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
- gain a complete understanding of what Edward Said meant by the term “Orientalism”;
- be able to see for himself or herself the evidence for “Orientalism” in the colonial context of India;
- 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
Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study
Instructor: Dr. Kundan Singh