Anticolonialism and Postcolonialism

Much more than the economic exploitation of the colonized, the colonization process hovers around destroying their cultural fabric. This necessarily involves the production of literature on the colonized and the creation of institutions through which the understanding of the colonized within and without their culture is significantly altered. There have been influential writers during the colonial period who understood the impulse of power and domination behind the production of literature on the colonized “other,” and there have been others who have analyzed the psychological and sociological effects of colonization. Through the literature of writers such as Aime Cessaire, Albert Memmi, Franz Fannon, Edward Said, Ashish Nandy, and S. Balagangadhara, this course will give the students the theoretical tools to understand the impact of colonialism on the psyche and culture of the Hindu people.

In this course, the student 

  1. will be given a sound introduction to literature and theorists whose work will be extremely beneficial in critically examining the European literature that was generated on India and Hinduism in the colonial times;
  2. will be given the framework and the container to study the cultural and civilizational impact of European literature on India and Hinduism during the colonial times;
  3. will begin to gain a vision of how European Indology significantly altered our self-understanding as Hindus and our representation to the world, the impact of which we continue to deal with in a postcolonial world.

Area of Study: Postcolonial Hindu Studies

Required/Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study/Must have completed or been concurrently enrolled in Orientation to Hindu Studies

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh

Day: TBD

Start Date: TBD

End Date: TBD

Time: TBD

Quarter: TBD

Contesting Neo-Hinduism

The course, in the beginning, introduces writings of the western authors who claim that there is something called “neo-Hinduism,” which is significantly and characteristically different from “traditional Hinduism.” Once those claims are situated, the evidence of those claims will be critically examined and will lead naturally to insight into the agendas, motivations, and general ignorance of these writers who are behind the creation of the “neo-Hinduism” theory. The course will then veer into showing how contemporary Hinduism transcends the binary divide of traditional and neo, and that even when it has innovated and answered the contingencies of the colonial context, it has always maintained its continuity with the past and that it has not compromised with its core cosmology.

In this course, the student will

  1. be able to learn about the coordinates on which the divide between traditional and neo-Hinduism has been created;
  2. be able to critically examine the evidence on which the divide has been created;
  3. be able to learn that binaries like traditional and neo do not apply to Hinduism, for Hinduism transcends and exceeds the traditional and contemporary divide.

Area of Study: Postcolonial Hindu Studies.

Required/Elective:  Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh

Critical Issues in Hindu Studies

The European colonization of India was justified by the construction of a particular narrative, beginning in the nineteenth century centered on the “White Man’s Burden” of civilizing India and the Hindus. “Scholars” hired by the East India Company and European missionaries, sometimes in tandem and at others in isolation, created a certain narrative on the Hindus and India in order to justify their colonial rule and missionary activities respectively. With the growing influence of the Europeans over Indians, the narrative became a massive industry with more and more scholars joining the force adding more nuance and sophistication to the discourse. This narrative has acquired a life of its own and today can be considered as the “received knowledge” on India and Hindus. Whether this narrative squares with the self-understanding of pre-colonial Hindus is a matter which we will examine in subsequent courses; however in the current one, we will first educate ourselves with the various descriptors that the Europeans used to define the Hindus, critically examining the various agendas–which the fathers of the narrative were quite explicit about behind such scholarship. The aforementioned scholarship in many different ways informs the self-understanding of educated Hindus today, and if the current Hindus want to connect with the worldview of their ancestors as they move forward in time, it is important for them to become familiar with this European narrative and also with the motivations that shaped the discourse, to begin with. This discourse is a distortion and in order to correct it, it is important to become familiar with its nuances.

In this course, the student will 

  1. study in detail the writings of some of the early European Indologists like James Mill and Abbe Dubois in order to understand their characterization of Hinduism and Hindus as oppressive and hierarchical;
  2. understand the explicit motivations due to which such characterizations were made;
  3. be able to see clearly that such characterizations have become “received knowledge” on Hinduism and Hindus, which gets replicated and reproduced in mainstream academia from grade school to graduate studies whereas the motivations for creating such a construct have been made invisible;
  4. be able to see the basis of Academic Hinduphobia that exists in the mainstream today; 
  5. gradually begin developing the skills required to effectively counter the distorted narrative in academia and media.

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations/Postcolonial Hindu Studies

Required/ Elective: Required

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study/ Must have completed Orientation to Hindu Studies or Concurrently enrolled in OTHS.

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh

Start Date: April 11, 2020

End Date: June 19, 2020

Day: Every Saturday

Time: 2:00 PM — 5:00 PM EST.

Quarter: Spring 2020

Orientalism and Hinduism

This course covers in nuanced detail what Edward Said means by “Orientalism”–what its characteristics and descriptors are. Said holds that “Orient” or the “East” did not exist out there that was objectively captured by the Europeans; rather it was created and constructed through the handiwork of writings generated by colonialists and missionaries, and by “scholars” hired by them. This construction, with its coordinates in power and domination, has had lasting sociological, political, psychological, and economic consequences, both for people with European ancestry and for people with non-European ancestry. Said’s “Orientalism” is thus an important tool to analyze first the imagination of India and Hindu society in European consciousness, and then the efforts that were undertaken by the British colonial power to translate the imagination into concrete sociological reality through what Gramsci calls as civil society (schools, colleges, and universities) and political society (the bureaucracy and the police). To put it succinctly, this course will revolve around critically understanding Said’s theory of Orientalism and how the European imagination of India and Hinduism significantly altered their discourse and consequently their understanding in the colonial and postcolonial contexts.     

In this course, the student will

  1. gain a complete understanding of what Edward Said meant by the term “Orientalism”;
  2. be able to see for himself or herself the evidence for “Orientalism” in the colonial context of India;
  3. be able to appreciate how the Orientalist discourse is still alive in representations of India and Hinduism even today.

