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Text and Practice

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SOAS Studies on South Asia

Stuart Blackburn Terence J. Byres, ed. Terence J. Byres, ed. Indira Chowdhury

The Fatal Rumour: A Ninettmth-cmtury Indian Novel The State and Dtvtlopmmt Planning in India The State, Dtvtlopmmt Planning and Liberalir.ation in India Tht Frail Hero and Virile History: Gmder and the Politics of Culture in Colonial. Bmgal Nigel Crook India's Industrial Cities: Essays in Economy and Demography Dagmar Engels Beyond Purdah? ~men in Bmgal 1890-1939 Michael Hutt, ed. Nepal in the Nineties: Vmions of the Past, Visions of the Future Sudipta Kaviraj The Unhappy Consciousness: Banltimchandra Chattopadhyay and the Formation of Nationalist Discount in India William Radice Swami Vivtltananda and tht Modernir.ation of Hinduism Peter Robb, ed. Rural India: Land, Power and Sociny under British Rule Peter Robb, ed. Society and Iekology: Essays in South Asian History Peter Robb, ed. Daut Movmzmts and tht Meanings of Labour in India Sanjay Sharma Famine, Philanthropy and the Colonial State Ujjwal K. Singh Political Prisoners in India 1922-1977 Subho Basu Dots Class Matter? Colonial Capital and ~rltm' Resistance in Bengal (1890-1937) Avril A. Powell Siobhan Rhetoric and Reality : Gmder and tht Colonial F.xptrience in Lambert-Hurley, eds South Asia SOAS Studies on South Asia: Understandings and Perspectives Daud Ali Michael Anderson and Sumit Guha, eds Nigel Crook, ed.

Involting the Past: The Uses of History in South Asia Changing Concepts of Rights and Justice in South Asia

The Transmission of Knowledge in South Asia: Essays on Education, Religion, History and Politics Gutt Today C.J. Fuller, ed. lnvmted ldmtitits: The Interplay of Gmdn-, Religion and Julia Leslie and Mary McGee, eds Politics in India Christopher Pinney and Pleasure and the Nation: Public Culture in Contemporary Rachel Dwyer, eds India Peter Robb, ed. The Concept of &let in South Asia Meanings of Agriculture: &says in South Asian History and Peter Robb, ed. Economics Button Stein and Sanjay Institutions and Economic Change in South Asia Subrahmanyam, eds SOAS South Asian Tats Series

Michael Hutt Christopher Shackle and Javed Majeed Christopher Shackle and Manin Moir Christopher Shackle and Rupcn Snell Rupen Snell

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SOAS Studies on South Asia

Text and Practice Essays on South Asian History

Ronald J!iden ...,,,,...

With an introduction by Daud Ali

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

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YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford

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C .Ronald Inden 2006 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published in 2006 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Oxford University Press. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer ISBN-13: 978-0-19-566895-7 ISBN-10: 0-19 566895-2

Typeset in HACC Indic 9.5/12 by Jojy Philip Printed in India by Ram Printograph, Delhi 110 051 Published by Manzar Khan, Oxford University Press YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001

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Contents



Acknowledgements

Vl

Introduction: Towards an Anthropology of the Medieval Daud Ali

1

CRITIQUES OF THE STUDIES OF ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL INDIA

1. 2.

Orientalist Constructions of India Tradition Against Itself: Heesterman's India

13 61

ANCIENT TO MEDIEVAL

3. 4.

The Ceremony of the Great Gift: Structure and Historical Context in Indian Ritual and Society Changes in the Vedic Priesthood

89 102

MEDIEVAL

5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Hierarchies of Kings in Early Medieval India Lordship and Caste in Hindu Discourse Kings and Omens The Temple and the Hindu Chain of Being Hindu Evil as Unconquered Lower Self

129 160 179 192 213

MEDIEVAL TO MODERN

10. Embodying God: From Imperial Progresses to National Progress in India 11. Transcending Identities in Modem India's World Index

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Acknowledgements

I would first like to thank those colleagues and students who encouraged me to publish these articles as a single volume. Special thanks goes to Daud Ali for making it happen and for writing the introduction. I am also grateful to the publishers for granting permission to reproduce these pieces. Finally thanks are due to Shashank Sinha, Aparajita Basu, the other people at Oxford University Press, and Pamal Chirmuley, for their assistance and perseverance.

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INTRODUCTION

Towards an Anthropology of the Medieval

The essays contained in this book, written over a period of almost twenty years, represent the bulk of Ronald Inden's non-monograph publishing career. The intention in bringing them together here has been to make available in a single convenient volume, for the purposes of teaching and reference, a number of articles dispersed in journals and out-of-print publications. Many of these essays will need no introduction to students of Indian history, as they have marked important contributions to research or interventions in debate. Having said this, a few brief thoughts on these essays-which have been received individually over the years as a whole, are in order. They span a particularly eventful epoch in the writing of South Asian history. In a certain sense, all of these essays in one way or another can be counted among the errant offspring of the marriage between history and anthropology which dominated the study of South Asia at the University of Chicago, where Inden obtained his PhD in 1972, during the 1960s and 1970s. This confluence of disciplines was not simply an attempt to combine methods, but a critical reflection on ·the advantages and limitations of each field. The spirit of the exchange was captured best by Bernard Cohn, who offered biting if bemused analyses of 'historyland' and 'anthropologyland'.1 For Cohn, the research problems which faced the disciplines of history and anthropology were not as separate and 'unique' as many of their practitioners often claimed. Rather, historians 1 See the three

initial essays in Bernard Cohn, An Anthropologistamong the Histon"ans and Other Euays (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 1-77.

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and anthropologists dealt with the common problem of understanding 'others'-those separated from the researcher by place and/or time. As such, these disciplines faced analytical problems which united the social and human sciences as a whole, though each could contribute particular concerns and observations to these wider dilemmas. This was particularly the case in colonial settings, where society could not be understood without the tools of cross-cultural analysis, on the one hand, and an appreciation of the historic role of colonialism itself as a transformative force, on the other. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that Inden, though widely known as a medieval historian, began with an interest in the present, which led him backward in time to pre-colonial India. This was not so much a search for the 'roots' or 'origins' of modem practices, but an attempt to gain a greater understanding of the present through a more precise appreciation of the nature and contours of change in social practices over time. Eventually, the medieval became the primary focus of Inden's research, and his sources increasingly textual, but one eye seems always to have been turned toward the present. Methodologically, Inden's research was marked by the ethnographers scrutiny of minutiae and the social scientist's concern with agency. He did not share, however, the anthropologist's apparent distaste for the arcane, textual, and prosopographic. Rather, it is through a reappraisal of these sorts of materials that Inden has tried to challenge some of the accepted truths regarding 'tradition' which both anthropologists and historians have often relied on in different ways. So, from the purist perspectives of these disciplines, the essays in this volume form rather misshapen animals, conforming neither to the sacred 'historian's craft' nor the anthropologist's hallowed ethnography. For historians, they may appear all too theoretical and model based, while anthropologists may be sceptical of the textualist and medieval bases of these studies. Yet both historians and anthropologists can each take away much from these essays. Below I would like to introduce two major themes in these essays--caste and religion-and then treat the question of Orientalism and the medieval. The concern of some of these essays, and indeed one of the formative interests of Inden's early scholarly career, is the interpretation of that intractable and labyrinthine problem in Indian social science, caste. Inden's thinking on this topic, as he himself admits in the opening essay of this volume, changed over his career. Many of the essays in this book grew out of a considered self-criticism and revision of these earlier ideas. More widely, Inden criticized the social scientific traditions

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of the West which had made an exoticized idea of caste central to the understanding of Indian civi1ization as a whole. Integral to this reappraisal was a reconsideration of caste in light of the institution of kingship and 'the state', following in part the work of anthropologist A.M. Hocart and, in part, the ideas of philosopher-historian R.G. Collingwood. 2 Inden interpreted pre-colonia1 caste not primarily as a system of ascriptive kin-based groups articulated through ideas of purity and pollution or a natural division of labour, which together formed a more or less perverse (or perfect) anticipation of 'civil society', but instead as a scale of interrelated, self-monitoring agencies, which were integral to the formation of political orders in early India. Inden's position, developed through critiques of scholars like J.C. Heestermann and Louis Dumont, held that kingship and polity should figure at the centre of any analysis of caste. The turn to state and polity is perhaps not so strange, as in any event most conceptions of caste, whether as religiously sanctioned, kin-based 'communities' or economically determined 'classes', have relied heavily on some notion of the state as an analytically separate yet companionate institution. The chief problem has been relating the two insti~tions to one another. For much analysis, Inden argued, this problem was resolved through reference to the model of the modem bureaucratic state and civil society. Yet in India, unlike in the West, the institution of caste with its inward loyalties, substantially retarded or at least indelibly coloured the development of the state. This idea long remained an uncritical assUniption in both writing on early India and anthropology, where it formed the cornerstone of Louis Dumont's influential theory of homo hierarchicus. Yet the implications of this position, which as early as Hegel had been used to explain India's apparent lack of history, were indeed dismal for early Indian historians. It contributed no doubt to A.L. Basham's sweeping dismissal of history in his magisterial overview of ancient Indian civilization. 3 Yet, in post-Independence historiography, such appraisals of caste tended to be undermined by the study of early Indian social history, which saw the state, in the end, as a product of society.4 Inden's contribution, 2

A.M. Hocart, Caste: A Comparative Study {London: Metheun, 1950) and R.G. Collingwood, 111e New Leviathan: Man, Society, Civilisallon and Barbarism (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1992 ) . 3 See A.L Basham, 111e Wonder that was India {London: Sidgwick and Jackson, t 96n, pp. 69-70. 4 Compare the remarks of the eminent historian Romila Thapar in her early overview of Indian history, History of India 1, ... with the argument of her subsequent work,

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by no means accepted by social historians, was somewhat different, being theoretically reconstructive. Instead of arguing that caste and the state grew up together, Inden, based on a consideration of both the early Indian sources as well as an appreciation of the literature on state and society in modem social science, chose to avoid the terminology of 'state' altogether. The problem with the concept of 'the state' was that it tended to be used in a highly substantialized and reified manner, indeed as an almost 'metaphysical' object. 5 Such a transcendent notion of the state, Inden argued, was peculiar to modem times. What the state was meant to 'transcend' or 'rise above', was society, in a manner of the heavens hanging above the earth, as Karl Marx had once put it. While such a description may have relevance for modem ideologies, it hardly makes sense in pre-colonial and pre-bourgeois societies. Inden proposed instead the idea of 'polity', a concept not readily divisible into the 'realms' of a bureaucratic state of permanent administrative functionaries, on the one hand, and a 'civil society' of economic and communitarian association, on the other. Polity in Inden's formulation was an unstable scale of hierarchical, differential, and encompassing capacities for action, or 'lordships', which stretched from the king and his court to the householder and his family. This approach not only allowed Inden to make more sense of sumptuary manuals which told kings how to behave at court where real political hierarchies were articulated, but in reconceptualizing caste itself as a form of lordship. This project eventually culminated in his idea of 'imperial formations' and 'subject-citizenries', in the final chapter of Imagining India. A number of the essays in this volume represent crucial steps along the way. The most detailed theories of lordship in medieval India were to be found in religious sources, and the reinterpretation of the rise and particularly From Lineage to State: Social Fonnations in the Mid-First Millennium B.C. in the Ganga Valley(Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984), which effectively unravelled this proposition by demonstrating that the proliferation of caste identities was intimately related to the development of the state itself. See also Kumkum Roy, The Emergence of Monarchy in North India: Eighth to Fourth Centuries BC (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997). For an examination of relations of state and caste which suggest similar conclusions based on late medieval materials, see Hiroshi Fukazawa, '11le Medieval Deccan: Peasants, Social Systems and States, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1991). 5 As Pierre Bourdieu has remarked, in trying to 'think the state', historiography has too often been 'taken over by the thought of the state', Pierre Bourdieu, 'Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field', Sociological Theory, vol. 12, no. 1 (1994), pp. 1-18.

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significance of the theistic religious literature which gained great prominence in India from the Gupta period, has been another longstanding research interest for Inden. Inden's approach to medieval Indian religion, like his view of caste, had an anthropological accent. Any analysis of lordship had to take into account the frameworks and concerns of the sources being relied upon-frameworks and concerns, which it had to be admitted, were radically different from those of most modem people. For one, they presupposed as central to their theories the existence of superordinate and cosmological agencies which acted with and through the capacities of men in the world. This did not mean, however, that they could be safely relegated to the idea of theocratic rule or the divine right of kings. If any progress was to be made in understanding the Indian materials, this theocentric world-view had to be rescued from the model of Christianity, but more particularly its liberal secular and romantic commentators, those who founded the study of religion in the West. Thus, whether looking at court or temple ritual, the interpretation of omens, or concepts of evil, Inden has generally opposed both romantic and liberal understandings of religion as 'ideological, 'symbolic', 'legitimatory', or 'meaning-giving' discourses. 6 He argued instead that they were constitutive of people's attempts to actively transform and order the world around them. The Hindu temple, then, was not a 'symbol' or a 'legitimation' of already constituted authority, but instead a set of practices through which medieval Indian polities made and remade themselves through time. In a sense, like the images it contained, the Hindu temple had an iconic aspect-it helped to form and ontologically participated in the world it sought to represent. Religion from this point of view could more accurately be described as a 'life-wish', (not to be confused with the holistic romanticist unity of man, society, and nature), a set of discursive practices which sought to order, change, and accommodate the thoughts and actions of selves and others. Religion interpreted in this way created a much greater scope for the appreciation of religious change in India. Historically sensitive accounts of pre-Islamic religion have remained a desideratum in Indian studies, despite the overbalanced scholarly attention to the topic of 'Hinduism' in European scholarship. Inden did not follow the norm in Indology for the last hundred years, of setting out the de.iningfeatures 6

For an extended critique of such definitions of religion, see Talal Asad, 'l'he Construction of Religion as an Anthropological Category', in Genealogies of Religion: Discipline andReasons ofPowerin ChristianityandIs/am (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1993}, pp. 27-55.

