15 years ago- at a time when Congress had returned to power with the backing of the Left- Prof. David Gordon White wrote about the 'History wars' which the BJP appeared to have lost-
In recent decades the craft of writing the history of South Asian religions has become increasingly drawn into the fire of identity politics.
Presumably, White is thinking of the History profession's concerted attempt to deny that the Babri Masjid had ever been a Hindu temple. In an earlier post, I showed this was a well organized and lavishly funded American enterprise which appeared to have succeeded under UPA- when people like Romilla Thapar had the ear of Sonia and Rahul's reputation with the State Department went up several notches when he told the US Ambassador that 'Hindu militancy' was the biggest danger to India. That was just 11 years ago! Now the guy claims to be a sacred thread wearing Brahmin. His sister tweeted delight at the consecration ceremony of the Temple which is being constructed on the previously disputed site.
This has been the case especially in India, where at one extreme the religious populism of the Hindu nationalists and at the other the postmodernist theory formations of the Subaltern School both reject out of hand the validity of the critical historical method, the one because it is critical and the other because it is historical.
So the Hindu nationalists are better for History because they don't reject it. They merely prefer their own version of it.
White, in appearing to attack the Hindus, is actually ridiculing the Subaltern school. You can take the savant out of his shithole country, but you can't get the shit out of the shithead's head.
What White isn't saying is that America lost this particular 'History War' because its historians and philologists were shit. Any blogger with a little time on her hands could cease upon a portion of their writing so as to expose their ignorance and stupidity.
In the first case, the Hindu nationalists—who have internalized the theories of such modernist scholars as Max Müller and James Frazer
We have never read either. Hindu nationalists tend to be Engineers or Accountants or retired Science teachers etc.
concerning the pristine origins and subsequent decay of every religion—assume the truths of Hinduism to be eternal and unchanging, and therefore not subject to historical scrutiny.
That is perfectly reasonable. The truths of a Religion or Soteriology or a deontic system are indeed eternal and unchanging. Why? They are imperative, not alethic.
the second, the Subaltern School rejects on ideological grounds the validity of the historical enterprise, by denying, on the premise that the very concept of history is Eurocentric, the objective validity of any attempt to describe the past on the basis of historical data.
Thus, it is a grave scandal that Dipesh Chakrabarty is a Professor of History in White's own America.
Indians are welcome to believe, as the Israelis and the Americans do, that their religion's truths are eternal, but when a bunch of those Indians turn up at the faculty of American History Departments then something must be done.
White has a point. The History Wars are over. The Hindus won. The anti-Hindus shat the bed. One reason for this was that they said there were never any Hindu temples which were turned into mosques. Now some are saying there never were any Hindus. The religion was invented in 1915. This is an obvious lie. Narendra Modi (real name Nicholas Maugham) invented Hinduism in 2014.
Implicit in both positions is the assumption of an Indian exceptionalism, that is, that the Indian worldview(s), culture(s), tradition(s), and race(s) are so different, so self-contained as to be uninterpretable through any but indigenous Indian categories.
For Indians- sure. As for non-Indians, fuck they matter? They are welcome to believe any stupid shit they like.
Such claims are not unique to India:
nor unique to White. Emerging from the shite University experience, political and intellectual shitheads in America have been theorizing their academic identities along exceptionalist lines. Thus White claims to know shit about India. True, he knows shit about anywhere else. But, for India, he is willing to make an exception.
emerging from the colonial experience, political and intellectual elites of new nation-states throughout the world have been theorizing their national identities along such exceptionalist lines.
So what? America is plenty 'exceptionalist'. Doesn't seem to have done it any harm. What is the point of having an identity which can't self-certify its separate, autonomous existence, at least in the exceptional instance of its own oikeiosis or sense of belonging?
White is shit at Indian history- vide.
For the Hindu nationalists, all indigenous categories are always already the categories of their eternal Hindu faith
Nope. Hindu nationalists have no problem with Jainism and Buddhism which have different categories from Sanathan Dharma.
It is ironic that this cunt is ignorant of his own special subject.
It is an irony of (critical) history that many of the Hindu nationalists’ categories of the pure and eternal Hindu faith are themselves the very recent product of nineteenth- and twentieth-century reconstructions of Hinduism, which were themselves so many reactions to the colonial experience.
Reconstruction is not reform. There were reforms but 'reconstructions' disappeared. Where now will you find a Brahmo? Religion is a service industry. As incomes have risen its provision has risen. Our worship has gotten noticeably more diverse over the last forty years simply because we can afford to go to more tirthas and mix and match when it comes to Temples and so forth.
The colonial experience didn't matter. Competition did. White is a cretin.
Present-day Hindu nationalists have mainly embraced the categories of the Hindu reform of the colonial period (which was mainly limited to high-caste urban elites in Bengal and the Punjab)—
Fuck off! Can't this cunt see with his own ideas that huge big statues of Hanuman etc are going up all over the place? The Brahmo/Arya Samaj prejudice against 'idol worship' has disappeared completely.
categories that, following the Orientalists, often cast the pure Hindu tradition in an “Anglican” light of quietist devotion, spirituality, and self-renewal.
I actually live in England. WTF is an 'Anglican' tradition of quietist devotion? Some T.S Eliot type bullshit? It doesn't exist- at least, in London. But the pure Hindu tradition is doing fine.
White says that his job is to combat Hindu Nationalism's version of Hinduism- their claims need to be rebutted by critical historians, and not least because of the blatant human rights abuses that have been carried out under the aegis of their broader agenda
15 years later we can say that 'critical historians' failed. Why? They were shit at history. They didn't understand the present because they were too stupid and they couldn't understand the past because they were too stupid and too fucking ignorant.