Area of  Study: Postcolonial Hindu Studies 

Required/Elective:  Required

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh

Orientation to Hindu Studies

An overview and insight into the design of the curriculum offered by the Hindu University of America. A survey of the central ideas of Hinduism – covering an Ontology of key Sanskrit terms and the principal ideas that are central to the cosmology, practice, and expressions of Sanatana Dharma. The course – orientation to Hindu studies- will include reflections and perspectives on these core concepts, using selected readings from source texts such as the Vedas, Upaniṣhads, Sutras, Itihaasa, Bhagavad-Gītā, Purāṇas and Dharma-Śhāstras. The Hindu world-view based on Dharma with its emphasis on duties and responsibilities and sustainability of life will be contrasted with contemporary ideologies and their focus on rights and privileges, competition and survival of the fittest. The distinction between a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of power will be drawn out. 

In this course students will be able to: 

  1. Explore various options and trajectories available within the Hindu Studies Program
  2. Distinguish the central ideas and concepts that constitute the Foundations of Hindu Dharma; Reflect on the Hindu Studies Foundations area.
  3. Inquire into and evaluate different elective areas of study and Courses offered: Sanskrit Studies, Texts and Traditions, History and Method, Post-Colonial Hindu studies, and Conflict and Peace studies.
  4. Distinguish between pathways towards a deep study of Hindu thought, or towards deep engagement with western thought from a Hindu perspective
  5. Discover and Create customized pathways for engagement with the Hindu Studies curricula

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations

Prerequisites: This course is a recommended prerequisite for all students who wish to enter into the Graduate program.

Faculty/Instructor:  Kalyan Viswanathan (along with others) 

Day:- Every Thursday

Start Date:- January 14, 2021

End Date:- March 25, 2021

Time:- 09:00 pm EST -10:00 pm EST

Quarter: Winter 2021

Philosophical Foundations of Orientalism

For an analysis to be sound, poignant, and pointed, it is important to understand the philosophical base and container within which the analysis is conducted. One of the techniques that postcolonial discourse uses is deconstruction. Deconstruction essentially means examining the sociological-political-historical-economic contexts within which a given reality or “truth” comes into existence, which over a period of time become eternal, timeless, and context-independent. Though there are many philosophers who have used the technique of deconstruction for various enunciations, this course will introduce the philosophical underpinnings of deconstruction through the writings of Nietzsche and Foucault. There has been a decisive impact of Foucault on Said’s Orientalism and Foucault was widely influenced by Nietzsche. This philosophical container will give a wide base to students to deconstruct the European writings on India and Hinduism.

In this course, the student will 

  1. learn what the technical term widely used in academia today, deconstruction, actually means;
  2. appreciate the philosophical and historical underpinnings of deconstruction;
  3. be able to apply the technique of deconstruction in critically examining the colonial and orientalist writings on India and Hinduism.     

Area of StudyPost Colonial Hindu Studies, History and Method

Required/Elective:  Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh

Philosophy of Science and Hinduism

Science is a human activity, which has a certain philosophy behind it. In order to gain an in-depth understanding of science, one needs to know at least the enunciation of some important philosophers of science like Francis Bacon, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and Imre Lakatos. In the backdrop of this understanding, this course will discuss if Hinduism and Yoga are science or they far exceed the construction of science as currently understood by philosophers and layman alike.

In this course, the student will 

  1. understand science, not from a commonsensical or ideational standpoint, but from a philosophical and practical viewpoint–the way science has been understood and practiced in the western world;
  2. develop the capacity to discuss in a nuanced way whether Hinduism and Yoga qualify as science as currently understood and practiced within the western world; 
  3. develop an understanding of the “science” of Hinduism and Yoga from their own philosophical and cosmological standpoints and not from the perspective of western philosophy of science.

Area of StudyPostcolonial Hindu Studies 

Required/Elective:  Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh


The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In contemporary times, before India came to be recognized for its prowess in the software industry, it was Yoga that gave it standing on the world stage. In the United States alone, there are yoga studios galore and yoga has become a multibillion-dollar industry. As it entered the popular consciousness, however, the ancient practices of Yoga have undergone substantial changes, with they at times having been reduced to mere physical exercises. This course will revolve around interrogating the following questions: 1. What is the correct and true understanding of Yoga as understood and enunciated by the sage Patanjali? 2. What is the role that asanas loosely translated as body postures have in the scheme of Yoga? 3. If asanas are mere one part or limb of the Yoga world, what are the other limbs that are equally if not more important? 4. Is there a systematic or gradual psycho-spiritual evolution that runs through all the eight limbs of Yoga? 5. What are the psycho-spiritual consequences if we focus only on asanas and maybe a bit of paranayama, loosely translated as breathing exercises, to the exclusion of the other limbs of Yoga? This course, in other words, will give an authentic understanding of the world of Yoga as described by the sage Patanjali. Since Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are built on the Darshana of Sankhya, this course in the beginning stages itself will unpack the worldview of Sāṅkhya, and given that the Bhagavada Gītā is a synthesis of Sāṅkhya and Yoga, it will prepare the students for a deeper philosophical understanding of the Bhagavada Gītā.

In this course, the student will

  1. gain a traditional understanding of Yoga as enunciated by the sage Patanjali;
  2. acquire the full meaning of the term Yoga as it is understood in contemporary enunciation of sages;
  3. understand the nuances of psycho-spiritual evolutionary growth that Yoga entails;
  4. learn about the philosophical foundations on which Yoga is predicated.

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations

Required/Elective:  Required

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Instructor:  Dr. Kundan Singh


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