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of the Hindu religion as embodied in key texts, and demonstrating how they unfolded or were expressed in history. Rather he sought to demonstrate how various complex agents (kings, adepts, intellectuals) created diverse life-wishes through transforming, incorporating, and opposing existing practices and thoughts. The substantive contribution of Inden's work in this regard has been to provide a historically complex account of the transition from the life-wishes embodied in the sacrificial religion of the Vedas to those integral to theistic temple worship as embodied in the Purat).as and Agamas. Inden has rejected the division of elite Brahmanism and popular Hinduism which has provided most scholars with an convenient template for this transition. The texts and monuments which form virtually our only evidence for this period, however, are far more complex. To wit, both of these lifewishes used related terminology, were hegemonic in scope, and sought to transform a world at the centre of which were the king and his polity. By a close examination of the Sanskrit texts, Inden has shown how the Vedic priesthoods successively reworked and transformed the sacrificial cult in response to challenges from both within and beyond their orders. The most successful and wide-ranging of these reorderings, coeval with the rise of the 'medieval' in Indian historiography, were those undertaken by the Pasupata and Pafi.caratra orders. Inden's longstanding work (both here and elsewhere) on a text of the latter of these orders, the V~IJudharmottarapuraJ}.a, has in one way or another formed the basis for much of his thinking on all the matters treated in this book. But, for scholars of early India, the essays in the second section of the book, treating the rise of theistic orders in India, remain among the most historically complex and textually informed accounts of this religious transition. 7 The normal course of critique in the fields of history and anthropology of South Asia was profoundly altered by the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism in 1978. Numerous scholars took to the 'interrogation' of European knowledges and practices in the 'representation' of the 'other'. Inden joined the fray here with what became one of his well-known essays, 'Orientalist Constructions of India'-an article which culminated in his more comprehensive study, Imagining India (1990). Two things, however, distinguished Inden's works from the wider ,

7

For an earlier account, see R. G. Bhandarkar, Vai!I}avism, Saivism and Minor Religious SystemS (Strassburg: Trilbner, 1913). More recently, Michael Willis has further clarified this transition in an important study of the rituals and priesthoods at the Gupta court. See Michael Willis, ~e Archaeology and Politics of Time', Proceedings of the Intemational Vakataka Conference 2002 (Groningen, 2004), forthcoming.

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scholarship which proceeded from Orientalism. First, Inden criticized not simply the 'essenrializing' tendencies of Western knowledge of India, but linked these constructions to the wider methodological problems which faced social scientists as a whole. In this sense, Inden's book had a fundamentally different character than Orientaiism. It formed less a critique of Western discourse on India as such, than an enquiry into and critique of the foundations of social scientific knowledge of India. So theories of Hinduism and caste were not merely criticized as discourses of power, but as theoretically flawed exercises in social science. Logically related to this was an underlying concern with how it could be possible to rethink this knowledge about India, to tum the 'patients' of a historical discourse into 'agents'-a concern entirely absent from the Saidian perspective and its followers. In the final chapter of Imagining India, Inden made an attempt at such a rethinking by looking closely at the social organization and imperial discourses of the ~akii~ a kingdom in medieval Deccan. Inden's critique and reconstructions elicited diverse reactions. While its oear-comprehensive analyses of Indology, religious studies, and anthropology were recognized, few scholars addressed the social scientific and reconstructive aspects of this book, which were connected more substantively to Inden's other work (much of which has been included in this volume). Interestingly, more 'traditional' historians and 'fashionable' literacy theorists agreed that the main argument of the book was that the British 'imagined' Indian society and 'invented' caste.8 For traditionally minded historians, any questioning of the interpretive frames of such obvious empirical realities like caste was tantamount to denying their existence, while for post-colonial scholars, the book formed a convenient platform to argue just that-that the British had created all the ills of Indian society. The post-colonial literacy theorist Aijaz Ahmed launched a related critique from an apparently Marxist position which largely condemned what appeared to him to be a conservative and apologetic celebration of ancient Indian polity. Though one might certainly criticize any number of elements of Inden's theory of agency on their own terms, or even from a Marxist perspective, Ahmed seemed more worried that Hindu mythology was not dismissed out of hand as feudal claptrap. 9 For Ahmed, it was enough to announce the for example, Susan Bayly, ~ SocietyandPolltk:sin India from the Eighteenth c:entury to the Modem Age, The New Cambridge History of India IV.3 (Cambridge 8 See

University Pies, 1999), pp. 2n, 99 and Aijaz Ahmed, In Theory: Cl&ffES, Nadons, Liteiatares (New York: Verso, 1992), p. 196. · 9 Aijaz Ahmed, 'Between Orientalism and Historicism: Anthropological Knowledge of

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fact that there was a Marxist interpretation of pre-colonial India to be assured that all was well in early Indian historiography and nothing in need of reconsideration. Yet actual Marxist historians of medieval India have been far more open to some of Inden's analyses over the years (though disagreeing strongly on others) than scholars like Ahmed, who actually have little interest in the world before colonialism and capitalism. Indeed, for many centrist or left-leaning intellectuals, the sentiment has long been that the only thing which needs to be known about the medieval or traditional past in India is that it was feudal, nasty, and irrational. The effects of such attitudes are clearly apparent in India today, where the public discourse on traditional India has largely been captured by the Hindu right. Though intellectuals like Ahmed would no doubt like to lay partial blame for this on those who deviated from the materialist fold, they might more profitably look closer to home for the causes. The left's dismissal of a 'reactionary' cultural past effectively conceded this domain to the Hindu right. In his more recent works, Inden has taken up these largely liberal constructions of history. The idea of a superseded and conquered 'traditional' or 'medieval' past, as integral as it has been to most conceptions of modem society, remains deeply problematic, not so much because medieval or traditional societies have continued to haunt modem ones, but because modem societies remain blind to the ways that they themselves have reoccupied the functions of ideologies and institutions they atu ibuted to the dark, medieval past. We are routinely told, for example, that theocentric polities flattened human agency in the name of transcendental abstraction. 10 Medieval people lived in dream worlds concocted for the purpose of their exploitation. But a closer look at the practices of contemporary society, notwithstanding the rampant historical triumphalism of modernist ideologies like liberalism, reveals that our own practices of collective and individual selfrea]ization are typically founded on transcendent, ahistorical principles which often exist outside of human history. Inden has developed this India', Studies in History, vol. 7, no. 1 (1991), pp. 135-65. Though Ahmed, like many other post-colonial scholars, (particularly his rival Gayani Spivak) have made their careers by disavowing their own field in the name of being traditional Marxists, the primary audiences of their scholarly work have never been Marxist social scientists in India or elsewhere, but post-colonial literary critics. 10 Such assumptions may be found in the most sophisticated accounts of the birth of modernist (nationalist) historical thinking in India. See the widely influential, if typical, interpretation of Partha Chatterjee, '/be Nation andits Fragments: Colonialand Postcolonial Histories (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 80.

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critique primarily through essays (included in the final section of this book) which juxtapose supposedly 'conservative' and 'recidivist' medieval practices with their modem counterparts. Processions, deemed a potential public-order problem in contemporary India, a benighted vestige from a frightening medieval past, form an interesting case in point. When we look closely at what medieval rulers and aristocrats thought they were doing in holding processions, a somewhat different picture emerges. They conceived of them as a means of ordering their realms under the practices of an immanent and participatory institution of lorclship. While such political orders were no doubt fundamentally different from those of modem polities or 'publics', based as they were on principles of hierarchy rather than equality, they nevertheless allowed social agents the possibility, contrary to their image in liberal discourse, of making and remaking their worlds. And when we tum to modem notions of collective improvement, embodied in the practices and ideas of 'progress' and 'development', there seem to be ever more elaborate forms of agentive displacement and trascendeotalist thinking. Similarly, in looking at the problem of 'identity', it appears that despite their claims of having freed people from the shackles of traditional or medieval life, modem (and postmodem) conceptions of self are not only highly utopian, but largely restrictive. While medieval societies in India generally admitted both differentiated, 'heterotelic' notions of selfhood in which various goals could be pursued at different times, as well as more 'homotelic' notions of selfhood where these various elements were articulated into some sort of transcendent unity, modem societies have consistently preferred entirely homotelic ideas of selthood, which have been marshalled under the problematic rubric of 'identity'. It would be a mistake to interpret the polemical character of such analyses as some sort of apologetic for the traditional or the medieval. The intention has been instead to develop sharper tools of scrutiny for examining both the past and the world in which we live today. In some senses, lnden shares with sociologists like Foucault and others a vehement distrust of both the liberal and romantic images of the world which in one way or another have dominated our views of the present and the past. While historians may justly grumble over the juxtaposition of ideas and practices with little reference to the historical or 'genealogical' links between them in the later essays of this volume, these essays are at the same time among Inden's most suggestive. They are as much arguments about the present as they are about the past, pointing to crucial but little observed fault lines in the interpretation of the medieval as 'other' and the modem as 'self. We return, then, in the

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end, to the confluence of history and anthropology. Indeed, I would suggest that it is the 'anthropological tum' which unites these later essays with those of Inden's earlier career. Though much work is yet to be done, together the essays of this volume suggest different ways, both empirically and theoretically, for developing a more nuanced and theoretically complex historical account of the rise and transformation of the medieval in India. DAuoAu

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Orientalist Constructions of India*

OPENING DISCUSSION Now it is the interest of Spirit that external conditions should become internal ones; that the natural and the spiritual world should be recognized in the subjective aspect belonging to intelligence; by which process the unity of subjectivity and (positive) Being generally-or the Idealism of Existence is established. This Idealism, then, is found in India, but only as an Idealism of imagination, without distinct conceptions;-one which does indeed free existence from Beginning and Matter (liberates it from temporal limitations and gross materiality), but changes everything into the merely Imaginative; for although the latter appears interwoven with definite conceptions and Thought presents itself as an occasional concomitant, this happens only through accidental combination. Since, however, it is the abstract and absolute Thought itself that enters into these dreams as their material, we may say that Absolute Being is presented here as in the ecstatic state of a dreaming condition.1

This essay is critical of Indology and the related disciplines in the social sciences. Its aim is to establish a space for the production of a new knowledge of South Asia. The object of the critique is what I, following others, refer to as 'Orientalist discourse', and the accounts of India that it produced. It has emerged out of work that I have been doing for the past decade on Hindu states and rituals in 'early medieval' India. What I present here is to be seen as a provisional part of a larger study of Hinduism and kingship which I hope to complete soon. Although I write here from the standpoint of an Indologist, historian, and anthropologist of India, the problems with which I * First published, Modem Asian Studies, vol. 20, no. 3 (1986), pp. 401-46. 1 G.W.F.

Hegel, The Philosophy of History, tr., J. Sibree (New York: Dover, 1956),

p. 139.

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deal here are not confined to those disciplines. They are shared by scholars in the other human sciences as well. My concern in the 'deconstruction' that follows is not to compare the 'theories' or 'explanations' of these accounts with the 'facts' of Indian history. On the contrary, I take the position that those facts themselves have been produced by an 'episteme' (a way of knowing that implies a particular view of existence) which I wish to criticize. The episteme at issue presupposes a representational view of knowledge. It assumes that true knowledge merely represents or mirrors a separate reality which the knower somehow transcends. Adherence to this position has allowed the scholar to claim that his (rarely her) knowledge is natural and objective and not a matter for political debate. It has also operated to produce a hierarchic relationship between knower and known, privileging the knowledge of the scientists and other experts and leaders who make up the former while subjugating the knowledges of the people who comprise the latter. My own position relies on a reading of the works of thinkers as diverse as R. G. Collingwood (post-Hegelian), Antonio Gramsci (postMarxian), and Michel Foucault (post-structuralist), and, indirectly, Jacques Derrida (deconstructionist). It has also benefited a great deal from the writings of Anthony Giddens in critical sociology on human agency, and of Roy Bhaskar on 'transcendental realism' in the philosophy of science. It is my assumption that reality transcends the knower. The knowledge of the knower is not a 'natural' representation of an external reality. It is an artificial construct but one which actively participates (especially when it comes to social knowledge) in producing and transforming the world. Two of the assumptions built into the 'episteme' of Indology are that the real world (whether that is material and determinate or ideal and ineffable) consists of essences and that that world is unitary. Entailed in these two assumptions is a further assumption. It holds that there exists a 'human nature' which itself consists of a unitary essence. It is also supposed that, at a lower level, each culture or civilization embodies a similarly unitary essence. Since the unitary essence of human nature is assumed to be most fully realized in the 'West', a major difficulty (if not the fundamental one) that has confronted the scholar of non-Western Others has been how to reconcile . the essence of the Other's civilization, with the Euro-American manifestation of human nature's unitary essence-rational, scientific thought and the institutions of liberal capitalism and democracy. Not infrequently this essence is substantialized and turned into an Agent Digitized by

