The Shallowness of Pollock’s “Deep Orientalism”

By: Prof. Ganesh Ramakrishanan

(Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay)

Following shows the shallowness of Pollock’s analysis:

Pollock concludes in his essay “Deep Orientalism”:

“From its colonial origins in Justice Sir William to its consummation in SS Obersturmführer [a senior rank in the Nazi party] Wüst, Sanskrit and Indian studies have contributed directly to consolidating and sustaining programs of domination. In this (noteworthy orthogenesis) these studies have recapitulated the character of their subject, that indigenous discourse of power for which Sanskrit has been one major vehicle and which has shown a notable longevity and resilience.” (pg. 111 Deep Orientalism, italics mine)

About Wüst, Pollock (p. 89) says that he wrote “the programmatic article “German Antiquity and the History of Aryan Thought” … after the National Socialists took power … a model for what was to come.” Wüst interpreted that “the ancient aryas of India were those who felt themselves to be the “privileged, the legitimate” … because they established the superiority of their race, their culture, their religion, and their worldview in the course of struggle with host populations.” Pollock does nothing to debunk this interpretation. Rather, he affirms it in his essay by explaining that the aryas achieved it through monopolization of Sanskrit language and knowledge.

If these are not connections forged by Pollock between Sanskrit and Nazism, if this is not an attempt to blame Sanskrit for Nazism, I don’t know what can be. Yet people are not convinced and think that Pollock is engaged merely in a comparative analysis of the “morphology of domination.” Anyone who has read Pollock carefully would know that in his view all knowledge is political in nature and is ultimately about politics. Therefore, while he continues to engage in politics through knowledge, naive intellectuals assume that he is on some great intellectual quest.

In this blog, I will walk you through his essay “Deep Orientalism” to show how it provides a step-by-step guide to blame India in general & Sanskrit in particular for Nazism. The outline is as follows:

Step 1: Trans-historicize the idea of Orientalism
Step 2: Show that “Orientalist” German Indology contributed to Nazism
Step 3: Show existence of pre-colonial “Orientalism” in Sanskrit thought
Step 4: Show that British Indology was a continuity of pre-colonial “Orientalism”
Step 5: Show Nazism is continuity of Sanskrit thought

Before we dive into the details, there is a caveat … My burden is only to explain the process by which Pollock attempts to blame the Sanskrit hoi oligoi thought for Nazism. I am not at all suggesting that his arguments are valid and one who knows better would clearly see that the conclusion does not follow from them. That Pollock intends such a conclusion is evident from the passage of his essay quoted above. All I can explain further is the half-baked process that allegedly leads to it but which is flawed right from the get-go.

Some may hold in good faith that Sanskrit thought cannot be held responsible for Nazism and so assume that people of deep erudition such as Pollock cannot possibly commit such a travesty. But that is what we must find out by reflecting upon their writings and hence this post.

Step 1: Trans-historicize the idea of Orientalism

Orientalism suggests that “European scholarship of Asia” and “colonial domination of Asia” are “mutually constitutive” (76). But Pollock claims this understanding of Orientalism is “maybe too narrow” because it cannot accommodate either German Indology or precolonial forms of domination in South Asia. Therefore, he over-stretches the concept of Orientalism as a process of colonization and domination that might also be conceived as potentially directed inwards, and ‘disclosed as a species of a larger discourse of power that divides the world into “betters and lessers” and thus facilitates the domination (or “orientalization” or ”colonization”) of any group’ (77).

Now, it is plain to see that Pollock has all but destroyed the very concept of Orientalism and reduced it to the simplistic idea of domination itself. He is, of course, aware of the problem and he responds: “To a degree this criticism is valid, yet I think we may lose something still greater if not doing so constrains our understanding of the two other historical phenomena” (78). This sets the tone not only of the essay but Pollock’s work in general, in my view: “may be too narrow,” “might conceive as potentially directed inwards,” “we may lose something still greater” … in other words only rhetorical devices, no logical arguments.

What is the “still greater” thing that we may lose? It is the study of Sanskrit culture as an indigenous discourse of power. The standard concept of Orientalism, however, suggests that the valorization of Sanskrit culture was itself an outcome of Orientalism. Therefore, devalorization of Sanskrit culture becomes integral to an Orientalist critique. But this is something Pollock does not want. He wants to study Sanskrit culture as an indigenous discourse of power. It is for this “still greater” thing that he seeks to destroy the standard concept of Orientalism by reducing it to domination plain and simple.

