[INDOLOGY] Response to Shrinivasa Varakhedi

Ananya Vajpeyi vajpeyi at csds.in
Sat Apr 13 08:09:05 UTC 2019

Dear Shri Varakhedi,

I received your long note addressed to me, but since so did the entire
Indology List it appears, I am responding via the list.

No, unfortunately I haven't had time to watch the proceedings in Udupi. But
I really don't know what you expect from me. Engagement? Respect?
Agreement? Should I abandon my convictions in the face of this barrage of

It would be so helpful if you might begin by figuring out an appropriate
mode of address for say Kaushal Panwar or me, which either uses our
academic titles ("Dr."+ Surname), or a conventional mode of professional
address ("Professor" + Surname), or our respective first names, in a
friendly and non-offensive way.

Further, it would encourage a genuine dialogue if you and your colleagues
in forums like the BVP were not continually attacking Kaushal Panwar,
Audrey Truschke, Sheldon Pollock, and so many others I think of as my
friends, colleagues, teachers and fellow-students of Sanskrit, on and off
list, in private and in public, in print and in speech. Your hostilities
are as relentless as they are senseless.

You perceive threats to your religion, caste, gender and beliefs where
these are in no way factors driving any of us in our thinking, life or
scholarship. You at once seek our attention and make us the targets of such
tremendous antagonism that after a point it is simply not possible to
either hear what you have to say or debate with you in any sensible manner.

We have fundamental disagreements, let us not equivocate. The way we see
texts, language, history, society, politics, truth, transcendence,
institutions, practices; the way we make sense of what we read and what we
experience, these are often incommensurable or untranslatable. Indology is
not an Indian forum and I have no desire to make it into a platform to
perform my nationalism or yours. It is not a Hindu forum and I refuse to
position Sanskrit texts within a "Hindu" framework in any case, with
anyone, not just you.

I intend to continue reading whatever texts interest me, with the best
philological, hermeneutic and exegetical tools and skills at my disposal,
and to interpret them in ways that I think don't just make sense of the
texts themselves but also make sense within a context of reading, research,
pedagogy, historiography and a wider public conversation with cultural and
political dimensions.

You can shout at me when I'm on stage or abuse me on your groups and lists;
you can write me polite but essentially tone-deaf letters; you can rebut my
arguments with whatever capacities you can muster, it's all fine, it's part
of the game. Personally I don't like the social media harassment and
trolling, but let us say, as in the old proverb, the dogs bark, the caravan
moves on, something like this.

However I fear you have missed the point, of the Caste and Gender forum at
the WSC last summer; of my article in the Hindu; of all the ferment in
academia east and west around gender equality, caste equality, equality,
period. Either you're committed to equality, as the plinth of your politics
and your scholarship, or you're not. That's where I'm coming from and
that's the path on which I plan to continue. I'm not here to convince
people that they should accept inequality as a given and learn to live with
it. I don't see that as what I signed up to do when I chose the life of the

Your complaints regarding the Vancouver event should please be directed to
the organisers, hosts and sponsors, and not at the invited speakers, who
were simply there to talk about what they were invited to talk about.


Ananya Vajpeyi.


*Ananya Vajpeyi *
*Fellow and Associate Professor*
*Centre for the Study of Developing Societies*
*29 Rajpur Road, Civil Lines*
*New Delhi 110054*
*e: vajpeyi at csds.in <vajpeyi at csds.in>*
*ext: 229*


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