[INDOLOGY] Response to Shrinivasa Varakhedi

Tieken, H.J.H. H.J.H.Tieken at hum.leidenuniv.nl
Tue Apr 16 14:09:36 UTC 2019

It seems we are starting all over again. Probably some people can't leave it alone. So be it. But I object to the Indology List being used as a pillory!


Herman Tieken
Stationsweg 58
2515 BP Den Haag
The Netherlands
00 31 (0)70 2208127
website: hermantieken.com<http://hermantieken.com/>
Van: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] namens Joydeep via INDOLOGY [indology at list.indology.info]
Verzonden: dinsdag 16 april 2019 15:19
Aan: Ananya Vajpeyi
CC: Audrey Truschke; Indology; Dr. Kaushal Panwar
Onderwerp: Re: [INDOLOGY] Response to Shrinivasa Varakhedi


If we wish to address gender inequality in academia, a key issue we must confront is the system of trailing hires, which encourages and legitimates relationships between powerful professors (usually male) and students (usually female). The article mentions Dipesh Chakrabarty–Rochona Majumdar, but several others come to mind. The complainant mentions that Pollock shielded Chakrabarty, and it’s interesting that Shelly also had a relationship with a student (Allison Busch, PhD 2003; Shelly was the advisor on both Majumdar’s and Busch’s dissertations). I’m not saying these relationships would not have occurred without the system of trailing hires, but clearly faced with a choice between joining the ranks of thousands of unemployed or underemployed PhDs and marrying a tenure professor (usually drawing two or three additional salaries besides a hefty pay package 15–20 times what the average adjunct earns), the system of trailing hires makes the choice that much easier (Busch was hired to Columbia as the junior hire in 2005, the same year as Shelly; the NY marriage license dates July 11, 2007). Instead of incentivizing relationships with professors, universities should discourage them. If it was clear that a student, who married her professor, would not be hired under any circumstances, there would be a massive disincentive to entering such relationships. Instead, powerful men (professors but also provosts, deans, etc.) have created a system of institutionalized concubinage paid for by taxpayer and tuition dollars. The trailing hire injects sexual competition into a system in which students already compete for attention from professors, who can not only withhold the PhD but also open up career paths (exchanges, grants, recommendations, fellowships, hires, etc.). Women almost always pay the price. I learned an interesting term from the article: “enabler.” If #MeToo has taught us one thing, it is that a man who has behaved inappropriately once has done it before and will do it again. One of the interesting details to emerge from the Searle scandal is that female colleagues and former students knew of the behavior and had kept silent. The female scholars involved face Hilary’s choice. We have to look at this as an institutional problem with multiple stakeholders (e.g., editors who publish their colleagues’ work, students who invite professors for lectures, provide publicity, write op-eds, i.e., the entire system of how knowledge and power are created and circulated). In Philosophy, women overcome the stakeholder problem by prioritizing solidarity and creating a database. Perhaps we need a similar database for Indology. There are examples from Germany (one I knew personally: Mitsuyo Demoto-Hahn; Michael Hahn’s student, hired to the Marburg Indology Department and recipient of a DFG grant). The problem is universal (there was a Facebook list of Indian academics circulating that also mentioned Chakrabarty) and what we’ve learned is that there are concentrations of abuse (Blake Wentworth; Pollock was again the dissertation advisor) and an international circuit through which abuse travels (that Indian scholars can also tap into provided they facilitate abusers’ careers).

Dr. Joydeep Bagchee
Academia.edu Homepage <https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/JoydeepBagchee>

The Nay Science<http://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-nay-science-9780199931361;jsessionid=94DFF6B197750DBE7C7E64A4FB8B28D2?cc=de&lang=en&>
Argument and Design<http://www.brill.com/products/book/argument-and-design-unity-mahabharata>
Philology and Criticism: A Guide to Mahābhārata Textual Criticism<http://www.anthempress.com/index.php/philology-and-criticism-hb>
What, then, is Philosophy?
Philosophy is the supremely precious.

Plotinus, Enneads I.III.5

On Sat, Apr 13, 2019 at 12:38 PM Ananya Vajpeyi via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

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 mansplaining?

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 mind.

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<mailto:vajpeyi at csds.in>
ext: 229


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