[INDOLOGY] Where can you do a BA in Sanskrit?

Antonia Ruppel rhododaktylos at gmail.com
Sun Jun 27 17:12:20 UTC 2021

Dear Dominik,

My personal impression concerning Sanskrit (and all the other subjects
Germans would call 'breadless') at university, at least in Anglophone
countries, is that, with the exorbitant fees students are paying, they and
their parents want something in return. Spending a life paying off student
debt is no fun, and so the understandable tendency would be to take/major
in a subject that offers a slightly clearer path towards gainful
employment. Taking an online Sanskrit course that costs around $300 is a
much smaller commitment, and almost all my Yogic Studies students are
adults. (If you take all three terms of my intro course for $800, you get
the same from me that my Cornell and Munich students in Intro Sanskrit
got/are currently getting, and with much better tech support, a TA and
thriving online communities. But Yogic Studies, unlike universities, are
the ones considered by some as being ‘for profit’:-)…)

Another factor likely is that most students in Europe or North America
don't really know about subjects that they don't encounter in secondary
school (I at least first heard the name 'Sanskrit' mentioned when I was
already a Classics undergrad). Combine that with the attitude (which I
believe is stronger where I currently am than in e.g. the US) that the task
of a department of Indology, Indo-European etc is to educate the next
generation of Indologists, Indo-Europeanists etc., and you find an
environment that could be made more inviting for students who (wisely!)
want to first dip their toe into this new (to them) field before they
possibly commit to it.

There are many other factors as well, of course. Some things we can do that
I believe would be productive:
- Networking as much as we can within our institutions, having our courses
recognized as elements in as many adjacent departments as possible. We have
*so much* to offer after all.
- Becoming better public communicators and advocates of our work. The idea
of a public intellectual is accepted in some countries, praised in few,
often looked down on in others. Such communication is difficult and needs
to be learned, but it *can* be learned. This applies especially to all our
specialised research that does at first sight not pass an interested
bystander's 'so what?' test.
- Give available positions not just to those who excel most at research,
but also to those who actually care about and are good at teaching. (I know
this is difficult because there is a limited number of posts available, and
universities are the only places where research like ours can be carried
out.) Don't give intro language teaching to inexperienced TAs. Intro
teaching is *much* more challenging than, say, an intermediate reading

What would also be helpful, but isn’t in our control: make education
affordable (again, this doesn’t apply to all countries, but definitely most
Anglophone ones). Have universities that are fully about education rather
than accreditation, that are not the playthings of politicians, that are
not about having a degree from the Most Excellent University of X. (My BA
certificate from Cambridge states the day on which I received it, written
out in words (!), but does not mention subject or grade. It took me a while
to understand the rationale behind this.)

Ultimately, I hope that what is going to happen in future years is that the
various alt-acc institutions, which arise because there are important
vacuums to be filled, can be tied in more with universities. That means
more job opportunities for academics, and for universities the possibility
to focus on their individual strengths, given who is there, rather than
having to offer the full breadth of the field. For smaller colleges to be
able to offer full degree courses specific to South Asia, or maybe even
‘classical’ Indology. Imagine being able to have specific offerings that
you are renowned for, but if you don't have, say, someone focussing on
yoga, not a problem, because you can offer world-class online courses with
none other than Jim Mallinson or Phillip Maas (and many others) through a
place like Yogic Studies. (And now I will stop blowing the YS horn - I
promise they're not paying me to write this:-).)

We all know that courses in situ, with face-to-face contact, remain an
absolutely necessary framework; but maybe we can have online offerings
within that framework, at least when they are well-organised from the start
and not put on as an afterthought (as they sometimes have been by
universities in the past).

Public interest in India (past and present) is enormous, far beyond the
‘Yoga practitioner who wants to know what the names of āsanas mean’
stereotype. If we can get many interested in taking a few courses, and then
a few in pursuing further studies as part of official degree courses, I
think that would be great for our field. It would also secure us much
broader support whenever someone decides we are an easy subject to cut.

My two (well, maybe five) Euro cents.

All my best,

On Sun, 27 Jun 2021 at 17:09, Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com> wrote:

> The rationale was just curiosity.  I was chatting with a colleague about
> student numbers and wondering why universities can't fill their classes
> while online courses like yours can.  The question arose out of that.
> Perhaps the online options are popular partly becausestudents can't
> actually do a degree in Sanskrit at a university these days.  Instead of a
> focus on language - for which there is a student appetite - they see a ton
> of stuff that might seem irrelevant to them (at least at first
> impression).
> There's more to discuss about all this and about how Sanskrit degrees
> worked in the past and how they might in the future, but email maybe is too
> pedestrian and monologue-prone a medium.  When I did the Oxford BA, there
> was the idea in the air that we were catching up with students doing Greats
> who came to university with eight years of Latin and Greek already, from
> their school years. I think the idea was that it was premature to dive into
> culture and history if we didn't have the language.  That was perhaps
> flawed.  The system was so different anyway, that it's hard to compare.  It
> was a tutorial system, and there were no lectures.  Not one, in the whole
> three year degree.  I vividly remember the first lecture on Hinduism I
> attended, by Richard, and it was wonderful.  But it was in the first or
> second year of my PhD.
> Best,
> Dominik
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://list.indology.info/pipermail/indology/attachments/20210627/b6f3efae/attachment.htm>

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list