And so Pollock insists that the Indology associated with the British colonization of India is only “a specific historical instance of a larger, transhistorical, albeit locally inflected, interaction of knowledge and power” (76). I really love this sentence. Next time someone charges you with being “ahistorical” throw this on their face. Tell them that their historical contextualization “may be too narrow” and “we may lose something still greater” if we do not seek the “larger, trans-historical interaction of knowledge and power” which gets “locally inflected” in “specific historical instances.” When you have this command over the English language, you can get away without making any rational argument.

Finally, let us note what Orientalism is really about. I will use Balagangadhara as an authority on Said and quote some insights from his Reconceptualizing India Studies (n.b. some of the following include quotes from Said’s Orientalism as well).

“As Said said repeatedly, ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, and ‘imperialist’ vocabulary does not transform something into an ‘Orientalist’ discourse, any more than the use of ‘dichotomizing essentialism’ does.” (39, italics mine)
“Orientalism is better grasped as a set of constraints upon and limitations of thought than it is simply as a positive doctrine.” (ibid)
“It is a particular way of thinking. What kind of constraints transforms human thinking into Orientalist thinking? … The Orient and the Oriental … become repetitious pseudo-incarnations of some great original (Christ, Europe, the West) they are supposed to have been imitating… To the Westerner, however, the Oriental was always like some aspect of the West” (40, italics original)
“In Western descriptions of other cultures, the ‘otherness’ of the latter has disappeared; the West is the great original; others are but the pale imitations.” (ibid)
“Orientalism describes non-Western cultures in a way that effaces differences; a limited vocabulary and imagery are the consequences of this constraint.” (ibid)
In Pollock’s view, on the other hand, Orientalism is a form of “othering” that can be extended to any situation involving dominance. Pollock’s understanding of Orientalism is limited to begin with and he has flattened it out for the sake of his project. If other scholars are rightly condemned for such errors, why is Pollock spared? Because he advocates a “morally sensitive scholarship” (79)? That makes it self-righteous but it does not make it any more intellectual.

In light of the foregoing, it should be evident that the Nazi oppression of the Jews or the Brahmanical oppression of the shudras cannot be considered Orientalist because they do not involve the aforementioned processes. Nonetheless, they are forms of domination and can be studied as such. So why the fuss about attempting to designate them as Orientalist? Because that way you can connect them to each other and show them as equivalents, which you cannot do if you were to study them independently. It also facilitates lazy, arm-chair intellectualism, for all the research that has already been done in Nazism can be simply transferred to the Indian situation. As Pollock has so eloquently put it, “we may lose something still greater …”

Step 2: Show that “Orientalist” German Indology contributed to Nazism

As an Indian, this step is not very important for me. I am sure it would be so for German Indologists such as Grunendahl who have criticized Pollock’s essay but I am not overly concerned. There are, however, facets in this section of Pollock’s essay to which we must pay attention. German Indology is, of course, vital for Pollock’s project because it is a serious lacuna in Said’s Orientalism which connects knowledge with colonial domination.

As we have noted earlier, Orientalism is primarily an epistemological problem. When Indian thought is viewed through a Eurocentric, Christocentric lens, it will appear as it does, with or without colonialism. Colonialism cannot produce such knowledge, it can only finance it, make it authoritative and abet its internalization by the host population. But Pollock has made it primarily a problem of power and wherever power can be implicated in an “othering” found in knowledge, that is Orientalism for him. While colonialism is not central to Said’s Orientalism, Pollock has first assumed it to be so and then used German Indology to show that it need not be so (since Germany was not a colonial power) and used that as an excuse to suggest that Orientalism can take a variety of directions, inwards in case of Nazi Germany, and a variety of forms, such as monopolization of knowledge, in case of Brahmanical India.

Even if we may not be interested on the debate between the influence of German Indology on Nazism, what is of interest to us here is how Pollock has cleverly connected the process with the Indian situation. One of the first important insights we glean from this section of the essay is the interesting reference to Indian shastras: “an internal colonization of Europe began to be, so to speak, shastrically codified, within two months of the National Socialists’ capturing power” (86, italics mine). Is this not already setting the stage, sending subliminal signals, that shastric codes in precolonial India should be seen as parallels to Nazi laws?

