Making the Argument for Sanskrit

Herman Tull hwtull at MSN.COM
Mon Jan 15 17:34:47 UTC 2007

As Dominic points out these are two separate (and unequal) arguments.  
Professor Hart's argument is, of course, the primary one.  However, the DWM 
("dead white male") argument, though a minor point, is not entirely 
uncompelling. It shows that Sanskrit and Indological studies have long been 
an important part of the western academic tradition.  That it was studied by 
DWMs is a reflection of the reality of Western universities prior to about 
1970--largely populated by white (and often privileged) males (whether in 
physics, law, medicine, or Indology).  This is no longer the case; indeed, 
the broadening of the social, sexual, and ethnic spectrum at western 
universities is all the more reason to continue these studies, bringing new 
perspectives to the field (not just the limited view of the the DWMs) as we 
move forward.

I know it appears narcissistic to extol these DWM scholars (for, by 
extension, we implicitly extol ourselves), but Dominic started this thread 
by trying to get us to raise the profile of the field within the context of 
Western universities.  I think the DWM argument, at least in a minor key, 
and along with the other more important argument about South Asian Studies 
in general, is one which will get at least a modest response.  Great 
scholars and great programs, at least in the public's perception, are 
invariably linked.  Universities unabashedly exploit these links in 
representing themselves, in what appears to be a never ending quest to raise 
their own profiles.

Herman Tull

----Original Message Follows----
From: George Hart <glhart at BERKELEY.EDU>
Reply-To: Indology <INDOLOGY at>
Subject: Re: Making the Argument for Sanskrit
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2007 07:41:52 -0800

I find myself perplexed, to say the least, that apparently the most  potent 
argument for Sanskrit is that it has influenced a few (dead)  white men.  
Surely Kalidasa and Ilango did not care in the slightest  what white people 
would think of their work.  And certainly any dean  approached about the 
importance of Sanskrit would be puzzled at these  arguments.  South Asia 
contains about 1.5 billion people. Their  cultures and ways of thought have 
been deeply influenced by the  classical tradition contained in Sanskrit 
(and Tamil).  Are we then  to argue that the importance of Sanskrit is that 
it influenced  Oppenheimer or Eliot in some minor way?  Is this not slightly 
  narcissistic?  George Hart

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