OUP denies ‘censorship'

Jean-Luc Chevillard jean-luc.chevillard at UNIV-PARIS-DIDEROT.FR
Wed Nov 30 08:21:14 UTC 2011


(copied from the MinTamil list)



Flash from the UK via Chennai.

Retrieved on 30 11 2011 from


30 11 2011

Ramanujan essay row: OUP denies ‘censorship'


‘Commercial considerations' cited for not publishing Three Hundred Ramayanas

The Oxford University Press (OUP) on Tuesday said that its decision to 
discontinue publishing and selling A.K. Ramanujan's essay, ‘Three 
Hundred Ramayanas,' was based on “commercial considerations.” It denied 
acting under pressure from right-wing protesters who had claimed that 
the essay hurt Hindu sensitivities.

Nigel Portwood, chief executive of OUP UK, also denied that it had 
stopped printing altogether Ramanujan's Collected Essays , in which ‘300 
Ramayanas' appears, but said the book was available only in its 
“short-run print programme because there was not a sufficient number of 
back orders to justify a normal reprint.”

Reply to letter

Replying to a letter from American Indologist Sheldon Pollock and 
several other leading academics, including Paula Richman in whose volume 
the essay appears, Mr. Portwood rejected allegations of censorship. He 
insisted that OUP took its “role as a disseminator of the best 
scholarship in India” seriously.

“The two Ramanujan books at the centre of the current debate — Many 
Ramayanas and The Collected Essays of A.K. Ramanujan — have not been 
removed from the market in India through acts of censorship. Prior to 
2008, both works had been showing minimal sales triggering the decision 
not to reprint either title. As I am sure you appreciate, commercial 
considerations are one of several factors in publishing decisions.”

About the “confusion” over the availability of The Collected Essays , 
Mr. Portwood said the book was out of stock from 2008 but OUP continued 
to collect a small number of back orders on its internal systems.

“In early September 2011, we put The Collected Essays into our short-run 
print programme because there was not a sufficient number of back orders 
to justify a normal reprint, and it has been listed as available on the 
OUP India website ever since — some weeks before the current controversy 
began,” he said.

In their letter, Prof. Pollock and co-signatories had conveyed their 
“shock and dismay” at OUP India's action which, they said, was 
compounded by its abject apology in court to a group which had claimed 
that the essay hurt Hindu sensitivities. They urged the OUP to withdraw 
its court apology, publicly state that it was committed to the right of 
scholars to publish their work without fear of suppression or 
censorship, and demonstrate this commitment by reprinting Ramanujan's 
The Collected Essays .

OUP denies acting under pressure from right-wing protesters

“ Collected Essays available only in its short-run print programme”

Retrieved on 30 11 2011 

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