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(God, Reason, Western Man, the Market, the Welfare State, the Party) who is seen as using the people and institutions of the West as instruments and history is seen as teleological: a hypostatized Agent is moving humanity towards its natural and spiritual (essential) end. Indological discourse, I argue, holds (or simply assumes) that the essence of Indian civilization is just the opposite of the West's. It is the irrational (but rationalizable) institution of 'caste' and the Indological religion that accompanies it, Hinduism. Human agency in India is displaced by Indological discourse not onto a reified State or Market but onto a substantialized Caste. This has entailed several consequences for the Indological construction of India. It has necessitated the wholesale dismissal of Indian political institutions, and especially of kingship. To give this construct of India credibility, the depiction of Indian thought as inherently symbolic and mythical rather than rational and logical has also been required. Finally, it has been necessary for Brahmanism or Hinduism, the religion considered to be the justification of caste, to be characterized as essentially idealistic (i.e. apolitical). Caste, conceived in this way as India's essential institution, has been both the cause and effect of India's low level of political and economic 'development' and of its repeated failure to prevent its conquest by outsiders. Given this, it was only 'natural' for European scholars, traders, and administrators to appropriate the power of Indians (not only the 'masses', but also the 'elite') to act for themselves. This they have done since the formation of lndological discourse made it possible. Despite India's acquisition of formal political independence, it has still not regained the power to know its own past and present apart from that discourse. The fixation on caste as the essence of India has had still another effect. It has committed Indology, largely descended from British empiricism and utilitarianism, to a curious and contradictory mixture of societalism, in which Indian actions are attributed to social groups caste, village, linguistic region, religion, and joint familybecause there are no individuals in India, and individualism, in which Indian's acts are atu ibuted to bad motives. The purpose here is to produce a knowledge of India that helps restore that power, that focuses on the problematic of formulating and using a theory of human agency which avoids the pitfalls of the representational theory of knowledge. This will require that those of us in the discipline work free of the incoherent combination of societalism and individualism that prevails in the study of South Asia. It will also entail the abandonment of the substantialism and essentialism Digitized by

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that have permitted the discipline of Indology and its affiliates in the social sciences to evade the issue of human agency. The first part of this essay is an argument about the ways in which Indological discourse has been constituted. After a brief contextual treatment of the usages for distinguishing different Europes and Asias, I discuss what I see as the three aspects of Indological accounts, the 'descriptive', the 'commentative' and the 'explanatory', and end by focusing on texts I refer to as 'hegemonic'. The middle part of the essay deals with the construction of India put forward by the scholars whose views are predominant in the study of South Asia, those whom I have labelled as utilitarian, empiricist, and positivist. The third part of the essay deals with alternate views. I begin with the construction of India produced by those scholars whom I refer to as romantics and idealists and then look at other dissenters. The essay ends with a brief look at South Asian 'area studies' since the Second World War, followed by my own suggestions for a 'reconstruction' of scholarship on South Asia.

THE ORIENTS Europeans and North Americans have produced many overlapping images of 'the Orient' (!'orient, das Morgenland) or 'the East' as the Other. Terms like 'the Orient' or 'the East' are used very loosely nowadays, as in the past, to refer to Asia, but this is only one use to which these terms are put. The first of these terms (but not the second) is also employed at present to distinguish a 'Communist World', also known as 'the Second World', from 'the Free World'. The former, 'the East', dominated by the Soviet Union and including the nations of Eastern Europe and China, straddles both Europe and Asia. The latter, 'the West', assumed by its own leaders to be 'the First World', the part of the globe dominated by the United States and the countries of Western Europe, also includes (anomalously) an increasingly powerful nation of the East, Japan. The term 'the Orient' itself seems to have become something of a pejorative expression since the Second World War, especially among scholars and government officials. It continues to appear, though, in tourist brochures where it is apparently meant to conjure up images of appropriately exotic opulence. This is the situation today. In the past, however, there was no reluctance on the part of European colonial administrators to use the term 'the Orient' and scholars spoke proudly of themselves as 'Orientalists'. Although the expression 'the Orient' (or 'the East') was used to

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refer rather vaguely to Asia as a whole, it was also used to paint two rather different pictures. One picture of the Orient, the older of the two, crudely but sharply distinguished a Christian Europe from an Islamic Asia. Here Europeans used the term 'the Orient' primarily to designate the peoples and lands dominated by the Ottoman Turk. This Orient embraced not only the lands of Anatolia ('Asia Minor'), the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula in Asia, but also Egypt in Africa. Parts of 'Christian' Europe-Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece itself, the Ions et ongo of European Civilization, were also included within this Orient. The other parts of Asia, particularly Safavid Persia and Mughal India, could be seen as vague extensions of this conception in so far as they were constituted as Islamic polities, even though they lay outside the Ottoman sphere of influence. This is the Orient that was known as 'the Near East' (le proche Orient). With the addition of Iran and even Pakistan and Afghanistan to the East and of those parts of Muslim-dominated North Africa (Algeria and Tunisia) that lay outside the Ottoman domains to the West, it has come to be known today as 'the Middle East' (le moyen Orient). As Western Europe came more and more to dominate Asia and to know more and more about it, another picture of the Orient emerged. It saw the Semitic Near East and Aryan Persia as sharing a fundamentally monotheistic and individualist culture/values with Christian Europe (and America) and contrasted this world with a more distant East, that comprising India and China (along with Japan and Central and South East Asia). It is on this Orient, the Asia or East as reproduced by the sociologist Max Weber (1864 1920), in The Religion of India 2 or the mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904 87), in the volume of his The Masks of God, entitled 'Oriental Mythology', 3 that I shall largely focus in this essay. Hegel makes this distinction in no uncertain terms: 2

Tr., H. H. Gerth and D. Martindale (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1958). This book has been crucial in setting the agenda for the sociological study of India (and especially of 'modernization' or 'Westemization') in the last twenty-five years. The last essay, 'The General Character of Asiatic Religion', p. 340, makes it quite clear that Asia excludes the Middle East. 3 His global treannent is divided into three volumes. One is entitled 'Primitive Mythology'. The other two deal with 'civilization'. One is entitled 'Occidental Mythology'; the volume on the Orient does include a treannent of the ancient civilizations of the Near East, but takes great pains to show that, very early on, this pan of Asia was culturally continuous with the West. It then turns to the true cultural Others of Asia, India and China. First published in 1962 (New York: Viking), it has been reprinted many times, most notably by Penguin.

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Asia separates itself into two parts-Hither [hinten and Farther [ vorden Asia; which are essentially different from each other. While the Chinese and Hindoosthe two great nations of Farther Asia, already considered-belong to the strictly Asiatic, namely the Mongolian Race, and consequently possess a quite peculiar character, discrepant from ours; the nations of Hither Asia belong to the Caucasian, i.e., the European Stock. They are related to the West, while the Fartherasiatic peoples are perfectly isolated. The European who goes from Persia to India, observes, therefore, a prodigious contrast. Whereas in the former country he finds himself still somewhat at home, and meets with European dispositions, human virtues and human passions-as soon as he crosses the Indus (i.e. in the latter region), he encounters the most repellent characteristics, pervading every single feature of society.4

This 'Farther Asia' is the Orient that has come to be known as 'the Far East' (l'extr~me Orient), the Asia that is seen by Europeans and Americans as dominated by China (and since the Second World War, by Japan). Although India is integral to this construct of the Orient, she is only ambiguously included in the more restrictive idea of the Far East. India and her neighbours have for long been said to form a 'subcontinent' unto themselves within the larger Asian continent. It is very common today in academic and official circles to speak of the Indian subcontinent as 'South Asia', thereby distinguishing it from an 'East Asia' consisting of China, Japan, and Korea. Europeans have constructed these varied images of Asia out of many materials. They have not only used media such as the literary text and the painted canvas to fashion their constructs; they have, by their gaining of control of knowledge of the East, also used the very people and institutions of Asia itself to remake the civilizations of that continent. The constructs which I take up here are the pictures those fashioned in the medium of academic discourse. The term 'Orientalism' (generally replaced nowadays by the expression 'Asian studies') has been used to designate this discursive practice in its widest sense. There is, of course, no discipline that takes as its object the study of the whole of Asia. The disciplines which constitute the core of Orientalist discourse are the various branches of philology and textual study (often called 'language and area studies' since the Second World War) known by various names such as Sinology, Indology, and Arabic or Islamic studies. Interestingly enough these are grouped in two major clusters that correspond rather closely to the two Orients outlined above. The one consists of the study of the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages and has Islam as its unifying subject. This is J

4

Hegel, The Philosophy of History, p. 173.

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the Orientalism about which we have heard so much since the publication of Edward Said's book of that name. The other cluster of disciplines consists of the study of 'classical' Chinese (and of Japanese and other Central and East Asian languages) and of Sanskrit, India's 'classical' language, along with other 'regional' languages of the subcontinent. It is unified only very loosely by the religion of Buddhism. The first of these clusters has as its professional organ in the United States, the Middle Eastern Studies Association. Scholars of the second cluster congregate annually under the rubric of the Association for Asian Studies. The name of this organization implies what the corresponding construct of the Orient says-that it represents the 'real Asia', the truly other East. Each of these linguistic disciplines and its area or areas are also connected through these and other organizations with the disciplines in the social sciences, with anthropology, history, sociology, political science, economics, and psychology. Despite this seeming diversity, however, it is possible to speak of a distinctly Orientalist discourse and to single it out from among other overlapping discourses. First, it is about the 'civilized' rather than about the 'primitive'. This distinguishes it from anthropology which distinctively concerns itself with the latter rather than the former. Second, it speaks of Asian Others in ways that contrast rather sharply with the way in which it speaks of itself. Third, it continually distinguishes the parts of Asia by reference to the same differentiating features. Hegel (1770-1831) was, of course, not the first European to construct a picture of Asia or the Orient as the Other in the medium of academic discourse. Amplifying on his predecessor, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744 1803), he and his contemporaries, particularly Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), were the first, so far as I know, who made sharp and essential distinctions between the different parts of Asia. 5 They not only distinguished the Near or Middle East from the Far East, they also made important distinctions within these rather amorphous constructs. I am not concerned, in what I argue below, with an analysis of Hegel's thought as such. I am concerned with the Orientalist discourse that he established, and with its reproduction in academic institutions. I rely purposely on the admittedly bad English translation of Sibree (completed in 1857) because it is highly likely that the Indologist who has read Hegel on India has read this and not the German original. The distinctions that he made are still reproduced 5

Hegel, The Philosophy ofHistory.

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in the discourse of scholars today. It is for this reason that I began with a quotation from that philosopher. 6 That passage, which characterizes Indian thought as imagination shorn of 'distinct conceptions', that is of rational ordering, and likens it to the working of the mind asleep, provides an appropriate introduction to Orientalist discourse on India, for thought as dream has been a dominant metaphor in the study of that subcontinent. Indeed, the title of this essay could well be, 'India, Civilization of Dreams'.

ORIENTALIST DISCOURSE The discourse of the Orientalist, we have recently been told, presents itself as a form of knowledge that is both different from, and superior to, the knowledge that the Orientals have of themselves. Backed by government funds, disseminated by universities, supported by the ACLS7 and the SSRC,8 endowed by the Ford Foundation, and given more than equal time by the New York Review of Books, the knowledge of the Orientalist, known nowadays as an 'area studies' specialist, appears as rational, logical, scientific, realistic, and objective. The knowledge of the Orientals, by contrast, often seems irrational, illogical, unscientific, unrealistic, and subjective. The knowledge of the Orientalist is, therefore, privileged in relation to that of the Orientals and it invariably places itself in a relationship of intellectual dominance over that of the Easterners. It has appropriated the power to represent the Oriental, to translate and explain his (and her) 6

Cast into outer darkness by Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), the logical positivists, and Karl Popper ( 1902-1994), Hegel, a rationalist and idealist, has had a very bad reputation among the mostly empiricist and realist scholars of Britain and the U S in this century. It is, therefore, not implausible to suggest that most Indologists in those countries have probably not read his seminal Philosophy of History. A. L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India (New York: Grove, 1954), p. 487, mentions Hegel only in connection with the part his reading of Indian texts may have had in the development of his 'monism'. He does not, however, refer to him in his discussion of Indology (pp. 4 8). For a brief review of Hegel's views and his treatment earlier in this century, see John Cottingham, Rationalism (London: Granada, 1984), pp. 91-108. More extensive is the 'reading' of Charles Taylor, Hegel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), especially pp. 389-427. On Hegel and Indian philosophy, consult Wilhelm Halbfass, Indien und Europa: Perspektiven ihrer geistigen Begegnung (Basel: Schwabe, 1981), pp. 104-21. 7 American Council of Learned Societies; in Britain one would also want to mention the University Grants Committee. 8 Social Sciences Research Council; its British counterpart is the recently renamed Economic and Social Science Research Council.

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thoughts and acts not only to Europeans and Americans but also to the Orientals themselves. But that is not all. Once his special knowledge enabled the Orientalist and his countrymen to gain trade concessions, conquer, colonize, rule, and punish in the East. Now it authorizes the area studies specialist and his colleagues in government and business to aid and advise, develop and modernize, arm and stabilize the countries of the so-called Third World. In many respects the intellectual activities of the Orientalist have even produced in India the very Orient which it constructed in its discourse. I doubt very much, for example, if Gandhi's concept of non-violence would have played the central part it did in Indian nationalism had it not been singled out long ago as a defining trait of the Hindu character. A genuine critique of Orientalism does not revolve around the question of prejudice or bias, of the like or dislike of the peoples and cultures of Asia, or of a lack either of objectivity or empathy. Emotions, attitudes, and values are, to be sure, an important part of Orientalist discourse, but they are not coterminous with the structure of ideas that constitutes Orientalism or with the relationship of dominance embedded in that structure. A contemptuous philosophe, James Mill (1773-1836) and an avowedly sympathetic Sanskritist, A. L. Basham, can valorize elements of Indian culture quite differently. Take, for example, the topic of non-violence. Mill, writing of that practice, says: I have not enumerated the religion of the Hindus as one among the causes of gentleness which has been remarked in their depot u11ent. This religion has produced a practice which has strongly engaged the curiosity of Europeans; a superstitious care of the life of the inferior animals. A Hindu lives in perpetual terror of killing even an insect; and hardly any crime can equal that of being unintentionally the cause of death to any animal of the more sacred species. This feeble circumstance, however, is counteracted by so many gloomy and malignant principles, that their religion, instead of humanizing the character, must have had no inconsiderable effect in fostering that disposition to revenge, that insensibility to the suffering of others, and often that active cruelty which lurks under the smiling exterior of the Hindu.9

If the curious non-violence of the Hindus was accompanied by divisiveness, it also entailed outright cowardice: Notwithstanding the degree to which the furious passions enter into the character of the Hindu, all witnesses agree in representing him as a timid being with more apparent capacity of supporting pain than any other race of men; and on many occasions, a superiority to the fear of death, which cannot be surpassed, this people 9

James Mill, The History of India, (London: J. Madden; Piper, Stephenson and Spence, 1858), vol. 1, pp. 325--6.