In the same way, we are also told: “For some [Nazis], linguistic activity should have been included [among the activities regulated for excluding Jews and other minorities]” (86-87). Call for such regulation of linguistic activity in Nazi Germany has been emphatically pointed out by Pollock, and he has included with it a racist manifesto by some Guntert, obviously not because it was of great significance in the scheme of things in Nazi Germany, but because he is going to show later that linguistic monopolization of Sanskrit was the primary form of pre-colonial Orientalism in India. This is all preparation for what is to follow.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this section, not for this essay in particular, but Pollock’s scholarship in general, is his emphasis on the problem of Wissenschaft. He takes great pain to show how the German scholarship of the Nazi era, while deeply implicated in politics and contributing towards the Nazi cause, remained utterly oblivious of it and boastfully presented itself as scientific and objective. I am sure German scholars will vehemently disagree but these contesting narratives do not concern us. Rather, we must note what Pollock is trying to do here. He is basically suggesting that no scholarship is really scientific or objective, no matter how much it tries to pretend otherwise, and by implication, therefore, scholarship should be unabashedly political because it simply cannot be otherwise. It does not matter how valid are your arguments but whose side are you on – the Dalits, the poor, the oppressed? Then what you say is automatically valid because your cause is good. On the other hand, if you claim to be on a quest for genuine knowledge and without a political cause, then you are unwittingly on the side of the upper castes, the rich, the oppressors, as the German scholars were inadvertently supporting the Nazis. If scholarship in the humanities has descended into rottenness today, you can blame this kind of thinking for it. It is not just Pollock; this anti-intellectual principle that the righteousness of one’s cause permits one to play truant with the facts, has polluted the very intellectual climate in which we live.

Apart from this, this section of the essay rambles on and on about the construction of Aryan identity, the “othering” of the Jews, the complicity of German Indology with Nazi politics, and so on, where Pollock, as usual, puts on display his vast erudition, whether relevant or irrelevant to the subject at hand, whose only purpose can be the intimidation of the reader.

We conclude by noting again Pollock’s contention that “German Indology has to be accommodated in any adequate theorization of orientalism” (96). But why it “has to be” is never explained. Couldn’t we just say that Orientalism is a flawed theory as so many have done? On the other hand, because it “has to be” so “orientalism, thought of as knowledge serving to create and marginalize degraded communities – even members of one’s own community – and thus to sustain relations of domination over them, reveals itself as a subset of ideological discourse as such.” Thus “British use of forms of orientalist knowledge for domination within India … help us theorize the German use of comparable forms for domination within Germany … [which] help us theorize how Indian forms of knowledge serve in the exercise of domination in India.” And so the stage is set for the study of high Sanskrit culture as a “precolonial colonialism” and a “pre-orientalist orientalism.”

Step 3: Show existence of pre-colonial Orientalism in Sanskrit thought

Let us begin with a reminder, yet again, that Pollock has given us something that can best be called as neo-Orientalism. Remember Hacker’s claim that Neo-Hinduism was emptying out Sanskrit words of their original meaning and refilling them with Western meanings? Well, since Pollock has emptied the original concept of Orientalism as the study of a conquered people as “pale and erring variants” of the conqueror, and refilled it with the new meaning of any “dichotomized essentialism” we can read his interpretation as a neo-Orientalism, instead of “Deep Orientalism.” Alternatively, those charged with propagating neo-Hinduism can defend themselves by claiming to be engaged in “Deep Hinduism.”

The morphology of domination in ancient India lay, according to Pollock, in the denial of access to shudras to Vedic learning and the Sanskrit language in which the authoritative discourse of dharma was articulated. It is evident that Pollock’s main concern is that the Orientalist critique obscures the role played by Sanskrit texts in pre-colonial forms of domination. Even more so, the Orientalist critique suggests that textuality itself may not have played a role in pre-colonial forms of domination (more on this in the next step). I think it is precisely Pollock’s attempt to show that textuality matters which leads him to point out that the pre-colonial form of domination consisted in the main of denying access to texts and the language of the texts. But this is a circular argument. If the role of textuality in pre-colonial forms of domination is itself not clear, what does it matter whether people had access to those texts or not? Only after it is established that textuality played a central role in pre-colonial forms of domination, as it did in the colonial period, that the denial of access to the dharmashastras and so on, can be established as a form of domination.

