[INDOLOGY] Malhotra and plagiarism

Joanna Jurewicz j.jurewicz at uw.edu.pl
Thu Jul 23 10:46:01 UTC 2015

Dear Dominik, I fully agree with your opinion. Thank you very much for it.

Dear Professor Resnick, thank you for the post.


Joanna Jurewicz

dr hab. Joanna Jurewicz, prof. UW
Katedra Azji Południowej /Chair of South Asia
Wydział Orientalistyczny / Faculty of Oriental Studies
Uniwersytet Warszawski /University of Warsaw
ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28
00-927 Warszawa

2015-07-23 10:54 GMT+02:00 Howard Resnick <hr at ivs.edu>:

> I appreciate much of what Dominik says here. I also really appreciate Shiv
> Visvanathan’s balanced view of the problem, posted by Professor Pandurangi.
> m.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/rajiv-malhotra-plagiarism-issue-and-hindutva/article7448583.ece
> On Jul 23, 2015, at 10:25 AM, Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear Prof. Elst,
> I wondered, as I began reading your post, whether there were quotation
> marks missing from the sentence beginning, "After all, he had only quoted a
> Westerner...."  Were you meaning to quote Malhotra, I asked myself, or were
> you speaking in your own voice?    As I read on, I realized that you are
> speaking in your own voice.  When I reached your second paragraph,
> "Established Western scholars who only talk to one another...",  it became
> obvious to me that you are willing to speak judgementally and dismissively
> of a whole profession on the basis of a criterion that has something to do
> with geography, rather than intrinsic merit or careful, engaged and
> informed scholarship.  It is also possible to read your statement as a
> specific insult to the other members of the INDOLOGY list, that you
> consider them "western scholars who only talk to one another."  As you
> probably know, insulting members of this list, from within the list, is not
> a behaviour that is tolerated by the managing committee of the INDOLOGY
> forum.
> I personally do not believe there is an east-west divide in intellectual
> ability or viewpoint.  I do not believe in "The West" as a category of
> thought that has anything useful to offer, and certainly not as a method of
> categorization that has any intellectual reality or merit. It has been my
> observation through many decades of engagement in academic life that there
> is good and bad scholarship to be found in all parts of the world and at
> all times in history.  Wouldn't it be lovely if it scholarly excellence
> were so easy to establish!  If scholars could be judged as good or bad
> because of being "western," or "Jewish," or "Hindu" or "Black," "White,"
> "female," or any other regional, racial or gender category.  But it is not
> so.  Whatever colour we are, whatever part of the world we live in, we all
> have to work very hard to understand difficult ideas, and to make
> judgements that demonstrate integrity and knowledge.
> And this hard work involves much careful study, much discussion with
> friends and colleagues, the exposure of one's ideas to teachers, peer
> reviewers, and at conferences.  Intellectual work consists of composition,
> exposition, and debate, said Sa-Skya Pandita in the thirteenth century.
> This is what it means to be a worthwhile academic.  It is not a matter of
> winning or losing, of being more insulting than the next person.  It is not
> a political contest.  It is a matter of developing more subtlety, deeper
> insight, and a finer sensibility towards truth.  Even someone whose ideas
> are shown to be wrong is a "winner," since we all strive for truth.  Most
> important of all, intellectual life is not a matter of defending oneself.
> Good academics are very interested in ideas and knowledge; they are not
> much interested in personality and personal conflict, or in prestige or
> public perception.
> You present yourself as having performed the lonely task of providing the
> members of this list with links to Malhotra's responses.  But you err in
> thinking that the subset of members of this list who are interested in the
> accusations of plagiarism against Malhotra would not be following the
> debate in the media, just as you are.  This list is not the be-all and
> end-all of indological debate.  It is a forum where just some specialist
> questions are asked and answered.  You are not personally called upon to
> promote a particular point of view in a debate that does not concern you,
> for the supposed good of others.  You do not have the right or the
> responsibility to set the agenda for what others should be thinking about.
> The members of this list have quite as much experience as you in reading
> public media and in making up their own minds about what they think.
> You, apparently Malhotra, and others have made at least two important
> category errors in your responses to this matter.  First, at the heart of
> this discussion, it is not Malhotra that is the main topic.  It is the
> plagiarism in his writings that is the issue.  There's a difference.
> Malhotra has responded with mighty indignation as if he personally has been
> attacked, as if he is in a titanic struggle between The Indian Tradition
> and The West, and pointing out his plagiarism is a sly attack on India or
> Hinduism.  This is theatrical nonsense.  Malhotra seeks to redefine the
> terms of the discussion and place himself at the centre of things, perhaps
> because his goals are political not academic.  He reduces the matter from
> an discussion about academic ethics to a cheap bar-room brawl between
> himself and Nicholson.  The reality is, there are questions hanging over
> his academic writing, that appears by the criteria of the Princeton
> guidelines to contain plagiarized passages.
> Second, it is not a war, a battle or a titanic inter-cultural struggle.
> We would all increase our understanding of the issue if we avoided military
> metaphors.  They don't help; they rarely help.  The second category error
> is to see this matter of plagiarism as a war, a contest or an east-west
> struggle.  It is what it is, no more, no less.  Professional groups develop
> practices that help them: climbers use ropes, sky-divers use parachutes.
> The academic profession has evolved behaviours that have been shown by
> centuries of experience to help in the search for right knowledge.
> Plagiarism does not help.  It appears that Malhotra has committed
> plagiarism, according to the criteria accepted by the profession (the
> Princeton criteria, for example).  What next?  The author may do nothing,
> or he may correct his books, or he may try to prove that he has not
> plagiarized.  Everything else is meaningless bluster.
> Sincerely
> Dominik Wujastyk
> On 22 July 2015 at 17:08, <koenraad.elst at telenet.be> wrote:
>> Dear listfolk,
>> After having provided the link to what Malhotra has to say to Andrew
>> Nicholson's attack on him (linked even earlier), here is the link to what
>> he is doing about  it:
>> http://swarajyamag.com/culture/nicholsons-untruths/  Briefly, in
>> agreement with the publisher, he is throwing Nicholson entirely out of his
>> book, replacing him by Indian authors writing on the same unifying-Hinduism
>> efforts. After all, he had only quoted a Westerner because that is more
>> prestigious and unsuspect, but there is a lot of better knowledge about
>> Hindu tradition among Hindus themselves. In the spirit of decolonization,
>> he is taking this opportunity to highlight Indian scholars in the
>> "decolonized" second version of Indra's Net. The broader context of which
>> the present controversy forms part, is given here:
>> http://www.firstpost.com/living/decolonising-indology-rajiv-malhotra-wont-follow-rules-set-west-2356234.html
>>  Established Western scholars who only talk to one another, might not
>> realize it, but as I notice in non-mainstream media, Malhotra is turning
>> the tables on his attackers, and is coming out of this affair with
>> increased prestige.
>> While some of you have provided links to the attacks on him, it has
>> fallen to me to provide links to his responses. Given your apparent
>> interest in the affair, this must have been a useful service. Amid the holy
>> indignation about plagiarism by a man who has amply referred to Nicholson
>> and quoted him many times, thus annulling the very rationale a plagiarist
>> would have, I find it more anomalous that so many academics consider it
>> perfectly normal to hear (and act on) only one half of the story. As Hegel
>> said, "das Wahre ist das Ganze" (truth is the whole). But no, the fact that
>> I have made his voice audible has served as proof among several scholars
>> that I must be in agreement with him, or even in his pay. The latter
>> allegation, and conspiracy theory, sure to be a hit among fishwives,
>> betrays an interesting mentality: the assumption that defending someone's
>> right to be heard implies agreeing with him. By that principle, even Hitler
>> and Stalin were champions of free speech -- at least the free speech of
>> those who agreed with them. It ought to be obvious to scholars that hearing
>> a position and agreeing with that position are two different things. Well
>> yeah, while the affair loses its steam, it becomes time for me to formulate
>> my own thoughts about it, tomorrow or so.
>> Fortunately, we can conclude on a positive note. We should take heart
>> from the complaint uttered here that, while so many people signed a
>> petition opposing the pulping of Wendy Doniger's book, so few have now
>> signed the petition demanding the pulping of Malhotra's book. At that time,
>> I wrote that there may be many things wrong with Doniger's book (indeed, a
>> great many), but that banning it is not the answer. It seems that today, a
>> healthy majority here thinks that to the few things wrong with Malhotra's
>> book, banning is still not the right answer.
>> Kind regards,
>> Koenraad Elst
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