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run away from danger with more trepidation and eagerness than has been almost ever witnessed in any other part of the globe.10

These 'mental habits' of the Hindus are, in tum, implicated in India's inherent political incapacity: 'Of all the results of civilization, that.of forming a combination of different states, and directing their power to one common object, seems to be one of the least consistent with the mental habits and attainments of the Hindus. ' 11 Writing some 150 years later, Basham places a positive value on non-violence and its associated practices, which he evokes when he stresses the 'humanity' of Indian civilization, claiming against those earlier scholars who viewed India as a land of 'lethargic gloom' that: 'India was a cheerful land, whose people, each finding a niche in a complex and slowly evolving social system, reached a higher level of kindliness and gentleness in their mutual relationships than any other nation of antiquity'.12 At the same time, however, he also points to Hindu militarism (also dubbed humane) as one of the 'factors' that prevented the political unification of the subcontinent. 13 It was the non-violence which Europeans had construed as a social practice connected with cowardice or 'humanity' and political division that Gandhi undertook to transform into a highly charged political act indexical of courage and productive of unity and to use as a weapon against India's British ruler. 14 As we can see from this one example, scholars whose attitudes seem at polar opposites do not disagree here in any major way about the 'facts' of Indian history, facts that constitute India as a veritable glass house of vulnerability forever destined for conquest by outsiders. Any serious criticism of Orientalist discourse in the many variant forms it has taken spatially and temporally must not be content simply to rectify 'attitudes' toward the Other. It must also penetrate the emotional minefield surrounding scholarship on Others. And it must directly confront the central question of knowledge and its multiple relations to power in Orientalist representations of Asians. Such, in brief, is the bold message of Edward Said's Orientalism, 15 10

Ibid., p. 329. 11 James Mill, 'The History of India, vol. 2, p. 141. 12 Basham, 'The Wonder 'That Was India, p. 9. 13 Ibid., pp. 122-8. 14 Jawaharlal Nehru's comments on this topic in his 'The Discovery ofIndia (London: Meridian Books, 1951), pp. 59, 89-90, 428-9, are most interesting. 15 New York: Pantheon, 1978.

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with the difference that I have made India rather than the Middle East the primary referent in my summary of his portrayal. To a large extent i agree with Said's critique and so, too, perhaps do many other scholars of Asia. My intention here is not to interpret Said's book, to defend it against its detractors or to attack them. 16 What I would like to do is to continue with a more detailed discussion of the Indological or South Asian branch of Orientalist discourse. I would like to point to the peculiar form in which Indologists and, for that matter, sociologists, historians, political scientists, anthropologists, and historians of religion have presented their knowledge of alien cultures.

DESCRIPTNE AND COMMENTATNE ACCOUNTS Fundamental to the form of Indological discourse is a distinction between what I shall refer to as the 'descriptive' and 'commentative' aspects of its texts. The descriptive aspect of an Indological account is that which presents the thoughts and acts of Indians to the reader. The commentative aspect of an account is its frame, often isolable in distinct passages. It represents those same thoughts and actions by characterizing them, by indicating their general nature or essence. Since even the most narrowly descriptive work of scholarship on South Asia usually contains (or at least presupposes) a framing commentary, I shall refer to the Indological accounts that stop with commentary and do not go further to give explanations (which I shall tum to next) as 'commentative accounts'. Now, it is my contention that the Indological text (or its affiliate in the social sciences) places its strange and seemingly inexplicable descriptive content in surrounding comments that have the effect of representing it as a distorted portrayal of reality. That is, it functions to depict the thoughts and institutions of Indians as distortions of normal and natural (that is Western) thoughts and institutions. It represents them as manifestations of an 'alien' mentality. Here, for example, is a passage from an account ofVedic religion by Louis Renou (18961966), one of this century's leading Sanskritists. 17 The first two sentences comment: 16

Informative from a Marxian perspective is the review by Robert Irwin, 'Writing about Islam and the Arabs', Ideology and Consdousness, vol. 9 (Winter, 1981-82), pp. 103-12. 17 Louis Renou, Religions ofAndent India (New York: Schocken Books, 1968). For a brief biography and a bibliography of his works, see Melanges d' Indianisme aJa Memoire de Louis Renou (Paris: Editions E. de Boccard, 1968), pp. ix-xxix, 1-5.

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The Vedic rites are made to conform to a systematic arrangement; mythology may be lacking in system, but ritual is overburdened with it. It appears that originally separate rites were grouped together in vast systems in response to new demands that had arisen in the course of time, and under the influence of an advancing scholasticism.

The rest of the paragraph 'simply' describes: There is a distinction between the great public rites, called srauta, and the domestic rites, called Grhya. The former are carried out by professional officiants, and need three fires; the formulary is taken from the Sarphita. The domestic rites take place on the family hearth, and are performed by the householder, using a formulary taken from a special collection. The two series are entirely different in character, in spite of the resemblances that arise from borrowings. The Indians, with their taste for classification, divide the solemn rites into seven saipsthasor ordinary celebrations, with vegetable and animal offerings, and seven others, based on the soma oblations. But the soma sacrifices necessitate ordinary vegetable and animal oblations, and the Sautramani involves milk, sura and a sacrificial victim. The • tendency to build up complex structures from simpler elements is illustrated by the fact that some sacrifices, all using a common tantra, are variations of a single archetype. Some festivals, such as the satt.tasor 'sessions', are too complicated to be actually carried out, and are intended rather as intellectual exercises. It is clear that the texts contain a proportion of such exercises; we must not regard them as consisting entirely of accounts of actual religious practice.

The beginning of the next paragraph shifts back to the commentative: I do not intend to engage in a theoretical consideration of the nature of the ritual. Ritual has a strong attraction for the Indian mind, which tends to see everything in terms of the formulae and methods of procedure, even when such adjuncts no longer seem really necessary for its religious experience.18

Renou illustrates this and then returns to description, laying out the parts of the Vedic ritual. What does the Indological text accomplish with this double presentation of Vedic religion? It transforms the thoughts and actions of ancient Indians into a distortion of reality. Renou might have shown that the apparently irrational minds and disconnected acts of Vedic priests were parts of a coherent and irrational whole, that they participated in a real world, but that the real world of the Verlie Indian was based on metaphysical presuppositions differing from those of nineteenth-century European thought. Renou, however, does not do so, for he, like many Indologists, holds certain presuppositions about the relationship of knowledge to reality that preclude this. It is worth saying immediately that these presuppositions have all been attacked 18

Ibid., pp. 29-30.

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in the philosophy of science. 19 He assumes that there is a single, determinate, external reality 'out there' which human knowledge merely 'copies', 'represents', or 'mirrors'. Western science, claiming • to be empiricist (or rationalist) in its epistemology and realist in its ontology, has privileged access to that reality. Vedic thought, characterized as mystical and idealist, does not. The question of what assumptions one makes about the relationship of knowledge to reality is a crucial one for Indology and for Orientalism as a whole, as well as for the affiliated human sciences, and I shall return to it in my conclusion. But I am not yet finished with my analysis of the commentative text in Indology. It is, I believe, necessary to become more consciously explicit about the specific operations that we Indologists have implicitly attributed to Indian thought and conduct. Freud argued that the report a person gives of his dreams is, in fact, a distorted representation of reality. It is a distorted representation both of the external world of the dreamer and of his internal emotional world. The report of a dream, the 'manifest content' of a dream text, is a distorted representation of reality because, said Freud, the conscious reasoning which during walcing hours represents the outer world to itself has, during sleep, ceased to do this. It has, at the same time, also lessened its grip on the unconscious emotions. The rational or intellectual operations of the mind are, as a result, pushed this way and that by its own irrational wishes. 20 Although Freud formulated this idea of a reasoning faculty dominated by desires in relation to dreams, he later extended it to cover not only the waking representations of neurotics but of the prescientific religious (or animistic) mind in general. It is here, of course, that the subject matter of Freud and the Orientalist overlaps. Many Indologists would no doubt reject the more extravagant claims that Freud made about myth and religion but that should not obscure the similarities in their discourses. I am not making use of Freud's theory of dream interpretation here because I think his theory is the correct one either for the interpretation of dreams or of Indian texts. Indeed, some of the features that make it difficult to accept Freud's theory are also, at the 19

I refer here to the 'crisis' precipitated by the historical enquiries of Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, among others, into how scientists actually worked. See Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy ofNatural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 1-17, 65-74. 20 Sigmund Freud, On Dreams, tr., James Strachey (New York: Norton, 1952), pp. 93-6.

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level of major presuppositions, the very features of Indological discourse itself that I wish to criticize. What is the precise nature of the distortions atu ibuted to Indian thought in Indological accounts? According to Freud, the distortions of a dream-text are the product of two primary sorts of mental activity, 'condensation' and 'displacement', and a secondary mental operation called, appropriately, 'secondary revision'. The first of these, condensation, causes each element in the manifest content of a dream to represent several elements in the latent content, the 'real' thoughts of the dream. At the same time, it also causes each thought in the latent content to be represented in several of the elements of the manifest content. The elements of the dream are, said Freud, 'overdetermined': the same part appears again and again. The second mental activity, displacement, the shifting of psychic intensity from the ideas to which it properly belongs, causes less important parts of the latent content to appear as more important than they really are in the manifest content and, conversely, makes the more important thoughts in the latent content seem almost inconsequential in the manifest dream text. Parts appear as wholes (synecdoche), associated elements appear as the entities with which they are associated (metonymy), and ideas are expressed not in their own form but in analogical form (metaphor). 21 Let me return now to our Indological example. The Indian classification of rituals, as Renou construes it, is not a scientific, rational one. The product of a mind that leaps between the extremes of an occult mysticism and a finicky scholasticism, it is characterized by both of the forms of distortion described by Freud. All of the rites are but variations, one recalls, of a single archetype. The elements of one type of rite appear again and again in other types. The classification scheme is, in other words, overdetermined, uneconomical, and incoherent in its organization. The whole scheme also suffers from the other major form of distortion, displacement. Ritual texts, one assumes, contain the procedures for acts meant to be performed in order to obtain some religious objective. But not in Vedic India. There, the priestly mind makes up rituals which are not meant to be enacted while the priestly hand performs rituals that have no religious rationale. Thoughts that should have acts as their objects are displaced from those objects and turned 21

Ibid., pp. 40-59; Sigmund Freud, The Interpretadon of Dreams, tr., J. Strachey (New York: Avon, 1965), pp. 312 44.

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back onto themselves and ritual acts that should have goals are displaced from those goals and turned back onto the rites themselves. Where thoughts ought to be there are rites and where rites ought to be there are thoughts.

EXPLANA'tORY OR INTERPRETIVE ACCOUNTS Freud also distinguished a third type of distortion which he labelled 'secondary revision'. Operating after the condensation and displacement have done their work, this process, known also as 'secondary elaboration', provides the confused dream text with an orderly fa~ade. 22 Many Indological texts do not go beyond the commentative. Many others, however, go on to include 'explanations' or 'interpretations' which closely resemble Freud's secondary revisions. Just as passages of comment frame those of description in an Indological account, so those of secondary revision frame, in tum, the commentative aspects of these texts. The condensation and displacement which the Indologist atu ibutes to the Indian mind in the characterizing passages of his text make the thoughts and practices of the ancient Indian seem alien and stress his difference from the man of the West. Secondary revision in an account of South Asia goes just the other way. It makes the strange and incoherent seem rational or normal. It is, however, not atuibuted to the Indian mind. The Indologist himself takes credit for providing the orderly facade for Indian practices. Here the scientific theorist-the physical anthropologist, the racial historian, historical materialist, comparative mythologist, social psychologist, historian of religion, structural-functional anthropologist, Parsonian sociologist, or development economist-truly comes into his own. One might also add the theories of the psychoanalyst to this list, for does he not also do the same thing? The difference, of course, is that he claims his ordering of the patient's material to be rational and not merely a rationalization. Nearly all of these secondary revisions tend to be monistic, to concentrate on one sort of 'cause' or 'factor' to the exclusion of others. Which is to say that they are also almost invariably reductionist. Philosophical thought is reduced to the mythical, religion to psychology, the social or political to the economic, the cultural to the biological. The most important of these rationalizations for Indological discourse entail what I refer to as 'naturalist' assumptions. Evolutionism 22

Freud, On Drelll11S, pp. 73-82; his Interpretation, pp. 526-46.