As per his literary style, Pollock rambles on and on, but two insights in this section of the essay deserve our attention:

(1) Although the dharmashastras and their commentaries have been produced throughout Indian history, out of that vast corpus the essay focuses specially on the nibandhas (digests) composed from 12th century CE. Why so? Because, as Pollock claims, they were produced in response to the Muslim invasions. Why is that important? Because, these nibandhas can be understood as a way in which the Indians defined themselves as a “tradition” against the alien “other.” The implication is straightforward. There is nothing extra-ordinary if during the colonial period in the 19th century, an Orientalist “tradition” was produced. Indians, it would appear, have always done it. They did it in response to the Muslim invasion (oooh, I must be careful … Pollock says “Central Asian Turks” not “Muslim”) as they did it in response to the British invasion. This is excellent sophistry in my view and segues neatly to the fourth step which contends that British Indology was not an innovation at all but a continuity of an Orientalizing tradition that always existed in Sanskritic India.

(2) The term “arya” and its distinction from the “non-arya” occurs frequently in this discussion. This “binary overarches the world of traditional Indian inequality” (107) but what does the term mean? Pollock says that the term “merits intellectual-historical study … for premodern India” (ibid) which means we do not know yet but Pollock gives us the valuable hint that the term is deserving of the attention “at least of the sort Arier has received for modern Europe” (ibid). And so it is evident, especially in light of the role that Aryan identity played in Nazi Germany, discussed at length earlier in the essay, that arya means something similar. And if there is yet any doubt that arya may have meant something else in pre-colonial India, such as “noble” for example, instead of a racial stock, such doubt is foreclosed by the clarification that “from such factors as the semantic realm of the distinction arya/anarya … it may seem warranted to speak about a “pre-form of racism” in early India, especially in a discussion of indigenous “orientalism,” since in both its classic colonial and its National Socialist form orientalism is inseparable from racism” (ibid).

And so there we have it: Sanskrit culture, British colonialism and Nazism. All three are racisms. All three are orientalisms. And Sanskrit culture is the “pre-form”. Pollock does not explain what this term means but evidently it is some kind of a “proto” state awaiting maturity. This also suggests why it is difficult to pin it down unlike British colonialism and Nazism which manifested their evil so blatantly during their heyday. And it also suggests that the maturity could be realized in the future, say, once a certain “Hindutva” party seizes power in India. I should emphasize that Pollock has not said any of this explicitly. He has only said “pre-form” and laid down the parallels and continuities between Sanskrit culture, British colonialism and Nazism, but this is enough for the readers to do the math themselves.

Step 4: Show that British Indology was a continuity of pre-colonial “Orientalism”

The critique of Orientalism holds that “it was British colonialism that, in cooperation with orientalism, “traditionalized” society in such a way that it took on a form, a hegemonic Sanskritized form, that it may never really have had” (97). Pollock raises a two-fold objection to this critique. Firstly, British colonialism did not produce its form of domination tout court (which, I assume, should be interpreted as “without its precedent in the native culture”). Secondly, this critique does not take into account the history of pre-colonial domination (without which it cannot say with confidence that colonial forms of domination were innovative). These objections are explained with two examples.

As a first example, Pollock alludes to Stein’s view that “[Brahmanical] texts … received a new life lease and legitimacy at the hands of European orientalists who [based on them] constructed … a social theory allegedly pertinent … to pre-modern societies of South Asia, where it can have at best a partial validity (and that to be demonstrated). (98)” In objecting to this view, Pollock refers to the composition of the dharma nibandhas in the 12th century as “a kind of pre-modern “traditionalization” of” the social order. But Pollock does not explain how these two events – the production of the dharma-nibandhas and the production of Indological works – in different times and under radically different circumstances, and in fact authored by different people – the Indians in the first case and the Europeans in the latter – can be comparable. True, both involved scriptural study and validation, and both were sponsored by powers ruling in India, but that is only a superficial comparison. In the 19th century, we know that Eurocentric and Christocentric frameworks were used in the study of Indian scriptures for the purpose of colonization and proselytization. And that Indian laws were instituted on the basis of such study. But what was the point of the dharma-nibandha compositions? Pollock is right to say that “such vast intellectual output surely needs to be theorized in some way” (98) but European Orientalist Indology is hardly the model to achieve this theorization.

In the second example mentioned by Pollock, he contests the essay “Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India” by Lata Mani who contends that as an effect of the colonial discourse, Brahmanical scripture came to be privileged and constituted as the authentic cultural tradition of India. Pollock complains that in order to prove this point, the author does not “proceed to the logically prior question, “whether brahmanic texts [have] always been prioritized as the source of law” (a good, though conceptually and historically complex, question), but to “a careful reading of the Parliamentary Papers” … [and thus] we never leave the colonial arena in pursuit of these goals” (99 ff).

