[INDOLOGY] More uninformed discussion of ancient India

Birgit Kellner kellner at asia-europe.uni-heidelberg.de
Sun Jul 12 19:35:32 UTC 2015


like Dominik, I agree with you. Ignorance of history, perhaps, but
definitely a tendency to project certain ideals that Sen himself shares
-- especially that a society should be driven by reasoned debate in a
public arena -- back into Indian history.

This also comes to the fore e.g. in Sen's book "The Argumentative
Indian" and his 2014 article/essay "The Contemporary Relevance of
Buddha" (Ethics&International Affairs 28/1, 15-27). There is a
romanticized depiction of Buddhism as utterly rational and committed to
reason and public debate in the latter piece that is not only bizarre in
its one-sidedness, but also depressing in the way that it does not
engage the historicity of Buddhist thought. The possibility that "public
debate", for instance, might actually represent something very different
in ancient India and in modern democracies does not even seem to be
entertained. Is this ignorance, or some kind of argumentative strategy?
I'm wondering.

Best regards,

Birgit Kellner

Am 12.07.2015 um 17:00 schrieb Jonathan Silk:
> Dear Friends,
> In a somewhat different vein than the ongoing discussion of a certain
> Hindutva partisan, you might want to take a look at Amartya Sen's
> piece: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/aug/13/india-stormy-revival-nalanda-university/
> In my opinion, while his political position seems to be something close
> to 180 degrees the opposite, he is in some ways remarkably similar in
> his almost studied ignorance of classical India. His portrayal of
> Nalanda is nothing short of fantasy, and I confess that I am
> disappointed and depressed to see such fictions repeated by someone who,
> until recently, was actually significantly influential in this 'neo'
> Nalanda project. That it might be advantageous to say certain rosy
> things in a political context is one thing, but the result is, to my
> mind, an utter misrepresentation of the historical truth. A final point
> is that by portraying Nalanda as an international university, using in
> his description explicitly secular categories, the anti-Hindutva Sen
> succeeds in virtually entirely subverting the Buddhist nature of Nalanda. 
> I am curious if I am alone in my impressions of this piece.
> Jonathan
> -- 
> J. Silk
> Leiden University
> Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, LIAS
> Matthias de Vrieshof 3, Room 0.05b
> 2311 BZ Leiden
> The Netherlands
> copies of my publications may be found at
> http://www.buddhismandsocialjustice.com/silk_publications.html
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Prof. Dr. Birgit Kellner
Chair of Buddhist Studies
Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context - The
Dynamics of Transculturality"
University of Heidelberg
Karl Jaspers Centre
Voßstraße 2, Building 4400
D-69115 Heidelberg
Phone: +49(0)6221 - 54 4301 (Office Ina Chebbi: 4363)
Fax: +49(0)6221 - 54 4012

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