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and functionalism, utilitarianism and a modern variant of that, behaviourism, are some of the strains of naturalism that have held sway in British and American studies of India. These explanatory texts, which presuppose the existence of a single, fixed, external reality, analogize a society, nation, or civilization to an organism and see its particular configuration of thoughts and institutions as the outgrowth of adaptations to a given environment or as the development or unfolding of an essence consisting of fixed, defining attributes. People, in this view, take an active role in shaping their society only in so far as they or, more exactly, their leaders, have scientific knowledge of the physical and biological world and its analogue, the social world. Modem science has acquired privileged knowledge of the natural world. It has made a 'copy' of that external reality unprecedented in its accuracy. The institutions of the West have therefore come most closely to conform to what is, in this discourse, 'natural'. Traditional and non-Western societies have, because of their weak or defective knowledge, because of their inaccurate or false copies of external reality, made relatively ineffective adaptations to their environments. They have not evolved as fast or as far as the modem West. The societies they have fashioned, more or less blindly, are, hence, weak, defective, or even degenerate versions of the modem, natural societies of the West. We have already had a look inside James Mill's, The History of British India. Completed in 1817, this book is a model explanatory text of utilitarianism and of pre-Darwinian evolutionism as well.23 It is also the harsh ancestor of the dominant voice in Indological discourse, the oldest hegemonic account produced by that discourse, even though Mill himself can hardly be considered the founder of Indology. Before turning to the topic of a hegemonic account in Indological discourse, let me summarize what I have said about the work of that discourse. The result of the discursive work within Indology and the affiliated·human sciences is first to present the reader in a descriptive passage with some 'facts' on the Other. The account then (or concurrently) represents the Other in commentative terms as radically different from the Self. It is a gross distortion of Self or the opposite of Self. But this is itself disturbing, given the premise in Orientalist (and 23

Consult, regarding the utilitarians, Eric Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), pp. 47-80. On Mill's evolutionism, see J. W. Burrow, Evolution and Society (Cambridge: cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 27-9, 42-9.

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social scientific) discourse of a unity of human nature, one that is exemplified or realized in Euro-American Man. But these threatening differences are not allowed to remain. The Indological text also goes on to provide (or evoke) an explanation for the differences. These explanations or interpretations are almost always naturalistic. That is, they lie beyond, behind, or outside the consciousness and activity of the Others involved. It is necessary for the Other to be the way he/ she is because of its environment, its racial composition, or its (inferior) place on the evolutionary scale. Once the reader comes to know the natural reason for the Other's otherness, the threat of it is neutralized. The Explanation is, thus, one which restores the unity of mankind, with Western Man as its perfect embodiment. It does this by hierarchizing the Others of the world, by placing them in a spatial, biological, or temporal scale of forms, one which always culminates in Homo Euro-Americanus.

THE HEGEMONIC ACCOUNT Sir William Jones (1746-94) is usually the man who is credited with first suggesting that Persian and the European languages were related to one another and not descended from Hebrew. He was also the person largely responsible for founding, in 1784, the first Indological institution, the Asiatick Society of Bengal. If any one person can be named as the founder of Indology, it is certainly he. 24 Because he advocated the importance of studying Eastern languages and texts in India, he and some of his colleagues were dubbed 'Orientalists'. They were opposed by certain utilitarians, who came to be known as 'Anglicists' because they argued that Western knowledge in English should displace the Eastern. The most notable of these opponents was James Mill, whose History of India was, in large part, written as a refutation of some of Jones's ideas. The victory which Mill and his colleagues gained over the 'Orientalists' in shaping the policies of the East India Company had the effect (hardly surprising given the convergen~e of utilitarian thought with commercial and colonial objectives) of securing dominance for the utilitarian or positivist view both in government practice and in the fledgling discipline of Indology. Every discipline has, within its particular historic formations, texts or accounts which can be dubbed 'hegemonic'. The idea of a text as 24

On Jones and the establishment of the Society, see the excellent study of

S. N. Mukherjee, Sir William Jones:. A Study in Eighteenth-Century British Attitudes to India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp. 8~90.

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'hegemonic' that I use here is taken in large part from Gramsci, particularly in the sense that such a text is not concerned with narrow and intemalist issues of the discipline itself but with the broader questions of India's place in the world and in history, issues in which those outside of the discipline, the active subjects of the world-business and government leaders and the more passive subjects of the world's history, the populace at large, are interested. It is, furthermore, an account that is seen, during the period of its predominance, to exercise leadership in a field actively and positively and not one that is merely imposed on it. A hegemonic text is also totalizing-it provides an account of every aspect of Indian life. It accounts for all the elements that the relevant knowing public wants to know about. 25 Certain accounts within the discipline of Indology or South Asian studies can be considered as exercising hegemony therein under various circumstances. Because hegemonic accounts have had to be comprehensive not only in their intended content but also in the audience they actually reach, they have tended to be accounts that are strong in all three of the aspects I have outlined above. They have been commentative as well as descriptive and explanatory or interpretive as well as commentative. Jones, in addition to being grouped with the losing Orientalists, failed to produce a single, comprehensive account of India. So his essays, well-written and rhetorically persuasive as many of them were, hardly constituted a hegemonic text. Here, too, Jones can be seen as losing out to Mill, for the latter's History was indeed a hegemonic account. Throughout the nineteenth century, Mill's History remained the hegemonic textbook of Indian history. Later Indologists have either (wittingly or unwittingly) reiterated his construct of India or they have (directly or indirectly) written their accounts as responses to it. To see both reiteration and response together in the same book, one has only to pick up a later edition of this work, the fifth, edited by the Sanskritist and Orientalist, Horace Hayman Wilson (1789-1860). 26 He attempted in his long qualifying notes, to 'claw back' this formative text to a more 'scholarly', removed position. Mill's text was not confined, however, to the studies of scholarly gentlemen. It was 'required reading' at Haileybury College, where, until 1855, civil 25

Chantal Mouffe, 'Hegemony and Ideology in Gramsci', in C. Mouffe, ed., Gramsci and Marxist 'Theory (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979), pp. 168-204, esp. pp. 193-4. 26 (London: J. Madden; Piper, Stephenson and Spence, 1858).

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servants of the East India Company were trained. It held sway within Indology, fending off the challenge posed to it by Mountstuart Elphinstone's unfinished History of British Power in the East, until 1904. That was the year in which Vincent Smith (1848-1920) published his Early History of India (Oxford University Press). Smith's book became the hegemonic secondary revision of 'ancient' and 'early medieval' history of India for the next fifty years. But Mill's work was not completely set aside even then. Smith himself included selections from it in his more comprehensive Oxford History ofIndia in 1919.27 The utilitarians considered conduct that was 'reverential, ceremonial, status-ordered, as distinct from practical, calculating, "useful"',as 'non-rational'. 28 So Mill, unlike Renou, is quite blunt in his characterization of Hindu ceremonies. The rationalization for Hindu 'excess' woven into his text consists of Mill's placement of Hindu civilization at an earlier time and lower 'stage' of evolution, the 'barbaric', than some (e.g. Jones) thought: To the rude mind, no other rule suggests itself for paying court to the Divine, than that for paying court to the Human Majesty; and as among a barbarous people, the forms of address, of respect, and compliment, are generally multiplied into a great variety of grotesque and frivolous ceremonies, so it happens with regard to their religious service. An endless succession of observances, in compliment to the god, is supposed to afford him the most exquisite delight; while the common discharge of the beneficent duties of life is regarded as an object of comparative indifference. It is unnecessary to cite instances in support of a representation, of which the whole history of the religion of most nations is a continual proof. 29 As I have already indicated, not every Indologist has explicitly included secondary revisions in his account. Renou himself, although fully prepared to present the theories of others, remained rather sceptical of most such efforts, largely because he considered them too reductionist. 30 On the whole, he preferred to leave his reader face to face with his representation of the disorderly Indian mind and its products unrationalized. Renou's refusal to theorize does not mean, however, that he avoided the naturalist assumptions of these reductionist theories. Renou, like Mill, consistently depicted Hinduism as a religion 27

A. L. Basham, 'James Mill, Mountstuart Elphinstone and the History of India', in C.H. Philips, ed., Historians of India, Pakistan and Ceylon (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), pp. 217-19; and his, 'Modem Historians of Ancient India', in the same volume, pp. 266-74. 28 Burrow, Evolution and Society, p. 2. 29 James Mill, History of India, vol. 1, pp. 276-7. 30 Renou, Religions, pp. 19--20, 47-8.

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that has been unable to transcend the false knowledge and inferior practices of 'primitivism'.31 FurtheIJ11ore, the very fact that he did not provide his own secondary revisions or challenge those of others had the effect of permitting the theories of others to hold sway in the discipline. The point that Lorenzen makes about the Orientalists who come after Mill applies also to Renou. He says that their 'works are characterized by a meticulous concern for accuracy, an exhaustive collection of all available facts, and an almost obsessive avoidance of systematic generalization and evaluation'. The difficulty with this profusion of positivist scholarship on the part of Indologists was, as Lorenzen correctly indicates, that 'virtually none of them even tried to mount an effective counterattack against more popular imperialist interpretations of ancient Indian history and society'. 32 The result is that the curious reader has had to tum elsewhere, to the work of Mill, Smith, and others, to find those full 'interpretations', those texts which I refer to as secondary revisions. But this is, perhaps, beside the point, for the following reason. Renou, we have seen, attributed the same dreaming irrationality to the Indian mind that Mill and Hegel did. It is difficult, therefore, to see how a comprehensive interpretation written by Renou would have differed in its major presuppositions from the regnant views of the Indian Other. The question I would pose, even at this juncture, is: whose thought is it that is dreamlike in these commentative and explanatory texts, the Indians,to whom it is attributed, or the Indologists' themselves? It could well be that careful, empirical study of Indian texts and practices has indeed disclosed to us a culture whose bearers are lost in an irrational dream state. This is a difficult proposition to defend, however, because Europeans took dreaming. irrationality as a distinctive trait of Indian thought before the field of Indological research was even established. I am not just referring to Hegel, with whose characterization I prefaced this essay. The portrayal of India as a land of fabulous wealth, of miracles, of wishes fulfilled, a Paradise of sensual pleasures and exotic philosophers, apparently constituted a reiterated theme in medieval thought. As Jacques Le Goff puts it, 'A poor and limited world formed for itself an extravagant combinatoric dream of disquieting juxtapositions and concatenations'. 33 I am claiming 31

Ibid., pp. 52-3, 109. 32 D. Lorenzen, 'Imperialism and the Historiography of Ancient India', in S. N. Mukherjee, ed., India-History and Thought: Essays in Honour ofA. L. Basham {Calcutta: Subamarekha, 1982), p. 86. 33 Jacques Le Goff, 'The Medieval West and the Indian Ocean: An Oneiric Horizon', in

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that it is wrong to see Indian thought as essentially dreamlike and to view Indian civilization as inherently irrational. So it would be equally wrong to suggest that dreams of India as an exotic land are an essential feature of a hypostatized West. The dream or image of the medieval European differed from that of the nineteenth-century scholar and imperialist. He did not see India as an inferior land of the past, but as a superior land of the future, a paradisiac kingdom ruled by a priest-king, Prester John, who might, it was hoped, come to save Christendom. 34 Even so, this prehistory of Indology should make one sceptical of any argument that Indology has only represented Indian thought to the European and American 'as it really is'. Let me conclude this section with some comments on the relationship of Freud to Indology. The major reason for using Freud's theory of dream interpretation here is that his theory makes quite explicit the discursive principles that have, for the most part, remained implicit in the discipline of Indology. What makes this possible is the fact that both share the same presuppositions about the relationship of knowledge to reality. Both presuppose a duality of knower and known. Both assume that the discourse of the knower, that of the scientist, is a privileged discourse in relation to the knowledges of the known, the Other of the human scientist. For Freud that Other is an Other internal to the West, the neurotic person who is his 'patient'. The Other of the Indologist is an externalized Other, the civilization of India. For both the analyst and the philologist, however, the knowledges of those whom they studied were what Foucault refers to as 'subjugated knowledges'. These comprised, according to him, 'a whole set of knowledges that have been disqualified as inadequate to their task or insufficiently elaborated: naive knowledges located low down on the hierarchy, beneath the required level of cognition or scientificity'.35 Freud privileged Western scientific rationality in the form of psychoanalysis (or the interpretation of dreams) in much the same way that the Indologist (Renou) privileged his variant of that ratio- . nality, philology. The knowing subject, the analyst or Sanskritist is his Time, Work, and Culture in the Middle Ages, tr., A. Goldhammer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 197. 34 Heimo Rau, 'The Image of India in European Antiquity and the Middle Ages', Joachim Deppen, ed., India and the West: Proceedings of a Seminar Dedicated to the Memory of Hermann Goetz, (New Delhi: Manohar, 1983), pp. 205-6. 35 Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed., Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), p. 82.

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rational, the persons who are the subjects of inquiry are, in relation to him, irrational. The knowledges of the latter are distorted representations of their own reality. They are knowledges that must be subjugated. They are knowledges that must be introduced, annotated, catalogued, broken up, and analysed in 'data bases', apportioned out in monographs, reports, gazetteers, anthologies, readers, and course syllabi. I shall return to this question of the dualism of knower and known in the Conclusion. Let me now, however, turn to a brief examination of the construction of India that appears in the hegemonic texts of Indological discourse.

