admire Jan Houben all the more for his proposition to "look 
courageously at the (...) past , without trying to escape or evade it in a cowardish 
and hypocrit way" (Thu, 4 Jan 2007 00:36:00), especially when this includes the 
more immediate past and the present, so far as they are eclipsed by 
postorientalism, postcolonialism etc. But of course, in these spheres courage has to 
be weighed against considerations of professional standing, career prospects and 
personal acquaintance (some other aspect of detached scholarship). Nevertheless, 
remaining silent in public may be taken as tacit endorsement, and can come down 
to hypocrisy when coupled with lobbying behind the scenes.

(More to follow, if it doesn't "bore to death our fellow indology lovers", as Jan 
Houben fears.)

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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