Before we proceed further, it is worth noting that Pollock himself has not asked the “good, though conceptual and historically complex, question” though it is required of his own project of depicting Sanskrit texts as the locus of pre-colonial form of domination. Rather, he appears to have gone down the different track of demanding that we take seriously the ideals of varna system found in the shastras and kavya (such as the varna-related verses in the Ramayana, of which he gives an example in his essay, see p. 102) as bearing upon social reality. He laments that reflections concerning the social effect of “the dream of power” as found in Sanskrit texts, in constituting the reality on the ground, have not been brought to bear on the Indological problem (102-103). This, of course, would take us in the realm of mere speculation but I don’t think that matters to Pollock – we have already noted his disdain for the “scientific and objective” scholarship of the German Indologists. All knowledge is political, so why not hoist speculation as a form of knowledge if it is for a good cause? Indeed, Pollock’s whole essay seeks nothing more than a return to Orientalism. Of course, he cannot say this openly and so the garden path in the form of this murky essay. Indological texts were complicit with the power which sponsored them, but then so were the Sanskrit texts which Indology studied. If the former are to be critiqued as Orientalist, why should the latter be spared the same treatment? This is the petulant refrain which runs throughout Pollock’s essay.

Returning to Pollock’s critique of Mani, we note that he does not consider the fact that the reason why Mani does not find it necessary to leave the “colonial arena” is that the evidence she is looking for is covered in the texts of the colonial period where she discerns a change in the depositions made by the pundits. “While officials treated vyawasthas (the written responses of pundits to questions put to them by colonial officials on various aspects of sati) as truthful exegeses of the scriptures in an absolute sense, it is clear from reading the vyawasthas that the pundits issuing them believed them to be interpretive” (Mani, 133).

As Mani explains, the Parliamentary Papers show that the vyawasthas were tentative which would imply that the pundits issuing them were being called upon to interpret scripture in altogether different ways and for unprecedented purposes: “in the beginning at least, the responses of pundits appointed to the court did not reflect the kind of authority that colonial officials had assumed, both for the texts and the pundits” (ibid, 149). “By contrast there is nothing tentative about the 1830 orthodox petition; there are no qualifiers prefacing textual excerpts … [and the petition was noted as being] ‘accompanied by legal documents’. Here the equation between law and scripture is complete” (150). What Mani’s research of the Parliamentary Papers reveals is how Indians adapted themselves as they began to understand what could and could not pass muster in the new regime as legally admissible and gradually started prioritizing scripture in their legal petitions as they realized it would prove most effective with their colonial masters. It is evident from Mani’s essay that apart from Brahmanical scripture, there were other sources of law such as caste councils and customary usages, which were ignored by the colonial administrators as corruptions of the pristine sources.

But for Pollock this colonial discourse of seeking scriptural validity in legal matters is connected with and possibly derived from similar attempts made by the dharma-nibandha scholars. He completely ignores the fact that pundits in the colonial period were responding to the demands of their new rulers whose sensibilities in this regard obviously emerged from the Protestant reformation which valorized scripture over the Catholic tradition. It would be absurd to imagine that dharma-nibandha scholars and their patrons, who were obviously indifferent to such sensibilities, were engaged in a similar pursuit. If it appears doubtful that a great scholar such as Pollock could have made such a crazy insinuation, here is the full quote: “In fact, much of the discourse as we find it in the nineteenth-century Raj could easily have derived, and may have actually derived, from a text like the twelfth-century digest …” (100). I have already shown how Pollock has attempted to portray these twelfth-century digests – the dharma-nibandhas – as manifestations of a pre-colonial “Orientalism” and here we have covered how he seeks to establish that British Indology was continuous with it.

Step 5: Show Nazism is continuity of Sanskrit Thought

Let us recap the path down which Pollock has led us. First, the concept of Orientalism was redefined to make it purely a political problem and its epistemological aspect was ignored. Second, the contribution of German Indology to Nazism was highlighted. Third, the Sanskrit culture was depicted as a pre-colonial colonialism or a pre-oriental Orientalism. Fourth, British Indology was presented as contiguous with it. Now the math is simple. If British Indology was contiguous with Sanskrit thought then why not German Indology which emerged and functioned together with it? In fact, as Pollock suggests, British Indology did the foundational work for German Indology:
“The discourse on Aryanism that this orientalist knowledge generated was, to a degree not often realized, available to the Germans already largely formulated for them at the hands of British scholarship by the middle of the nineteenth century” (83, italics mine).
And so if German Indology can also be regarded as contiguous with Sanskrit thought then surely Sanskrit thought must be held responsible for what German Indology contributed to, namely, Nazism.