ORIENTAL DESPOTISM AND THE ASIATIC MODE OF PRODUCTION The 'political economy' of Asia has a prominence in Orientalist discourse second only to that given to the knowledges of the Orientals themselves. This was not simply a matter of curiosity. Knowledge of the Asian states and economies was essential to the project of the discourse the removal of human agency from the autonomous Others of the East and placing it in the hands of the scholars and leaders of the West. This task was accomplished through the deployment of two concepts, 'Oriental despotism' and the 'Asiatic mode of production', the very names of which seem to say that a place automatically gives rise to a distinctive type of state and economy. One need hardly say that the concept of the Asian state as a despotic empire receives its first full formulation in Montesquieu's Esprit des Lois, published in 1748.36 To Marx, reproducing much of Hegel's view of the Orient, we of course owe the concept of the 'Asiatic mode of production'. 37 There is a vast literature on these two related ideas. 38 For present purposes, I wish only to direct the reader to the excellent critique of the Asiatic mode by Barry 36

I have consulted the English translation of Thomas Nugent, 111e Spirit of the Laws (New York: Haffner, 1949). 37 For a collection of Marx's writings on the subject, see Shlomo Avineri, ed., Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernization, (New York: Doubleday, 1968), but beware of the misleading Introduction. 38 The most accessible introduction to both ideas is to be found, with references, in Perry Anderson, Lineages of the Absolutist State (London: Verso, 1979 [1974]), pp. 462-549. On India itself, see the rather disappointing essays in Contributions to Indian Sociology, vol. 9 (Dec. 1966), by Daniel Thomer, 'Marx on India and the Asiatic Mode of Production', pp. 33-66, and Louis Dumont (1911-98), 'The "Village Community" From Munro to Maine', pp. 67-89.

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Hindess and Paul Q. Hirst. 39 Especially noteworthy is their critique-10 of the Hegelian-and essentialist-aspects of the theory.41 The writings on these two troublesome concepts are, in my analysis, both commentative and explanatory texts. They represent the peoples of Asia (and North Africa) as irrational and defective versions of their Western equivalents. Their major political and economic institutions all suffer from condensation and displacement. At the same time, however, these accounts also rationalize or explain the practices of the East by resorting to naturalist or organicist arguments: Asiatic institutions are the outcome of racial admixtures and adaptations to the environment peculiar to Asia. A more recent variant of these etiologies is functionalism. Strange political and economic practices are not so strange when one 'discovers' that they . perform 'useful functions', filling a wide variety of psychological and social 'needs'. Here, in much abbreviated form, is a summary of the commentative and explanatory text of Orientalist discourse relating to Eastern despotism. Characterized by a salubrious mixture of topographic zones and a temperate climate, Western Europe is inhabited by temperate peoples of wide-ranging skills and organized into nations of a moderate to small size. Asia, with vast river valleys juxtaposed to its uplands and a climate either hot or cold, is inhabited by peoples of extreme temperament and organized into large empires. Because of these inherent differences, the political and economic institutions of Europe and Asia, and their accompanying religions, are also bound to be correspondingly and inherently different. A constitutional monarchy or republic is the characteristic political institution of the moderate or small nations of Europe and the capitalist mode of production its characteristic economic institution. Despotism, the arbitrary or capricious rule by fear of an all-powerful autocrat over a docile and servile populace, is the normal and distinctive political institution of the East.42 That elusive mode of production whereby the peasantry of 39

Pre-capitalist Modes of Production (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975),

pp. 178-220. 40 Ibid., pp. 203-6. 41 Well worthwhile (and a complement to Said) is the critique, following Hindess and Hirst, of the Asiatic mode in relation to Islam and developmental sociology of Bryan S. Turner, Marx and the End of Onentalism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1978). 42 Talal Asad, 7wo European Images of Non-European Rule', in Talal Asad, ed., Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (London: Ithaca Press, 1973), pp. 103-18,

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the immense Asian plains, distributed over innumerable, self-sufficient villages, engages in a mixture of low-grade agriculture and handicrafts, makes over to the despot the surplus of what it produces in the form of a tax, subsisting on the remainder is, as its name Asiatic, proclaims, the distinctive economic (and social) institution of the East. If it makes sense for people to think and act in this apparently irrational manner because, so runs our secondary revision, they are in a different place, Asia, it also makes sense because they also belong to an earlier time, a prior stage on the human developmental or evolutionary scale. Oriental despotism and the Asiatic mode of production were, when they first appeared among the peoples of the Nile, the Fertile Crescent, the Levant, and Persia, at the forefront of the evolution of human civilization. They were the Lux ex Oriente that is emblazoned on the old Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. After Alexander the Great's conquest of Asia, however, that Hegelian light passed to the West itself. Europe continued to develop and change while Asia remained, with the exception of a few dangerous outbursts on the part of Huns, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols, more or less static. Changes there were, we read, repetitive, and not, as in the West, cumulative or directional. In a recent book, Johannes Fabian argues that the 'denial of coevalness' has been a major device of anthropological discourse to define the otherness of the peoples or cultures at the very time that they are increasingly being brought into relation with the European states.43 Here we have, in the 'primordialization' of an entire continent, Asia, the most spectacular instance of this temporal distancing. Note, however, that a temporal distinction is also made with respect to the two major divisions of civilized Asia, the Middle East or Hither Asia and the Far East or Farther Asia. We have seen Hegel make this distinction. He made it by way of his introduction to a discussion of Persia. Note how, as he launches into his account of that region, he distinguishes the two in temporal terms: With the Persian Empire we first enter on continuous History. The Persians are the first Historical People; Persia was the first Empire that passed away. While China and India remain stationary, and perpetuate a natural vegetative existence even to shows how colonialist images of the Islamic states (which they did not rule) emphasized repression, while those of the 'tribal' African states (over which they did rule) emphasized consent as the essence of those states. 43 Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other-How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 31.

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the present time, this land has been subject to those developments and revolutions, which alone manifest a historical condition. 44

Although most of the earlier Orientalists believed that Chinese and Indian civilizations had arisen at about the same time as the Near Eastern, they also held, with Hegel, that only the civilizations of the Near East had a major contribution to make to world, that is Western civilization. The civilizations of China and India, despite their contributions of paper, printing, and gunpowder or of the zero and chess, lay to a large extent outside of this evolutionary scheme. The Ottoman was a potentially dangerous Alter Ego of the European. His religion, Islam, was a false, fanatical cousin of Christianity and he continued to rule over parts of eastern Europe. But the Chinaman and Hindoo were the true Others. Both China and India were, thus, the opposites of the West. The traditions of each of these civilizations were, compared to those of the West, irrational malformations. Yet China and India were also opposites in relation to one another, for the one was never truly conquered and dominated by another civilization, while the other was overrun again and again.

CONQUEST AND THE UNMAKING OF INDIA China, say the Sinologists, reached its fundamental shape under the early Han in the third century BC and continued to unfold, ever so slowly, until Sung times in the thirteenth century. Then came the failed attempt of the Mongols to govern China after conquering her. Subsequently, her civilization remained static, or even declined, falling way 'behind' the West.45 Compare this with the pattern into which India's history has been cast by Indologists. India's history begins with the arrival there of the Aryans. No sooner, however, had India reached its full flowering under the Mauryas in the fourth century BC, as an Oriental Despotism, than she began her decline. This downward tum was exacerbated (if not actually caused) by the invasions of the Hellenes, Scythians, and Turks. Although there was a renascence under the Guptas in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, the decline which set in after the intrusions of the Huns was never reversed. China was, in other words, the Oriental Despotism that mostly fended off conquest and succeeded, India was the Oriental Despotism that succumbed to conquest and failed. 44

Hegel, Philosophy of History, p. 173. 45 Consult, for example, the multi-authored, 'China, History of', Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edn, vol. 4, pp. 297-358.

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It is worth pausing over this feature of conquest. James Mill states quite categorically: Of all the results of civilization, that of forming a combination of different states, and directing their powers to one common object, seems to be one of the least consistent with the mental habits and attainments of the Hindus. It is the want of this power of combination which has rendered India so easy a conquest to all invaders; and enables us to retain, so easily, that dominion over it which we have acquired. Where is there any vestige in India of that deliberative assembly of princes, which in Germany was known by the name of the Diet.46

Hegel says pretty much the same thing, but he elevates it into the essence of India's civilization. Notice how he accounts in his argument for what might otherwise have proved embarrassing, the recent discovery that Sanskrit and the European languages are re~ated. This he does by making India's essential conquerability the cause of the arrival of the speakers of that language and not the effect of their presence: Externally, India sustains manifold relations to the History of the World. In recent times the discovery has been made, that the Sanscrit lies at the foundation of all those further developments which form the languages of Europe; e.g., the Greek, Latin, German. India, moreover, was the centre of emigration for all the western world; but this external historical relation is to be regarded rather as a merely physical diffusion of peoples from this point....The spread of Indian culture is prehistorical, for History is limited to that which makes an essential epoch in the development of Spirit. On the whole, the diffusion of Indian culture is only a dumb, deedless expansion; that is, it presents no political action. The people of India have achieved no foreign conquests, but have been on every occasion vanquished themselves. And as in this silent way, Northern India has been a centre of emigration, productive of merely physical diffusion, India as a Land of Desire forms an essential element in General History.47 •

It immediately becomes clear that the desire to which Hegel referred is the desire of outsiders to possess the wealth and wisdom of India: From the most ancient times downwards, all nations have directed their wishes and longings to gaining access to the treasures of this land of marvels, the most costly which the Earth presents; treasures of Nature pearls, diamonds, perfumes, roseessences, elephants, lions, etc.-as also treasures of wisdom. The way by which these treasures have passed to the West, has at all times been a matter of Worldhistorical importance, bound up with the fate of nations. Those wishes have been realized; this Land of Desire has been attained; there is scarcely any great nation of the East, nor of the Modem European West~ that has not gained for itself a smaller or larger portion of it.48 46

Mill, History of India, vol. 2, p. 141. 47 Hegel, Philosophy of History, pp. 141-2. 48 Ibid., p. 142.

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Hegel concludes this line of thought with this: 'The English, or rather the East India Company, are the lords of the land; for it is the necessary fate of Asiatic Empires to be subjected to Europeans; and China will, some day or other, be obliged to submit to this fate'. 49 Conquerability is, it would seem, the feature that has distinguished India from China in Orientalist discourse, but that is not quite the whole of it. The Arab conquest of the Levant, North Africa, and Persia had virtually overwhelmed and destroyed the previously existing cultures of those places. But India was remarkable, for the repeated conquests of that subcontinent did not bring an end to her civilization or even, for that matter, produce any fundamental change in it. Mill, introducing his account of the Muhammadan invasions of India, asserts that Muslim rule in India, 'had introduced new forms into some of the principal departments of state', but that 'it had not greatly altered the texture of native society'. He then reiterates the crucial fact about India: 'It appears that the people of Hindustan have at all times beeri subject to incursions and conquest, by the nations contiguous to them on the north-west'. 50 Similar statements are repeated many times over. Jawaharlal Nehru, writing more than 125 years later, cites with approval this statement of the Sanskritist, Arthur Anthony Macdonell (1854-1930): And in spite of successive waves of invasion and conquest by Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Muhammadans, the national development of the life and literature of the Indo-Aryan race remained practically unchecked and unmodified from without down to the era of British occupation. No other branch of the Indo-European stock has experienced an isolated evolution like this. 51

What differentiated India, then, from China and the Near East was this paradoxical fact: Outsiders had conquered India again and again but her ancient civilization had survived into the present more or less unchanged.

STATE AND SOCIE1Y IN INDIA What in the nature of this civilization could possibly explain this seeming paradox? Hegel himself gave the answer in his terse account of the Hindu state: A State is a realization of Spirit, such that in it the self-conscious being of Spirit..., Ibid., pp. 142-3. 50 Mill, History of India, vol. 2, p. 165. 51 Nehru, The Discovery of India, p. 71.

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the freedom of the Will-is realized as law. Such an institution then, necessarily presupposes the consciousness of free will. In the Chinese State the moral will of the Emperor is the law: but so that subjective inward freedom is thereby repressed, and the Law of Freedom governs individuals only as from without. In India the primary aspect of subjectivity-viz., that of the imagination-presents a union of the Natural and Spiritual, in which Nature on the one hand, does not present itself as a world embodying Reason, nor the Spiritual on the other hand, as a consciousness in contrast with Nature. Here the antithesis in the (above-stated) principle is wanting. Freedom both as abstract will and as subjective freedom is absent. The proper basis of the State, the principle of freedom is altogether absent: there cannot therefore be any State in the true sense of the term. This is the first point to be observed: if China may be regarded as nothing else but a State, Hindoo political · existence presents us with a people, but no State. 52

Let me restate in plain English the proposition that Hegel has pre- . sented here, for it is fundamental not only to Indology but also to Sinology. Western civilization is a rational formation: it sustains a healthy dialectic between the state and civil society, between what Hegel calls the principles of Unity and Difference. Our native informant says: 'An organic life requires in the first place One Soul, and in the second place, a divergence into differences, which become organic members, and in their several offices develop themselves to a complete system; in such a way, however, that their activity reconstitutes that one soul'. 53 Indian and Chinese civilizations are both in this fundamental regard irrational malformations. India is represented as a distorted civilization because in it civil society (Difference) has engulfed the state (Unity). China, too, is represented as a misshapen civilization, but for almost precisely the reverse reason-there, the state (Unity) has swallowed up civil society (Difference). The irrational form of civil society that engulfs the state in India is, of course, none other than caste, India's 'unique institution', and its supporting or constituting religion, Hinduism. Continuing his account of India's malformation, Hegel says that in India: independent members ramify from the unity of despotic power. Yet the distinctions which these imply are referred to Nature. Instead of stimulating the activity of a soul as their centre of union, and spontaneously realizing that soul-as is the case in organic life they petrify and become rigid, and by their stereotyped character condemn the Indian people to the most degrading spiritual serfdom. The distinctions in question are the castes.54 52

Hegel, Philosophy of History, pp. 160-1. 53 Ibid., p. 144. 54 Ibid., p. 144.

