[INDOLOGY] Tigers and goats

koenraad.elst at telenet.be koenraad.elst at telenet.be
Fri Jul 10 15:23:16 UTC 2015


Dear listfolk, 



you might be interested in Rajiv Malhotra's response to the comments here on his speech in Bangkok from McComas Taylor: 

>a quick report on the World Sanskrit Conference, Bangkok 2015 McComas Taylor Western Marxist Orientalist scholars are chewing up Sanskrit as a tiger would devour a goat, digesting what is needed and excreting the remains. So said well-known Indian fire-brand Rajiv Malhotra at the opening of the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok on 28 June 2015. Many of the 600 or so attendees were also surprised to learn that international scholarship on Sanskrit is fundamentally perverted by the ideas of Giambattista Vico (1688-1744). The world is neatly divided into secular leftist 'outsiders' (Westerners and many Indians who have been coopted by the system) who regard Sanskrit as dead, oppressive and political, and 'insiders' for whom Sanskrit as alive, liberating and sacred. The conference, which received a very substantial subsidy from the Indian government, was officially opened by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirishorn, herself a student of Sanskrit. Held in the glitzy Renaissance Hotel over for five days, papers began at 8am and ran until 6pm, but there were plenty of good meals and cultural entertainment to leaven the scholarly dough. My colleague Prof Elizabeth Rohlman from the University of Calgary and I co-convened the first ever independent panel on pura?as (foundational texts of Hindu mythology), which produced excellent results. There is a growing awareness that the pura?as represent a gold-mine of understudied texts (note the exploitative 'outsider' turn of phrase here). As is usual with these mega-events, there was a full spectrum of papers and conversations. The presentations ranged from paradigm-changing to time-wasting. I jotted down eight Really Good Ideas in the front of my notebook, which constitutes an overall success. Among the many high points were the formal disputation in Sanskrit by tradition scholars on the significance of sabda - 'word' or 'sound', and a very lively Sanskrit poetry reading session, including poems in Haiku format and a humorous take on mobile phones. Spoken Sanskrit was everywhere-it is always a pleasure to it used as a lingua franca among scholars who have no other language in common, as has been the case for the last two or three millennia. The recurrent problem with many papers is that scholars consistently fail to place their work in the broader theoretical or academic context. Papers either consist of data with no theory, theory with no data and those with neither (i.e. story-telling). Sometimes it seemed as if no one read anyone else's work. Of course we all love to chase down our own rabbit-holes, but if we can't explain why our work is important or interesting, or how it contributes to the big picture, one wonders why it is presented at all. It was sad to see a changing of the guard-many of the grand old scholars of Sanskrit studies are too old or unwell to travel, but on the plus side, a pleasing number of young scholars are coming up the ranks. There was general excitement and widespread approval when at the final session it was announced that after the 17th conference in Vancouver in 2018, the 18th World Sanskrit Conference will be held in Canberra in 2021. Had he attended the rest of the conference, Mr Malhotra would have been highly displeased: there is a great deal of excellent scholarship going on around the world. He would also have been surprised to learn that many of us are vegetarians and that we don't eat goats of any description. < 

Rajiv Malhotra: 

    * "First thanks for taking note of my talk, which is a step better than ignoring. 
    * Second he stereotypes my position, which is hardly a sign of a good scholar. 
    * My book targets a very specific group I have termed American Orientalists , and explains how these differ from the earlier European Orientalists. So its not a sweeping statement as he makes it seem. 
    * Also, Vico is used by me precisely the way Sheldon Pollock does - he must have heard of Pollock and if he read Pollock he would know where/how Vico fits into Pollock's thesis. In other words, Vico is cited by me in my purva-paksha of pollock. I criticize his use of Vico in Sanskrit philology. So Shri MaComas needs to do more homework - please get into the reading habit; its better than hearsay. 
    * Regarding his comment that I would be pleased to see many of the papers at the Congress, yes thats true, But this is a major change from last congress in thailand 10 years ago. That was when I presented my " Geopolitics and Sanskrit Phobia " paper then (available on the net; also translated into Sanskrit and published by Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan), as a result of which the Congress organizers made many changes this time to bring in more traditional voices . Its a result of this new awareness that (contrary to last time) the Indian govt spent heavily to support this event, and sent a large contingent from India. So dear Shri McComas, I am glad you appreciate the changes as a result of my "fire-brand" work over the past decade. But there is much more in the pipeline. So pls stay tuned." 

Kind regards, 



Koenraad Elst 

Posted by: koenraad.elst at telenet.be 
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