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
- 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;
- understand the explicit motivations due to which such characterizations were made;
- 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;
- be able to see the basis of Academic Hinduphobia that exists in the mainstream today;
- gradually begin developing the skills required to effectively counter the distorted narrative in academia and media.
Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations
Required/ Elective: Required
Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study
Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh
Quarter: Spring 2020