[INDOLOGY] Sexism and Bias on INDOLOGY governing committee

Camillo Formigatti camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk
Tue Apr 2 17:19:40 UTC 2019

Dear colleagues (how nice is that this word in English is seemingly gender neutral),

Once again I’m amazed at the messages in this list. I believe that we all agree about the fact the equal opportunities for women and minorities are very rare indeed across the world and it is rather obvious to me that our small Indological garden cannot and in fact is not different. What amazes me is that sometimes the whole list seems to be in denial about the fact that Indologists are human beings too and hence biased. We might want to discuss whether equal opportunities for women are something desirable or not at all, because it might be the case that they aren’t and we haven’t realized it yet. I’m all for this type of discussion, but please do not tell me that women are treated like men in the world and on this mailing list, because it’s simply not true.

In my opinion, the misogyny in this mailing list is so evident that it doesn’t need to be discussed, it is there as a fact. Also, it doesn’t surprise me at all that it is present even in the committee. On the contrary, this explains why nobody ever takes action when ridiculous messages about the wonderful equal opportunities that women enjoyed in pre-modern India and still enjoy nowadays are shared on the list. Let me be clear, I really hate political correctness, but precisely because of this, I can’t remain silent. Every time that somebody on this list puts forward the argument that the list is here not to discuss issues of contemporary Indian society, it’s not to silence somebody who has just posted a ridiculous message about equal opportunities in ancient India. On the contrary, it is to stop a discussion about the terrible situation of women in ancient or contemporary India. Now, the argument “this is a scholarly forum to discuss scholarly matters” would be really fine with me if these type of messages would be silenced both ways, but what currently happens on the list is that misogynistic messages are tolerated, while feminist messages are chastised as inappropriate to the forum. This is plain and simple hypocrisy and we should acknowledge it. Then we might be able to start a forum that deals only with scholarly topics.

Or maybe not even after this, since on the list the same type of behaviour occurs also when ridiculous messages of virulent right-winged Hindu nationalist propaganda are posted. Hands up all of you who didn’t roll their eyes at some of these messages, but then when a colleague tried to point them out for what they are, i.e. Hindu propaganda, felt compelled to write to him off-list saying “please stop it, we know it’s propaganda, but let it go and it will steam off”. Well, these messages continue to be sent on the list, they did not stem off. Again, this is all well with me and I truly enjoy this type of internet trolling (yes, this is what some threads on this list become very quickly) and alas, I’ve contributed to this trolling myself occasionally. What I hope though is that we all realise that not only we are scholars, but above all human beings with all our faults. If the committee thinks that this list can become a true forum to discuss only scholarly matters without even the slightest hint of political bias, it should start banning those of us who have a clear political position and bring it to the list. I therefore urge the committee to ban me from the list, as the starting action to enforce this policy.

Sorry, I thought that if we open one can of worms, we can open a second one too, just for fun.

Best wishes,



Dr Camillo A. Formigatti
John Clay Sanskrit Librarian

Bodleian Libraries
The Weston Library
Broad Street, Oxford

Email: camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk<mailto:camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk>
Tel. (office): 01865 (2)77208

in Oxford University’s
Gardens, Libraries and Museums

From: Jason Birch [mailto:jb92 at soas.ac.uk]
Sent: 02 April 2019 15:20
To: Ram-Prasad, Chakravarthi <c.ram-prasad at lancaster.ac.uk>
Cc: Indology List <INDOLOGY at list.indology.info>
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Sexism and Bias on INDOLOGY governing committee

Dear Indology Committee,

It seems that the Indology committee needs a grievance policy whereby a committee member might make a complaint to a mediator, who is not a committee member, is given access to the relevant evidence, has training in mediation and can bring the committee members together to find a resolution. Is such a grievance policy in place?

The general issue of gender parity on the committee might be discussed profitably by list members, but I can’t see how list members can mediate (via a group discussion on the forum) particular accusations of sexism by committee members.

