[INDOLOGY] Lexical challenge for the OIT

koenraad.elst at telenet.be koenraad.elst at telenet.be
Fri Oct 19 22:33:16 UTC 2018

Dear listfolk, 

The linguistic evidence merits better than to be discussed in the middle of a less scholarly controversy, so I will leave that for another occasion and probably another platform. More important to Arnaud is clearly this statement of mine: 

> I have never applied the Reductio ad Hitlerum to Indo-European studies.> 

Which he calls 

>Good joke. It's all what your shit-and-muck sprinkling system is about.< 

Wow, there he says this dirty word again. At least it provides an answer to Paolo's question: yes, the list rules have changed, such colloquialisms are now an approved part of list's discourse, and the scholars on this list don't object to being associated with them. Well, since these unprovoked attacks on me are being allowed, I have a right to answer them. And no, this does not mean that I want or need the right to answer them in kind. 

Of course I should have realized that for some people, highlighting the historical fact of a Nazi association with their own AIT is unbearable. Still, I sign and persist, confident that the first-hand evidenceamply supports this position. But is highlighting a connection also a reduction to that connection? Is this a Reductio ad Hitlerum? Unlike Arnaud, I happen to have a record of actively *opposing* such discourse, which among Hindus is very common. There, in an effort at criminalizing the specific AIT, many polemicists undiscerningly demonize the entire discipline of Comparative & Historical Linguistics, and do indeed reduce it to colonial racism, which later was taken to its extreme by the Nazis. (Hints at a much-diluted similar reduction are also present in Western scholarship: Poliakov, Lincoln, Arvidsson…) But, while on the one hand opposing this grim over-interpretation of the historical fact of a later association with the Nazis, I do on the other hand acknowledge that same historical fact: yes, the AIT was taught in the Nazi-controlled schools, not just as an ephemeral detail but as a cornerstone of Nazi *Rassenkunde*, as theorized by Nazi race theorist Hans Günther and summed up briefly by Hitler himself. 

The usual attitude in the West is to let sleeping dogs lie: not soil our discipline with an annoying consciousness of this historical association. That is alright, except that too many AIT defenders do bring in political associations themselves. Some of them even slander the OIT by falsely linking it to those same Nazis; one example of this you have just seen. Does that mean the Nazis located the Homeland in India? Of course not, and Arnaud avoids mentioning this obvious refutation of his own claim. So he brings in something else as a common element: "autochthonicity". A general objection here is elementary logic: this is a "cum hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy. Indeed, all AIT defenders except the remaining deliberate racists among them are defying this pamphleteering fallacy all the time: they don't feel themselves to be Nazi just because they defend a Nazi-approved theory. Specifically, it also happens to be factually wrong: the Nazi doctrine about the Homeland was not "autochthonicity". Neither Belarus nor Atlantis are in Germany. What mattered for them was only that the Homeland was not in the territory of an "inferior" or "mongrel" race, India. There is also a chronological problem: when the later Nazis were still WW1 frontline soldiers, the first arguments against the AIT were already being developed by Sri Aurobindo (partly in a paper called Arya), whose secretary KD Sethna was later, in old age, to write the book Karpasa (1982) that set in motion the OIT 2.0 (i.e. Indian version). 

And by the way, for me the reason is not "autochthonicity" either. Unlike for Indians, India is not my country. If I had a say in the matter, I would locate the Homeland right in my garden so I could open an Urheimat theme park. But history is not there to fulfil our wishes, and some historical facts just have to be accepted even if inconvenient. Historians take dispassionate note of such facts, not the shrill rhetoric we have just been treated to. Some facts, like the "association" of X with Y, need not be treated as important, but they should not be denied either. 

All the best, 


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