Invading The Sacred - An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America

Invading The Sacred - An Analysis of Hinduism Studies in America

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Author: Krishnan Ramaswamy
Several Contributors/
Translator(s)/ Edito: Aditi Banerjee/Antonio T. de Nicolas
Publisher: Rupa
Year: 2007
Language: English
Pages: 545
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8129111829


India, once a major civilizational and economic power that suffered centuries of decline, is now newly resurgent in business, geopolitics and culture. However, a powerful counterforce within the American Academy is systematically undermining core icons and ideals of Indic Culture and thought.

For instance, scholars of this counterforce have disparaged the Bhagavad Gita as “a dishonest book”; declared Ganesha's trunk a “limp phallus”; classified Devi as the “mother with a penis” and Shiva as “a notorious womanizer” who incites violence in India; pronounced Sri Ramakrishna a pedophile who sexually molested the young Swami Vivekananda; condemned Indian mothers as being less loving of their children than white women; and interpreted the bindi as a drop of menstrual fluid and the “ha” in sacred mantras as a woman's sound during orgasm.

Are these isolated instances of ignorance or links in an institutionalized pattern of bias driven by certain civilizational worldviews?
Are these academic pronouncements based on evidence, and how carefully is this evidence cross-examined? How do these images of India and Indians created in the American Academy influence public perceptions through the media, the education system, policymakers and popular culture?

Adopting a politically impartial stance, this book, the product of an intensive multi-year research project, uncovers the invisible networks behind this Hinduphobia, narrates the Indian Diaspora's challenges to such scholarship, and documents how those who dared to speak up have been branded as “dangerous”. The book hopes to provoke serious debate. For example:

• How do Hinduphobic works resemble earlier American literature depicting non-whites as dangerous savages needing to be civilized by the West?

• Are India's internal social problems going to be managed by foreign interventions in the name of human rights?

• How do power imbalances and systemic biases affect the objectivity and quality of scholarship?

• What are the rights of practitioner-experts in “talking back” to academicians?

• What is the role of India's intellectuals, policymakers and universities in fashioning an authentic and enduring response?


Foreword by
S.N. Balagangadhara

Preface by
Arvind Sharma

About the Contributors

1. Why This Book is important

Pandita Indrani Rampersa
2. Religious Studies: Projecting One’s Shadow on the Other
3. Targeting Sri Ramakrishna
4. The Hindu goddess Reinterpreted as a Symbol of Sex and
5. Abusing Ganesha and Shiva
6. Targeting Hindu Mothers and ‘Hijackers’
7. Challenges to Wendy Doniger’s Sanskrit
8. De-Spiritualizing Tantra
9. Chakra Hermeneutics
10. It’s All Bout Power

11. The Floodgates of Criticism are opened
12. Balagangadhara on the Biblical Underpinnings of
‘Secular’ Social Sciences
13. The children of colonial Psychoanalysis
Yvette C. Rosser
14. Is the fight between Siva and Ganesa an
Episode of Oedipal Conflict?
Yuvraj Krishan
15. Kripal on the Couch in Calcutta
Yvette C. Rosser
16. Is there Prejudice in Hinduism Studies?
A Look at Encarta
Sankrant Sanu
17. Paul Courtright’s ‘Ganesa, Lord of Obstacles,
Lord of Beginnings’: An Independent Review
Vishal Agarwal and Kalavai Venkat

Aditi Banerjee
18. Myth of the Savage Frontier
19. An American Community Gets Awakened
20. Attempts to Refocus on the Issues
21. Circling the Wagons: Dissent and Censorship
22. Character Assassination
23. Restoring the Debate: Silenced Voices Speak Out
24. Calling Courtright’s Bluff

25. Hyping Hindu ‘Wrath’: Mythmaking and the Washington Post
Krishnan Ramaswamy
26. Muddying the Waters: Doniger Rolls Out the Big guns
Krishnan Ramaswamy
27. The Power of ‘Connection’: Using the New York Times for PR
Krishnan Ramaswamy
28. University of Chicago Magazine: Obscuring the issues
Yvette C. Rosser
29. The Diaspora Press: India Abroad Encourages Debate
Krishnan Ramaswamy