Best wishes,


On 2 Apr 2019, at 14:50, Ram-Prasad, Chakravarthi via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

Dear Audrey,
I should start with noting that we do not know each other and have never met or been in communication. So I do not speak on a personal matter. But it is clear time and again that men not acknowledging claims about sexism and bias do contribute to the perpetuation of these issues. I think that, rationally, there would be no other reason than actual experience for you to have got to the point of making this post, as it surely will be a matter of discomfort to make your statement openly. Consequently, I would just like to acknowledge that there seems to me to be no situation in which it is somehow impossible that bias exists and/or should not be talked about.

When it comes to the consequences beyond the acknowledgement that you have spoken up as you have for a reason, and an acceptance that we must talk about it, I do see the point that Prof Silk is making, in that it is impossible for anyone on the list who is unaware of the details of the situation to say anything meaningful. We will all be aware that any next step will open a can of worms, as details cannot but hurt people (including yourself, of course). I would support any discussion that asks how we may work in a civilized and supportive manner to proceed with this, and I hope that the tone of what might become an agonized discussion about various interconnected issues is balanced between the personal hurt that will lie at the heart of this matter and the concern for the future of Indology and INDOLOGY that should motivate us.
Best wishes,

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad
Fellow of the British Academy
Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy
Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion
Lancaster University LA1 4YL

From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info<mailto:indology-bounces at list.indology.info>> on behalf of Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Sent: 02 April 2019 08:55:13
To: Indology List
Subject: [INDOLOGY] Sexism and Bias on INDOLOGY governing committee

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I am writing to call your attention to the entrenched, worsening sexism I have been experiencing on the INDOLOGY governing committee over the past year or so (I have served on the committee for six years). Other committee members have warned me not to publicly discuss the bullying and abuse that I have faced from them in private. I break my silence and go against their explicit instructions here.

I have repeatedly faced sexism within the INDOLOGY governing committee, ranging from patronizing comments to silencing of discussions about bias to overtly different standards applied to male and female members of the committee and list. I have tried many times to raise these issues internally among the committee and privately with specific individuals. I have been met with blanket denials, belittling of my concerns, declarations that discussing sexism is not a substantive issue, accusations of being a troublemaker, and flat out refusals to discuss gender issues. Indology as a discipline has deep-seated issues with male privilege, discrimination against female scholars, and even outright misogyny. The issues within INDOLOGY's male-dominated governing committee are arguably a reflection of this larger set of problems that systematically drives women out of the discipline. If Indology or INDOLOGY are going to survive in any worthwhile form, we must face our ongoing issues of sexism and bias. I have made numerous suggestions to the INDOLOGY governing committee in this regard, including striving for gender parity on the committee by adding more female members, conducting committee business more openly as a check on bullying, and undergoing bias training. I hope the committee follows up on these suggestions. But, to date, I have seen only a desire to circle the wagons and deny bias, rather than any serious attempt to make the committee or the list a more equitable place.

Last week, following another case where I documented and called out a committee member for acting with bias, that committee member wrote that if he were in my position, he would consider resigning from the committee. In other words, if I find members of the INDOLOGY committee discriminate against women, then I should bow out. I find that suggestion highly inappropriate, and I do not acquiesce to it here. But I will no longer serve as a punching bag for men who insist I keep quiet.

I expect to face significant pushback and recriminations for shedding light on the dark underbelly of the INDOLOGY governing committee. But, unlike many of my fellow committee members, I think that this is an issue for the list at large. Many of us, myself included, find scholarly value in this listserv. But knowledge exists within power structures, and I find that I can no longer stomach what I have to overlook in order to quietly run this forum. I think it is time for us to talk about the key issues of bias and sexism facing our discipline that make women unwelcome at every turn, including in running this listserv.

All the best,


Audrey Truschke
Assistant Professor
Department of History
Rutgers University-Newark
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