Monday, February 17, 2014

Reversing the gaze

From the Introduction of Invading the Sacred:

The essays and critiques of Western scholarship on India’s religions contained in this book must be seen as the early signs of this awakening, and of this questioning. It is thus an important chronicle of the beginnings of a shift. Some of the essays are critical surveys of what is still being purveyed as factual and veridical knowledge about India and Hinduism. These are often startling and shocking to the Indian reader, but serve the useful purpose of benchmarking the state of current Western ‘knowledge’ about India. Others are critiques of the application of European ideas like psychoanalysis to Indian culture. But all of them, at various levels, must ask the question — is the Western academia producing knowledge about India?

The latter half of the book chronicles how key sections of the academic establishment in America have responded to these challenges, and tries to understand how they processed it as a threat rather than as a long overdue call for a dialog. The book suggests that the answers  to some of these questions may lie in American culture and its European roots. In many ways, therefore, the book is an attempt to reverse the gaze on the West, and is sure to make for provocative reading.