Still, for a while, they had their cozy citation cartels and circle jerk conferences. But history has already forgotten them. They left no footmark upon it. At the margin, they may get a footnote as contributing to the decline of the Left. But the Left only declined because where it wouldn't do 'last mile delivery'.
Economics matters. History does not. White does not get that the Subaltern School gained salience because of Naxalbari. It was plausible that tribals couldn't speak for themselves and thus 'buddhijivis' could represent those crazy head hunters. Obviously, given the bloody retribution taken by the State, as well as CPM goons, on actual CPI (ML) academics, the Subalternists couldn't themselves speak save unintelligibly. But, for Mamta, it was plausible that Spivak represented, in some occult manner, the Naxal corner of the 'Naxal-Jamaat-TMC' alliance which Brinda Karat blamed for Nandigram.
White is ignorant of all this.
This failure to actually write “minority histories” of India’s subalterns stems from a fundamental axiom of postcolonial studies in general: that is, that India’s experience of the colonial adventure of the European powers was so unusual that the deconstruction of the latter’s discourse of power (through the writing of history, for example), which continues to colonize the Indian mind, is more urgent than the retrieval of India’s precolonial past, or the linking of that past to the postcolonial present through historical methods, however flawed they may be.
This is illogical. Subalternists are either Indian or have spent too much time with Indians. Thus their brains are for shit due to Whitey buggered their brains and colonized their minds. Thus they can't 'retrieve' shit.
Of course, if minds can't actually be colonized- more particularly if there was no Colonialism around to do it when these cunts were born- then... critical history is shit.
These guys can't do shit because their subject is shit and their brains have turned to shit because they teach this shite.
To be sure, certain colonial and postcolonial historians have succeeded in laying bare the asymmetries of power with regard to religion that obtain between colonial elites (and their Indian collaborators) and the subaltern masses.
Who needs to lay bare an 'asymmetry of power' between the powerful and the powerless? What's next? A learned treatise showing that Mummies have more agency than babies?
But such deconstructive post-mortems, of which there have been an abundance in recent decades, require a complementary move on the part of historians,
i.e. if they do stupid shite, we must do stupid shite.
and that move is to reconstruct, to recover, the precolonial history of South Asian religions.
They can't piece together the contemporary history of shit. How will they piece together stuff that went down long ago?
In an important study, Sheldon Pollock presented the issue in the following way: How it is possible, then, to survey the constructions of colonial domination without a detailed topography of precolonial domination, I cannot see.
This is mad. You can fully chronicle the construction of a City just by looking at the record of the actual building work. You don't need to know the 'pre-history' of that terrain. In any case, Colonial powers did record who their immediate predecessor was. That's all that's needed.
And this topography, charted throughout the expanse of Sanskrit cultural production, does not really exist,
So, there is no topography. Pollock is talking bollocks and doesn't care who knows it.
a lacuna for which classical Indology itself is partly responsible. The failure to trace with any adequacy a historical map of social power in traditional India,
Can Pollock make such a map of contemporary America? No. He is too ignorant and too stupid. You have to know a lot about Economics and Military and other sources of power in order to trace that sort of stuff. Cunts in worthless University Departments are supposed to cater to cretins craving a Credential. It would be nice if they didn't jizz on their students. Drooling is okay. Jizzing could trigger Title IX.
which alone can anchor our estimations of the impact of colonialism, is all the more surprising, considering what appear to be the extraordinary density, longevity and effectivity of authoritative power . . . in the high culture of early India.
Fuck was extraordinary about early India being pretty much like early Everywhere Else?
By way of example, Pollock demonstrates that the Ktryakalpataru of Lakshmıdhara Bhatt a and other major works of the Hindu dharmanibandha canon, “those great encyclopedic constructions of the ‘Hindu way of life,’” were compiled precisely as a brahmanic reaction to the eleventh-century Islamic conquest of the subcontinent.
This is nonsense. There was a demand for things of that sort both before and after Muslim power waxed and waned. A guy in Kohlapur got a grant to do something which was useful for his patron and which raised his own prestige. No doubt, he felt a soteriological purpose was thus served.
Pollock, because he has shit for brains, may believe that writing an arcane work can magically affect the balance of power. He himself wrote shite about Lord Ram. Did it help stop the rise of the BJP? Nope. He and his ilk convinced the increasingly affluent Hindus of America that old fashioned religion was better than the doctrine that Sanskrit spouting Pedants have super powers. They spent a lot of money getting together to say 'Howdy Modi' because at least the fellow was a Ghanchi chai-wallah- i.e. did something useful- and because he tried to avoid Sanskritized shuddh Hindi in favor of a down to earth idiom.
This is not to say that threat-perception, or elite rent contestation, doesn't affect the commissioning of ideological treatises. However, this is easy to spot. It is foolish to regard works which are intended as focal solutions to coordination problems as arising in the same manner.
The reason Subaltern Studies failed is that there was no coordination problem. Naxals didn't displace the CPM. Thus there was no demand for a canonical availability cascade for an important ideology. So, all that obtained was a 'discoordination game' catering to people who wanted to escape from reality.
The Americans, back in the Nineties, did spend some money on a program of 'critical history' to save Indian Democracy from Hindu Fascism. But it was adversely selective. Worthless shitheads jumped on the bandwagon- not guys who knew from Econ or psephology. Look at the outsize role played by Prashant Kishore. Why couldn't the Americans recruit someone like him? The answer is that nobody really believed in Hindu Fascism. This was just a case of crying wolf. Anyway, after 9/11, Hindus were a possible ally in the war against not being a stupid cunt who wants to get rich off the sufferings of A-rabs.