We must note, however, that there is nothing to suggest in Pollock’s essay that its purpose is to trace the origins of Nazism to Sanskrit thought. But this aetiology is easily suggested by the essay and Pollock has made no effort to warn against making such an interpretation, if that was not his intent. While respectful of the erudition contained in the Sanskrit shastras, it is evident that he finds them just as toxic and oppressive as the Nazi texts.

He ensures that the reader does not miss the connection between the two by referring to the latter as shastric codifications and focusing on the arya/anarya dichotomy in the former, to be read as analogous to the Arier distinctiveness contained in the Nazi texts. Similarly, the reference to the connection between language and race in Nazi rhetoric is a strategic inclusion considering that in Pollock’s view linguistic restriction was the main form which pre-colonial domination took in India.

Of course, Pollock regards the shastras as important even today, and as displaying great erudition … but to what end? As mere discourses of power, evident from the following passage:
“Traditional domination as coded in Sanskrit is not “past history” in India … Partly by reason of the stored energy of an insufficiently critiqued and thus untranscended past, it survives in various harsh forms … When, for example, we are told by a contemporary Indian woman that she submits to the economic, social, and emotional violence of Indian widowhood because, in her words, “According to the shastras I had to do it”; when we read in a recent Dalit manifesto that “The first and foremost object of this [cultural revolution] should be to free every man and woman from the thraldom of the Shastras,” we catch a glimpse not only of the actualization in consciousness of Sanskrit discourses of power, but of their continued vigor” (116-7).
This, then, is the relevance of the study of Sanskrit shastras for today. If there is any other kind of learning to be derived from them, he does not say anything about it at all.

But what if one objects that Pollock is merely engaging in a “comparative morphology of domination” and does not seek to establish a link between Sanskrit texts and Nazism, or to insinuate that the ideas contained in the former led to the latter? In response to this objection, we note firstly the striking parallels between the two, which Pollock has taken pains to establish. But even more than that, it is the very process of seeking “a comparative morphology of domination” which establishes the connection between the two. Sanskrit culture, British colonialism and Nazism cannot be established simply as independent streams, separate forms of domination, because of the Orientalist critique that the dominance of a Sanskrit cultural tradition was itself established by British and German Indology.

If this is wrong, as Pollock suggests, then British and German Indology were simply reproducing the toxic and oppressive forms of domination which they discovered in Sanskrit texts, the only difference being that the vector of British Indology was directed outwards – to colonialism in India – and the vector of German Indology was directed inwards – to Europe and Germany itself. We have already noted that Orientalism, in Pollock’s view, should be regarded as multi-directional. The only way to break the connection between the toxicity and oppressiveness of Sanskrit culture, and that of British and German Indology, is to admit that the two Indologies had misinterpreted and misrepresented the ideas contained in the Sanskrit texts. But if that is admitted, then Sanskrit culture cannot be regarded as toxic and oppressive in an Orientalist sense at all. Hence, I say that it is the very process of producing “a comparative morphology of domination” between Sanskrit culture, British colonialism and Nazism which requires that Sanskrit culture was a factor in both British colonialism and Nazism.

And he has, in fact, admitted as such:
“From its colonial origins in Justice Sir William to its consummation in SS Obersturmführer Wüst, Sanskrit and Indian studies have contributed directly to consolidating and sustaining programs of domination. In this (noteworthy orthogenesis) these studies have recapitulated the character of their subject, that indigenous discourse of power for which Sanskrit has been one major vehicle and which has shown a notable longevity and resilience.” (111, italics mine).

Note that Pollock does not say that British and German Indology exploited Sanskrit texts to consolidate and sustain programs of domination, as orientalism is commonly understood, but that Sanskrit and Indian studies have themselves contributed directly towards this goal. It was an orthogenetic development, a recapitulation of an indigenous discourse of power for which Sanskrit has been one major vehicle. That is deep orientalism: blame Sanskrit, save Indology.

The future of Indology as Pollock envisages it also becomes evident here. Thus far Sanskrit has used the British and German Indologists to spread its evil in the world. The powers with which these Indologies colluded – the Raj and the Nazis – become, in Pollock’s reading, simply innocent carriers of this poison. But now it is time to turn the tables on Sanskrit – to expose and contain the evil that festers in its heart. That is the future of Indology.


Leave your reply:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: