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

Jan E.M. Houben j_e_m_houben at YAHOO.COM
Fri Jan 12 02:03:54 UTC 2007

Good morning dear Reinhold and other list members still interested in this thread,
  Since uncertainties and doubts have arisen and are persisting regarding my conference report of the Deutsche Orientalisten Tag 1995 in Leipzig I propose that I give here my final and authoritative exegetical remarks on points which -- strangely enough, but anyway -- have turned out to be problematic. Why is this exegesis final and authoritative? 
  (1) I am the author of the report, so it is to be assumed that I knew what I wanted to say unless there are reasons to believe otherwise. 
  (2) The sense I attribute to the sentences emerges from them straightforwardly and effortlessly. 
  (3) The interpretation is in accordance with my earlier email message to you which, dear Reinhold, I sent to you on 16 June 2004 (!), and which I paste below for the refreshment of your memory. 
  (4) The interpretation is also in full accordance with publications of mine which appeared after the conference report. Although I referred to these articles as important for my view you have neglected them ever since, going even to the extent of publishing an immature pamphlet in which you spent 12 out of 28 pages on a detailed view which you attribute to me solely on the basis of a distorted reading of the mentioned conference report without seeking interpretational help from these later publications. 
  Regarding the nature of the current list-discussion headed by a phrase quoted from my 1995 report, I agree that if you read any other statement of mine that can upset YOUR construction of MY view as 100 percent identical with another view under discussion in your pamphlet this might undermine this pamphlet so it was for you strategically required, counter to generally accepted scholarly method, to postpone reading them for two years and playing now innocence as if it is only now that I have drawn your attention to them: your pamphlet otherwise explodes like a budbuda. The message pasted below exposes the inadaquacy of your method. This also explains your hurry with the present discussion offending scholars who give their sincere observations and remarks. 
  Well then, over to my authoritative exegetical remarks. 
  Vergangenheit - Bewaltigung (I guess that Bewa"ltigung would have been more correct but here in Trivandrum I don't have a German dictionary at hand to check this)
  In your dealing with my conference report you felt hurt by "Vergangenheit - Bew"altigung" as you apparently felt it as a suggestion (I suppose) that German indologists of that time have committed crimes with which current German indologists would have to come to terms, or perhaps you are afraid that I am arguing that the current generation of German indologists has to be punished for the misdeeds of German indologists of the previous generation. The formulation Vergangenheit - Bewaltigung is in any case quite clearly distinct from Vergangenheitsbew"altigung which has a restricted meaning, so there is no reason to take Vergangenheit - Bewaltigung in the restricted sense of Vergangenheitsbew"altigung. The immediately next sentence in the 1995 report confirms this, as it says that : 
  "To the extent that indology in general owes a great debt to the contributions of German indology, it also has to come to terms with some of the more problematic aspects of the history of the latter." We see here indeed the expression "to come to terms with"  and "it"  clearly refers here to indology in general; in view of recent misunderstandings I may add that the indologies of other countries (usually strongly interrelated) have their own problematic histories. It is not likely that at the time of writing the report I was thinking of a necessity to accuse and punish German indologists, because very soon after the conference report I gave a quite different suggestion of how we should try to get to terms with a problematic past: we should try to find deeper and more convincing explanations of phenomena which have been conveniently explained by racist theories.  
  "Essential reading for a well-informed discussion", shows an orientation towards facts, and a readiness to open up for discussion any theory and interpretation ; "Essential reading for a well-informed discussion" does not point to a desire to propose and defend a theorie, and definitely not one that is identical with the one propounded in a publication to which I refer as a provocative article. 
  Coming to the items which I mention for inclusion in a list "essential reading" there is the now controversial reference to certain issues of the ZDMG. 
    As I mentioned in that message 16 June 2004 (see below), though somewhat hesitatingly because it was at that moment not fresh in my memory, there are notices of W"ust in the mentioned ZDMG issues, references to his organisational DMG activities explicitly in connection with the then current political situation, there are articles of Frauwallner (exercise for students and interested readers: try to find them, it is quite easy). All these fully justify the statements in the terms in which they were made in the conference report (provided they are not distortively reformulated). There is much more in these ZDMG issues, much that is very valuable, much good and solid philological work. But two persons we have, these are "some indologists at least" and they kept positive relations with the then German government which itself adhered to an ideology of the pure Aryan race. Obviously, I never suggested that the scholarly articles in issues in ZDMG would be fully or largely
 devoted to expounding, discussing or promoting Nazi-ideology, but those who explicitly keep positive relations with the then German government are automatically keeping sufficiently positive relations with the government's ideology of the pure Aryan race which turned out to be disastrous (that this ideology was never static and homogeneous is a different matter). 

  The 16 June message and the present authoritative exegesis of the 1995 conference report prove me right in front of the nice quote from Max M"uller, but you don't have to shower your felicitations and flowers on me, nor do I expect any cows with gilded horns, I am happy with the confirmation from my own conscience. 
  iti siddham
  I am sorry, dear Reinhold, that you have forced me to prove myself right and you wrong publicly. 
  avadhiirita-suh.rd-vaakya-phalam etat.
  But perhaps this experience will help you avoid some beginners' mistakes when working on your book, beginners' mistakes such as attributing a detailed view to a person (whether a colleague or Bhartrhari or Dignaaga) without first carefully consulting all available statements of that person. 
  Further doubts on the 1995 conference report can be addressed to me off-list, I will, moreover, keep a more elaborate exegesis ready in the near future (it will be available on demand), and post an update to my list of items that may be considered essential reading on our topic. 
  -- When? When? I don't wan't to be taken on a cook's ride! --
  On 5 May 2007 (that gives you enough time to read some articles), not one day earlier, nor one day later. 
  Greetings and best wishes, JH (from Thiruvananthapuram)
  Vergangenheit Bewaltigung
To the extent that indology in general owes a great debt to the contributions of German indology, it also has to come to terms with some of the more problematic aspects of the history of the latter. I am referring here, of course, to the positive relations which some indologists at least maintained with the German government and its disastrous ideology of the 'pure Aryan race' before and during the period of the Second World War. Essential reading for a well-informed discussion on this sensitive topic should comprise S. Pollock's provocative "Deep Orientalism: Notes on Sanskrit and Power Beyond the Raj" (in Van der Veer and Beckenridge, The Postcolonial Predicament, Philadelphia, 1993), passages from Halbfass' India and Europe (Albany, 1988), and selected articles and notices of the volumes 92-98 (1938-44) and 99 (1945-49) of the Zeitschrift fr die Deutsche Morgenl„ndische Gesellschaft. 
  Email sent to Reinhold Gruenendahl on 16 June 2004
  Lieber Reinhold, 
  Ich glaube Du zitierst ein Konferenzraport das in IIASNewsletter erschien sieben oder acht Jahre zurück? Ich muss mir die Teile des ZDMG noch mal anschauen. Ich meine einige Notizen des Walter Wüst haben in der genannten Richtung gewiesen. (Ich weiss das anderen wie z.B. Heinrich Lüders den Nazismus heroisch abgelehnt haben.) Ich war damals erstaunt dass irgendwo in Nummer 99 von "Occupied Germany" gesprochen wurde. Ich kann die Seitezahlen suchen aber wahrscheinlich nicht bevor Juli. Ein Artikel dass "positive relations" aufweist wenigstens mit der Ideologie des "pure Aryan race" ist Frauwallner's Artikel oder Konferenz-Beitrag dass glaube ich 1938 oder 1939 erschienen ist (leider, weil ich Frauwallner's Methode sonst sehr bewundere). Siehe meinen Artikel Why did Saamkhya thrive but hardly survive in Etudes Asiatiques 53.3 ca. 1999. Der grosse Problem ist jetzt für mich nicht das Frauwallner und viele anderen so öffentlich dachten bevor ende WK II, aber: wie sollen wir
 die von Frauwallner wahrgenommene Muster sonst erklären, wenn wir nicht mehr an Rassentheorien glauben wollen. Siehe für eine Idee vielleicht für eine Teilerklährung: "'Verschriftlichung' and the relation between the pramaa.nas in the history of Saa.mkhya." Études de Lettres 2001.3: La rationalité en Asie / Rationality in Asia: 165-194. Wenn Du etwas über diese Problematik schreibst, bitte "keep me informed". 
  Alles gute, Jan 
  Translation of Email sent to Reinhold Gruenendahl on 16 June 2004
  Dear Reinhold,
  I believe you cite [in your email] a conference report that appeared in the IIAS Newsletter seven or eight years back? I have to look again at these issues of the ZDMG. I believe that some notes of Walter W"ust have pointed in the mentioned direction. (I know that others such as Heinrich L"uders have rejected Nazihood heroicly.) At that time [when writing teh report] I was surprised to see that somewhere in no. 99 there was talk of "Occupied Germany". I can search the pagenumbers but probably not before July. An article that shows "positive relations" at least with the ideology of the "pure Aryan race"  is the article or conference contribution of Frauwallner which appeared, I believe, in 1938 or 1939 (unfortunately, because I admire Frauwallner's method very much). See my article Why did Saamkhya thrive but hardly survive in Etudes Asiatiques 53.3 ca. 1999. The big problem is now for me not that Frauwallner and many others were publicly thinking like that before the end
 of WW II, but: how should we explain the patterns observed by Frauwallner and others in a different way, if we do not want to believe in racist theories any more. See for an idea perhaps for a partial explanation: "'Verschriftlichung' and the relation between the pramaa.nas in the history of Saa.mkhya." Études de Lettres 2001.3: La rationalité en Asie / Rationality in Asia: 165-194. If you write something about this problematic, please keep me informed. 
  Best wishes, Jan
  ity uktvaa viramaami

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