[INDOLOGY] Digitization of Rare books at the BORI

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Mon Jul 31 15:58:26 UTC 2017

Dear Madhav and friends,

Thanks for the great news about digitization plans at BORI.

There's a phenomenon I've begun to be aware of over the last few years.  An
institution or person in India announces a digitization plan.  Then some
digitization actually happens.  But then, the resulting files are hoarded
and not made available to scholars.  This has happened with MS collections
in Kerala, Mysore and elsewhere.  There are exceptions, of course.

What motives and ideas are behind this behaviour?

"Digitization" is a kind of magic word.  It is a semiotic sign for
participation in a progressive, modern world.  It's what you do if you
don't know what to do.  And "digitization" is also a sign for possession:
 if a manuscript is digitized it has been grasped or gained in some
psychological sense.   A couple of decades ago there was a similar aura
surrounding "making a database." It was a self-standing good, and sent out
a semiotic sign of ownership and power.  "I have a database of the Vedas,"
was an assertion of power and status independent of the instrumentalization
of the database.

So perhaps it's reasonably easy to account for a desire to digitize
something.  (NB I'm not talking about rational reasons, but about
irrational motives.)

Then, why refuse to share the resulting digital files?  Perhaps for all the
old reasons, connected with ideas about loss of mana (in the Austronesian
sense), fears about making a dreadful mistake, and residual anger resulting
from constructions of colonial oppression.

Excuse my ramblings!


Professor Dominik Wujastyk <http://ualberta.academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>

Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity

Department of History and Classics <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
University of Alberta, Canada

South Asia at the U of A:


On 28 July 2017 at 16:37, Madhav Deshpande via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Here is an exciting news report about digitization of rare books at the
> http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/digitalisation-of-rare-books-
> at-bori/articleshow/59502406.cms
> I hope the digitization projects succeed and the digitized books become
> openly available to scholars worldwide.
> Congratulations to Shrikant Bahulkar and his team at the BORI.
> Madhav Deshpande
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