[INDOLOGY] Jews and Hindus in Indology: A Second Response to Eli Franco

Joydeep jbagchee at gmail.com
Sun Jan 15 21:21:06 UTC 2017

Dear fellow Indologists,

Eli Franco posted a “rejoinder” to the *Theses on Indology *a few hours
ago. Readers can make up their own minds about it. Rather than dignify his
ad hominem statements, we have produced an intellectual response, which
addresses the important issue of Jews and Jewish scholars in Indology.

In his rejoinder, Franco states, “The Semler method may possibly have been
conceived with ulterior motives and used by some racists and anti-Semites,
but it was also used by Jewish scholars and by non-Jewish scholars who can
in no way accused of antisemitism without any concrete evidence. The
authors’ claim amounts to saying that a knife mutilates.” This is indeed a
worthy question, and one we already anticipated. Our response to Eli
Franco’s rather predictable objection is uploaded here:

We emphasize that this is not a personal issue, nor is our dialogue in any
way a personal one with Eli Franco. From a personal perspective, Vishwa and
I intend to pursue our engagement with Indology, and this includes
attending all conferences of interest, where we expect professional
courtesy to be maintained. However, the fact that we maintain a dignified
tone does not mean that we should abandon vital issues like asking who we
as Indologists really are, what we do, and why we avoid or wish to
foreclose immediately any discussion of anti-Semitism in Indology.

The paper “Jews and Hindus in Indology” makes a contribution to this issue,
which must surely concern us all as Indologists. It raises some important

Were Jewish scholars in Indology sufficiently aware of the anti-Semitic
bias ingrained in the discipline?

Did they make sufficient efforts to counter this bias?

Or were they also playing the institutional game of othering and
denigrating the Indians in a quest for acceptance in a pervasively
anti-Semitic discipline?

What efforts have Jewish scholars practicing Indology today made to bring
these issues to light and how can we trust their critical judgment if they
were either unaware of or tacitly countenanced Indology’s ingrained

Franco, at any rate, has consistently shown that he prefers to substitute a
discourse of identities (insider/outsider, German/non-German,
scholar/non-scholar, philologist/non-philologist, German/Indian,
Indologist/Hindutva) for a discussion of ideas. We have not yet answered
the question of why so many contemporary Jewish Indologists have remained
silent on the painful issue of anti-Semitism in Indology. The fact that
scholars like Eli Franco and Maria Schetelich (both at the Institut für
Indologie und Zentralasienwissenschaften, Universität Leipzig) attempted to
obscure known facts about Johannes Hertel’s anti-Semitism (see n. 193)
should give us pause for thought. But if Franco wishes us to expand the
scope of our inquiries and work on clarifying this issue as well, we will.

Finally, Franco writes, “none of the reviewers quoted by the authors in
their own praise is an Indologist.” This only reflects the extent to which
he failed to grasp, first, *The Nay Science *and, now, the *Theses on
Indology*. There are many who have grasped these works’ institutional and
methodological critique, and wish to move forward with a new philology
cognizant of the problems with past scholarship and willing to address its
issues. For the others, who are in the discipline merely to play the game,
there exists the option of every failed intellectual: to sign a petition.
Perhaps Franco can himself initiate such a motion in the DMG’s august
assembly or publish a resolution in the ZDMG or one of the other
“official” organs
we listed.


Joydeep Bagchee

Dr. Joydeep Bagchee
Zukunftsphilologie: Revisiting the Canons of Textual Scholarship
Academia.edu Homepage <https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/JoydeepBagchee>
Oxford Bibliographies Online: Hinduism

The Nay Science
Argument and Design
Reading the Fifth Veda <http://www.brill.com/reading-fifth-veda>
When the Goddess Was a Woman <http://www.brill.com/when-goddess-was-woman>
Transcultural Encounters between Germany and India
German Indology on OBO Hinduism
What, then, is Philosophy?
Philosophy is the supremely precious.

Plotinus, Enneads I.III.5

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