Like we have American and European Indologists and Orientalists, why don’t we have Indian Americanologists and such?

This idea came to my mind after coming across some updates on Twitter that Amnesty International has released its annual report for 2015–16 and talked about “growing intolerance” in India. I’m not going to go into the details of what Amnesty International has to say about India and whether we actually have “growing intolerance” in the country or not because that’s another topic, but here what I want to talk about is, just like we have American and European Indologists and Orientalists who frequently study various Indian traditions, cultures, racial profiles, ethnic peculiarities, mythologies and religions, why don’t we have Indian Americanologists? This thought came to me when I was thinking why don’t we have an Indian human rights organisation giving certificates to European and American countries, closely keeping an eye on their human rights records? Why are Western organisations constantly telling us how we are running our country?

There is a very serious gun problem going on in America. Every second month there is a mass shooting in schools and colleges. If I’m not wrong, in Texas college going kids are going to be able to bring guns with them. With such a social and cultural collapse, isn’t there an Indian (it can be any person outside of America but since I’m writing from India, I’m going to talk about Indians) who want to point out what a fucked up logic it is to allow college students to carry weapons inside the classes? Isn’t it a big human rights violation of those students who don’t want to carry guns? Instead of curbing the gun lobby, the government is abetting use of guns. It is certainly going to be quite profitable for the gun industry. Just because the gun industry should be able to make money, so many people are routinely being killed in a so-called developed country. Why aren’t Indian scholars writing opinion pieces, editorials and articles on this? What does Amnesty International say about the blatant gun usage in America?

Since time immemorial people have been coming to our country to study us. They tell us how we have been treating ourselves. They have studied our epics, they have studied our Upanishads and Vedas, they have interpreted and reinterpreted our Sanskrit texts, they have psychoanalysed our gods and religious practices, thousands of books must have been written by Western scholars on India’s history and other “exotic” Indian manifestations. I’m totally fine with that. There is nothing wrong with people studying each other’s cultures. The problem is, this “study” seems to be just one sided.

Can you name me just one scholar who has written about how the Americans treated the Native Americans? Has an Indian writer ever written about how the Europeans treated the Mayans in South America? What about a book on how the Australians treated the aboriginals? What about Spanish Inquisitions? What about colonialism? What about witch hunts in Europe and America?

Of course there are many soapy details of how the British treated Indians, but has there been a proper analytical study of why the British were able to come to India first on friendly terms and then as rulers, by an Indian scholar? If such books have been written in regional languages, have they been translated? What about the Islamic invasion in India? Has there been a deep study, by Indian scholars, on the culture of the Islamic invaders? About how they lived, how they treated each other, what different religious practices they had and what was their racial evolution.

We have scholars like Max Muller, Sheldon Pollock and even Wendy Donigger becoming eminent Indologists and Orientalists, do we have an Indian who is an eminent Americanologists or a Francologist? If not, why not? Is it the lack of funds or lack of interest?

I would like to mention here that I’m writing this just as a layperson and as I have mentioned above such thoughts came to me after coming across the update about the Amnesty International report. Maybe there ARE books by Indian authors about how the Americans treated the Red Indians. Maybe there IS a history scholar of Indian origin who has closely studied how the Americans brought slaves from America and then how they treated them while making them working in their plantations. Where are these books and where are these scholars?

You see, we have lots of books telling Indians how upper caste Hindus treated lower caste Hindus and how our religious texts are full of biases and prejudices. Sure, every religion has its dark side but it seems when it comes to India, more foreigners are able to wade through the Indian dark side but there are no Indians who can wade through the Christian dark side. What about the old Testament? It is said that it is not very much different from Quran. Why not have a book comparing the old Testament with Quran, drawing parallels between both the books and when the parallels are found, drawing some conclusions regarding what sort of impact these books have had on various parts of the world?

Different individuals with means should come together and set up a fund to support scholars who would like to study American history and culture or European history or Arabic history or Australian history. These should be lucrative, prestigious assignments and not bare minimums assignments so that present and future scholars can be drawn to them without having to worry about their future prospects and finances. This is how Indologists and Orientalists work: they get lots of funding from Western universities like Columbia, Oxford and Cambridge and even funding agencies like the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Again, I’m not going to go into how these foreign-funded scholars interpret and reinterpret everything about India and how they have built entire armies of Indian scholars who are constantly fawning over these foreign-funded scholars and even colluding with them to rewrite India’s history and alter India’s cultural norms because these topics have been dealt with quite nicely by eminent Indian scholars like Rajiv Malhotra and Arun Shourie. Such work has already started. But just as a reciprocation and also for scholarly growth, I think it would be better if Indians also started studying other cultures and religions. There are scores of scholars studying how upper caste Hindus treated lower caste Hindus and what were the social dynamics between Hindus and Muslims under the Mughal rule; why not also have Indian scholars who study how European Americans completely ravaged North American and South American indigenous societies? The slave trade in America. The aboriginals in Australia. There is a treasure trove of topics to be explored.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Amrit Hallan’s story.