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The representations of India as a civilization dominated by caste, as a theocracy in which Brahma1_1s, priests, and ascetics, a principle of purity or hierarchy, take precedence over kings, the state, the principle of secular power, are legion. Commentative texts that portray caste as suffering from the distortions of condensation and displacement abound, never mind the secondary revisions or explanatory accounts which claim to reveal the origin of caste.ss Castes themselves are overdetermined social groups, proliferating by the hundred and thousand for no good reason, while at the same time becoming more rigid and impermeable. Caste is, furthermore, displaced in this discourse, onto every area of Indian life; it is associated with race and occupation, religion and status, land control, and psychic security, with birth and death, marriage and education. Yet at the same time thought and action are separated from each other. The ideal, Brahmanical scheme of four var1_1as or classes is ever at odds, empirically and historically, with the multiplicity of jitis, castes and sub-castes, and there are always discrepancies between caste rules and actual behaviour. Caste, then, is assumed to be the 'essence' of Indian civilization. People in India are not even partially autonomous agents. They do not shape and reshape their world. Rather they are the patients of that which makes them Indians-the social, material reality of caste. The people of India are not the makers of their own history. A hidden, substantialized Agent, Caste, is the maker of it. 56 There is no need to rehearse these products of Indological discourse in any detail here. The reader who wishes more may consult the work of J. H. Hutton, the anthropologist who directed the 1931 Census of India. His Caste In India: Its Nature, Function and Origins (1963) is the summa of the British colonial period on caste. I cannot resist, however, presenting two classic examples of commentative text on this subject. Their author is Percival Spear, last of the magisterial historians of British India. He opens his discussion of Hinduism and its castes with this: ss The latest and most sophisticated is that of Morton Klass, Caste: The Emergence of the South Asian Social System (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1980). 56 On the important idea of substantialized agency (to be distinguished from the notion of 'code and substance' in my own earlier work), see R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), pp. 34, 42-5, 47-8, 81-5. On essentialism in South East Asian studies, see Mark Hobart, 'The Art of Measuring Mirages, or Is There Kinship in Bali?' in F. Huesken and J. Kemp, eds., Cognation and Social Organization in Southeast Asia (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1984).

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Hinduism has been likened to a vast sponge, which absorbs all that enters it without ceasing to be itself. The simile is not quite exact, because Hinduism has shown a remarkable power of assimilating as well as absorbing; the water becomes part of the sponge. Llke a sponge it has no very clear outline on its borders and no apparent core at its centre. An approach to Hinduism provides a first lesson in the 'otherness' of Hindu ideas from those of Europe. The Western love of definition and nea~ pigeon-holing receives its first shock, and also its first experience of definition by means of negatives. For while it is not at all clear what Hinduism is, it is clear that it is not many things with which it may be superficially compared.

The learned historian concludes his initiation of the reader into his arcane subject with: We have, then, a body of ideas, beliefs and values, which together make up the mysterious amorphous entity which is called Hinduism. Each is present in some one part of Hinduism and few in every part. Any one can be dispensed with in any one section without forfeiting the title of Hinduism, and no item is absolutely essential. But some of each class must always be there. You can have all of the items in some of the parts or some of the items in all of the parts, but not none of the items in any of the parts. If one likens Hinduism to a ship, one can compare the castes with its watertight compamnents, the essential ideas with the steel framework, and special fixtures such as the engines, the bridge, the steering gear with those things which are present in some, but not all sections of Hinduism. It is an intimate mixture of all the component parts whose loss would involve the sinking of the ship, and so it is with Hinduism. 57

Societalism, the reduction of political, religious, and economic practices to the social, that is caste, is deeply embedded in Indological discourse. The multiple effects that this societalism, with its implicit doctrine of essences or substance, has had on the study of Indian politics, religion, and history is the major focus of the book (of which this article is the 'trailer') that I am presently working on. I will not, therefore, elaborate on it here. Let me tum instead in this more general survey to the cluster of views in Indological discourse over which the positivists have exercised their hegemony.

ROMANTIC INDIA: THE LOYAL OPPOSmON So far I have concentrated in this critique of Indology on the scholarly view that dominates in the discipline, that which might loosely be labelled positivist or empiricist in its epistemological assumptions and realist or materialist in its ontological assumptions. Given the English presence, it is also often utilitarian or behaviourist in outlook. 57 T.

G. Percival Spear, India, Pakistan and the West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958), pp. 57, 59-60.

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Sometimes a rationalist epistemology also comes into play. Quite often the presuppositions of a work shift from one of these epistemologies to the other in different contexts. Nonetheless, there is a definite position here. It is one which Roy Bhaskar refers to in the social sciences as 'empirical realism'. 58 There has, however, always been a seemingly opposed view within the discipline. This alternative view of India is one that can be referred to as romantic, spiritualistic, or idealistic. I say that the romantic view is 'seemingly opposed' because its adherents do not, by and large, disagree with the positivists over the content of the construction itself. They, too, agree that India is Europe's opposite. Where the romantics do differ is in the evaluation placed upon India's civilization by the adherents of the rationalist, secularist, and positivist view. The romantics take those very features of Indian civilization which the utilitarian-minded criticize and see as worthless and find them worthy of study and perhaps even of praise. The very ascetic practices, philosophies, cosmologies, customs, visual art forms, and myths which the utilitarian or materialist finds wasteful, deluded, or even repulsive, the romantic idealist takes up with great fascination. The romantic image of India is no latecomer to Indology. On the contrary, it is there at the very creation of it. Sir William Jones, the founder of the discipline of Indology and chief of the 'Orientalists', was not himself a romantic, as the critical discussion of S. N. Mukherjee shows. 59 Peter Marshall likewise distinguishes Jones and his eighteenth-century colleagues from the romantics when he says: As Europeans have always tended to do, they created Hinduism in their own image. Their study of Hinduism confirmed their beliefs, and Hindus emerged from their work as adhering to something akin to undogmatic Protestantism. Later generations of Europeans, interested themselves in mysticism, were able to portray the Hindus as mystics. 60 ,

Jones can, nonetheless, be seen (perhaps ironically) as the founder of the minority view within his own discipline. The first full-fledged romantics among the Indologists are to be ·found not in England, but in Germany, where interest in pantheism on the part of post-Kantian idealists and in the work of Johann Gottfried Herder in the philosophy of history converged with the knowledge of 58

Roy Bhaskar, The Possibility of Naturalism: A Philosophical Critique of the Contemporary Human Sciences (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1979), p. 25. 59 Mukherjee, Sir William Jones, pp. 42--4. 60 Peter Marshall, The British Discovery of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 43-4.

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the Indian ancients that the early Sanskritists thought they had discovered. 61 Foremost among these was Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), with whose work Hegel was, of course, well acquainted.62 Of equal importance was the work of Friedrich Creuzer (1771-1858), which first appeared in 1810. It presents us with the image of 'archaic civilizations', of which India was a-leading example, as expressing their religious knowledge in 'symbolic' and 'mythic' rather than rational and discursive forms. He and some of his contemporaries saw this as opening up a valuable part of the human experience of 'the divine'. 63 Hegel changed this. Just as the Sanskritist H. H. Wilson, 'clawed back' the more extreme statements of Mill, so Hegel moved the views of these earlier Romantics back to a more central (that is rationalist) position. This he did in his Aesthetic. He accepted the notion of archaic civilizations as symbolic, but instead of viewing_them as complementary to modern forms, he hierarchized them with respect to succeeding 'classical' (Greek) and modem (Romantic) art. 64 The importance of the romantic theory of a symbol (both in its earlier romantic form and its later rationalist or Hegelian appropriation) can hardly be overstated. It is deployed for the study of Others not only in Indian art history and, more widely, in Indology, but in the history of religions and anthropology as well. Johannes Fabian, for example, argues that this theory displaces the problem of understanding an Other from the Western knowing subject onto the Other itself.65 This is, however, not the place to explore this topic further. 66 61

On the earlier French scholars, whom I have neglected here, see Raymond Schwab (1884-1956), The Oriental Renaissance: Europe's Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680-1880, tr., Gene Patterson-Black and Victor Reinking (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984 [1950]). More recent is Jean Bies, Litterature franfaise et pensee hindoue des origines a 1950 (Strasbourg: Librairie C. Klincksieck, 1973). For a (philosophically) critical review of the various American, mostly idealist, appropriations of Indian philosophy, see Dale Riepe, The Philosophy of India and Its Impact on American Thought (Springfield, II.: Charles C. Thomas, 1970). 62 Consult, for Herder and the early German romantics, Helmuth von Glasenapp, Das Indienbild deutscher Denker (Stuttgart: K. F. Koehler, 1960), pp. 14-32; and Halbfass, Indien und Europa, pp. 86-103 and references. 63 Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), pp. 202-7. The title of Creuzer's work is, Symbolik

und Mythologie der alten Voelker. 64 Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, pp. 208-20. 65 Fabian, Time and the Other, pp. 123-31. 66

For Creuzer's treatment of myth and religion, see Fritz Kramer, Verkehrte We/ten. Zur imaginieren Ethnographie des 19. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt: Syndikat, 1977),

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The German Sanskritist whose views on India were most often heard by an English-speaking public in the latter half of the nineteenth century was probably Friedrich Max Muller (1823-1900), editor of the voluminous Sacred Books of the East and Professor of Comparative Philosophy at Oxford. Despite his great interest in religion, however, Max Muller was as much a positivist as he was an idealist. 67 Certainly the most important of the romantic and idealist writings from 1875 to Independence-are those not of Western scholars but of many of the Indian nationalists, including Gandhi and Nehru. Since the rulers of India by and large held views that converged with the positivist interpretation of Mill and Smith, it is no surprise to find that the nationalists found themselves keeping company with the members of the loyal opposition within intellectual circles. This is in itself a vast topic about which I can say no more here.

ROMANTIC INDIA: IDEAL ESSENCES Returning to the confines of the academic community, among the idealist views of India that have been prominent in the recent past are to be counted those of certain art historians, to wit, Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877-1947), 68 and Stella Kramrisch69 and of many historians of religion, most notably, Mircea Eliade. The most important of the romantic views, though, are probably those of the associates or followers of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1971) (who was well-acquainted with the work of Creuzer) 70 and German Weberians (who also reproduce post-Rankean elements in their work). Those I would name among the Jungians are Heinrich Zimmer (18901943) and his disciple, Joseph Campbell (born 1904), whose work has been generously supported by the Bollingen Foundation, set up to pp. 15-38. On his relationship to the other romantic theorists of the symbol, see Tzvetan Todorov, Theories ofthe Symbol, tt., C. Porter (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1977), especially pp. 216-18. 67 Halbfass, lndien und Europa, pp. 151-3. 68 Consult Roger Lipsey's Coomaraswamy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), vol. 3 (His Life and Work). A good example of his views is 'The Philosophy of Mediaeval and Oriental Art', (reprinted in Coomaraswamy, vol. 1, pp. 43-70), where he opposes 'traditional' to 'modem' instead of 'Oriental' to 'Christian'. 69 Barbara Stoler Miller's biographical essay in the book edited by her, Exploring India~ Sacred Art: Selected Writings of Stella Kramrisch (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 1983), pp. 3-29. 70 Vincent Brome, Jung: Man and Myth (London: Granada, 1980; first published by Macmillan in 1978), pp. 120 and 290 on Creuzer, and for other useful details.

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assist Jungian projects. 71 Hermann Goetz (1898-1976) and his pupil, Hermann Kulke, of the South Asia Institute at the University of Heidelberg, I would consider the foremost among the latter. 72 The romantic typically takes the stance not of a supporter of Western values and institutions, but of a critic of them. Yet the romantic does not necessarily ( or usually) accept those of the East as readymade substitutes. Nor, as I have indicated, does he usually disagree with the positivist about what those are. Rather, he situates himself between or outside of either, considering both as somehow embodying the antimonies of 'human nature', the extremes to which men have gone. Here is a passage from Joseph Campbell on his favourite topic, myth. It rather elegantly exemplifies this position: Two completely opposed mythologies of the destiny and virtue of man, therefore, have come together in the modem world. And they are contributing in discord to whatever new society may be in the process of formation. For, of the tree that grows in the garden where God walks in the cool of the day, the wise men westward of Iran have partaken of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, whereas those on the other side of that cultural divide, in India and the Far East, have relished only the fruit of eternal life. However, the two limbs, we are informed [in a study of Jewish legends], come together in the center of the garden, where they form a single tree at the base, branching out when they reach a certain height. Likewise, the two mythologies spring from one base in the Near East. And if man should taste of both fruits he would become, we have been told, as God himself (Genesis 3: 22)-which is the boon that the meeting of East and West today is offering to us all. 73

Now, it must be stated that the romantic view, like that of the positivist or rationalist, also holds that there is a single reality, a single human nature. That is why Campbell uses the metaphor of human mythology as a single tree and is at pains to assert that it has a single origin in the Near East. Where it differs is in arguing that neither the West nor the East exemplifies it to the exclusion of the other. The features that constitute human nature are, for the romantic, distributive and not, as they are for the empiricist and rationalist, cumulative in Western Man. 71 Brome,

Jung, p. 236. For an excellent brief discussion of Campbell, see Riepe, The Philosophy ofIndia and Its Impact on American Thought, pp. 227-8. Riepe criticizes him for only talking about the naturalist, realist, and materialist traditions of India. 72 For some of the connections of Jung and of Goetz, Zimmer, and Eliade with Coomaraswarny, see Lipsey, Coomaraswamy, vol. 3, pp. 203-4, 210-13. A brief account of Goetz's career by Kulke, is to be found in Deppert, India and the West pp. 13-23. For the work of Kulke and his associates, see A Eschmann, H. Kulke, and G.C. Tripathi, eds, The Cult of Jagannath and the Regional Tradition of Orissa, (New Delhi: Manohar, 1978). 73 Joseph Campbell, Oriental Mythology, p. 9.

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It would seem, therefore, that no society as such could embody the whole of human nature, unless all its members had first become transformed by understanding of the Eastern or Western Other. The romantic is, however, a subjectivist. So, within a society any man or woman who puts into practice the teachings of the appropriate romantic master can come to partake of human totality and acquire a balanced personality. No major changes in his social circumstances are required. A person can somehow look into himself and step mentally outside his social world (while at the same time appearing to conform to its strictures) in order to create for himself a new person. One might think that the romantic view of India would be less substantialist with respect to human agency than that of the positivist, but this is not so. The romantic disagrees with the positivist or materialist in seeing human life as shaped in the last instance by a reality that is extemal to it. He argues instead that it is shaped by a reality that is intemal Since, however, the internal reality, human nature, the human spirit, psyche, or mind is unitary, is everywhere and always the same, the positions of the two are not so different. Whereas there is a strong tendency for the positivist to look to external natural factors as decisive in the development of East and West, so there is a decided propensity on the part of the idealist to see internal spiritual factors as decisive. Thus, while the positivist student of India, committed to societalism, would see the external, the empirical institution of caste, as the substantialized agent that has shaped persons in India, the idealist would consider the internal, the substantialized idea of caste in the form of orthodox Hinduism, as the agent. Campbell, on caste: There is therefore in Hinduism an essential affirmation of the cosmic order as divine. And since society is conceived to be a part of the cosmic order, there is an affirmation, equally, of the orthodox Indian social order as divine. Furthermore, as the order of nature is eternal, so also is this of the orthodox society. There is no tolerance of human freedom or invention in the social field; for society is not conceived to be an order evolved by human beings, subject to intelligence and change, as it was in advanced Greece and Rome and as it is in the modem West. Its laws are of nature, not to be voted on, improved upon, or devised. Precisely as the sun, moon, plants and animals follow laws inherent in their natures, so therefore must the individual the nature of his birth, whether as Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, or Pariah. Each is conceived to be a species. And as a mouse cannot become a lion, or even desire to be a lion, no Shudra can be a Brahmin; and desiring to be one would be insane. Hence the Indian word 'virtue, duty, law', dharma, has a deep, a very deep reach. 'Better one's duty ill performed', we read, 'than that of another, to perfection'. The Greek or Renaissance idea of the great individual simply does not exist within the pale of the system. One is to be, rather, a dividuum, divided

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man, a man who represents one limb or function of the great man (pUIUsa), which

is society itself: the Brahmin, priestly caste, being its head; the Kshatriya, governing caste, its arms; the Vaishya, financial caste, the belly and torso; while the Shudras, workers, are its legs and feet. The Pariahs, outcastes, meanwhile, are of another natural order entirely, and in connection with the human community can perform only inhuman, beastly chores.74

The views of the romantics and their affiliates differ less sharply than one might first suppose from those of the positivists or utilitarians with whom they disagree. As Hacking says of the split between verificationists and falsificationists in the philosophy of science: 'Whenever we find two philosophers who line up exactly opposite on a series of half a dozen points, we know that in fact they agree about almost everything. '75 Both of the views in Indology agree that there is a single, absolute reality and both displace human agency onto it. The only major difference is that the dominant view, that of the positivist, displaces it onto an external social or material nature which he tends to think of as determinate (fully knowable by human reason) while the idealist displaces it onto an internal, spiritual nature which he wants to see· as ineffable (or at least elusive and captured only in the human imagination). The former sees human acts as shaped by external material institutions over which ordinary humans have little control. The latter sees human acts as the product of a partly unconscious Agency that lies embedded deep in Man's soul. The distinction I tried to outline here between positivist and romantic strains in Indological discourse is not confined to the discipline of Indology. Bhaskar, as I have already indicated, refers to the former position as one of 'empirical realism', and calls it the dominant view in the social sciences. This stance has, according to Bhaskar, been opposed, with varying degrees of success, by a view virtually identical with the one I have called romantic or idealist, but to which he attaches the label of 'sociological individualism'. 76 This latter view attempts to carve out a space for the emotional and imaginative, the moral and religious aspects of Man. It does not, for the most part, reject the claims of science. Indeed, its adherents often adduce scientific evidence for their position or claim to use the methods of science in their studies. What the members of the loyal opposition do reject is the notion that human subjectivity can be reduced to the phenomena of nature. Wi$in Indology, adherents of this strain see India as the 74

Ibid., pp. 339 40. 75 Hacking, Representing and Intervening, p. 5. 76 Bhaskar, 11Ie Possibility of Naturalism, pp. 25-6.

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space where an Other has somehow managed to preserve these human qualities. It is a kind of living museum (and keen marketplace) of religious humanism, of far-out psychic phenomena, yogic health practices, and ultimate experiences.

DISSENT AND CHANGE Now, it would be a distortion on my part to insist that all texts produced by Indologists have conformed precisely to the positivist or idealist modes of discourse I have sketched above. There have always been dissenting voices. One of these was that of the anthropologist, Arthur Maurice Hocart (1883-1939). Although he was more of a rationalist than an empiricist, and an evolutionist rather than a functionalist, he was a critic firmly planted in the realist camp. Where Hocart departs from other Orientalists is in his refusal to subscribe to the metaphysics which constructs a West and an East that are polar opposites. He argued that castes should be seen as a hierarchy of ritual offices centred on a king (or local lord) and having as their purpose the performance of the royal ritual for the benefit of the entire community. His evolutionism causes fewer difficulties than one would expect precisely because he emphasizes the similarities of Western, Eastern, and 'primitive' cultures without reducing them all to variants of 'Western rational Man'. Castes, according to Hocart, were not a peculiar, irrational social institution confined to India; nor had they at their very point of origin swallowed up kingship; on the contrary, they were themselves offices of the state. n Hocart was quite conscious of the ways in which Indological discourse belittled Indians as it represented them and seems to have taken delight in exposing Western institutions to the same treatment. Regarding the ensemble of four va11Jas, he says: This, we are constantly told, bears no resemblance to reality. The reality is to be found in Indian censuses, in the dictionaries of castes and tribes, and in the daily "AM. Hocart, Caste: A Comparative Study(London: Methuen, 1950), pp. 17-19. J. H. Hutton in his hegemonic work, Caste in India (pp. 176-7), reduces Hocan's views to one theory of 'origin' to be mentioned among the many and then passed over. Louis Dumont and David Pocock wrongly, in my view, reject Hocart's focus on the king in their detailed review, 'A M. Hocart on Caste', Contributions to Indian Sociology, no. 2 (1958), pp. 45-63. The thoughtful discussion of Hocart's views by Rodney Needham in his new edition of Hocart's Kings and Councillors: An Essay in the Comparative Anatomy ofHuman Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970) effectively 'rehabilitates' his work.

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experience of Indian civil servants. What do we find there? Not four castes, but an infinitude, with an endless variety of customs, of mutual relations, and even of racial types. Therefore the four-caste system is a pure figment, the invention of priests for their own glorification. 78

He then shows how the analogous idea of estates in Britain could be accorded similar treatment: Before we apply an argument to a people whose ways are remote and little known (for, in spite of all the books about it, India remains an unknown country), before we take such risks it is well to test the argument on our own society which we do know. Our constitution divides the people into lords and commons. When, however, we examine the reality we find that the lords are a collection of families of different ranks---dukes, marquesses, and so on. We can also distinguish among them different sets which have little to do with one another. We can even distinguish different racial types, notably the Jewish. Among the commons the variety is even greater: it ranges from baronets, who come near to being peers, down to hornyhanded navvies. Do we on that account reject the classification into lords and commons as a figment of our constitutional theorists? Why, we can see them any day sitting in separate houses with different procedures and privileges. It is a theory, but it is a theory translated into practice. Such is any social organization.79

Hocart ends this parry with Western scientific reason with one final thrust: Why then should an Indian classification of the people into four be unreal because it gathers together into one group such heterogeneous elements as barbers, matmakers, and sometimes even aborigines? Why should not such a classification be just as imponant in the state as ours? As a matter of fact, it is much more irnponant since it runs through the daily life of the masses.80

It is also important to point out, as Said does, that certain shifts in the Orientalist paradigm have occurred since the Second War.81 Nearly all of the peoples previously incorporated into European imperial formations are now constituted as legally and formally independent and sovereign nations. At the same time, the United States has replaced Britain as the dominant Western power. These changes have been accompanied in academic circles by the rise of 'area studies'. A survey completed in the US as this reached its crest in the late 1960s, reported that there were more than 1000 specialists offering nearly 650 courses with over 14,000 undergraduate and almost 4000 graduate enrolments. 82 78

Hocart, Caste, pp. 23-4. 79 Ibid., pp. 23-4. 80 Ibid., p. 24. 81 Said, Orientalism, pp. 284-328. 82 Richard D. Lambert, Language and Area Studies Review (Philadelphia: American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1973}, Table 9.3.

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The study of Indian civilization has also been boosted in the Soviet Union, the archenemy of the United States.83 Along with these shifts has arisen an atomistic (and, in my view, specious) doctrine of cultural relativism. Mirroring the notions of the 'individual' and of national sovereignty, it claims to accord equal respect to all cultures and minority or ethnic 'heritages' while largely ignoring the relations of domination that have existed and still do exist among them. It is no longer possible to speak openly of cultural, never mind racial, inferiority and superiority in an international forum. The strong, confident language of the nineteenth century has given way to the euphemistic language of United Nations reports and Asian Civilization Course syllabi. 84 It would, however, be rash to say that the representation of the 'other' as irrational and that naturalism (in the form of evolutionism and functionalism) no longer dominate Indological discourse. The oppositions of East and West, Traditional and Modem, Civilized and Primitive have been transformed and have reappeared as the idea of the 'three worlds'. As Carl Pletsch has convincingly shown, naturalist assumptions are integral to this post-War cosmology. Nations of the First World are the most 'developed' or 'advanced' because they are shaped in accord with scientific knowledge of nature; those of the Second World are, although developed, held back by their distorting Socialist ideology; the Third World, where religion and superstition still run rife, are 'underdeveloped' or 'developing'. 85 If anyone thinks that the public has been properly educated about the realities of India and the other countries of the 'third world', he or_ she has only to see the widely shown Hollywood film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. One analysis of this film argues that, although it is set in the past, it projects current US foreign policy. It comments on old Europe's colonialism: The colonial mission which really ended with the Second World War-the mission to civilise and Christianise (to make good Frenchmen of those Vietnamese, good 83

For a general survey of Russian Indology, see G. Bongard-Levin and A. Vigasin, The Image of India: The Study of Ancient Indian Civilization in the USSR (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1984). 84 Crucial for this shift with respect to India is The United States and India and Pakistan, authored by the doyen of American Indologists, W. Norman Brown (18921975) (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953) and successively updated. 85 Carl Pletsch, 'The Three Worlds, or the Division of Social Scientific Labor, circa 1950-75', Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 23, no. 4 (Oct. 1981),

pp. 565-90.

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Englishmen of those Hindus)-is portrayed in the film in a jaundiced fashion through the impotence of British imperialist bureaucrats and military officers. The new leadership of the West has now decided that that mission was never possible, that such a purpose was naive and fantastic.

The new policy, which Indiana Jones embodies, is this: In the practical world of the present, western ideologues and governmental leaders realise that the peoples of the non-western world are going to remain poor, primitive and simple-minded; subject for the foreseeable future to the perverse enthusiasms and ecstasies of nationalism, revolutionary liberationist ideologies, and communism. In such a human universe, one's first duty is to one's own: to defend the western 'centre' from the fanaticism of the hordes. 86

To return to scholarly discourse, India is still regarded as a civilization in which a distorted form of civil society long ago engulfed the economy and state. Barrington Moore, Jr, could still write of caste in 1966 in his widely read book: 87 In pre-British Indian society, and still today in much of the countryside, the fact of being born in a particular caste determined for the individual the entire span of existence, quite literally from before conception until after death. It gave the range of choice for a marital partner in the case of parents, the type of upbringing the offspring would have and their choice of mate in marriage, the work he or she could legitimately undertake, the appropriate religious ceremonies, food, dress, rules of evacuation (which are very important), down to most details of daily living, all organized around a conception of disgust.88

Confident in his knowledge, the professor continues, as Hegel had almost 140 years previously, to describe India as a place where: 'government above the village was an excrescence generally imposed by an outsider.... The structural contrast with China is quite striking. There the imperial bureaucracy gave cohesion to the society.... At the local level such an a1:angement was unnecessary in India. Caste regulations took its place. '89 Barrington Moore can perhaps be criticized because he is not an 'expert' on things Indian, but one can hardly offer that as an excuse for A. L. Basham. His The Wonder That Was India became the hegemonic cultural history after its appearance in 1954, replacing Vincent Smith's Early History of India. Predictably, it softens its language, referring to var{la as 'class' rather than 'caste'. Nonetheless, it still 86

Cedric Robinson, 'Indiana Jones, The Third World and American Foreign Policy: A Review Article', Race and Class, vol. 26, no. 2 (Autumn 1984), p. 87. 87 Barrington Moore, Jr, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lorcl and Peasant in the Making of the Modem World (Boston: Beacon, 1967). 88 Ibid., pp. 337-8. 89 Ibid., p. 339.

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rehearses unambiguously the old Hegelian proposition that caste, here 'society', ever had the upper hand in its dealings with the state: 'Society, the age-old divinely ordained way of Indian life, transcended the state and was independent of it. The king's function was the protection of society, and the state was merely an extension of the king for the furtherance of that end. '90 Finally, the major post-War sociological statement on caste itself, Louis Dumont's Homo Hierarchicus presses the same point about civil society and the state very hard, for it is integral to his theory. What distinguishes Indian (that is Hindu) society from that of the West, according to this Durkheimian and structuralist reformulation, is that in the former, 'purity' (caste hierarchy) encompasses 'power' (kingship).91 I myself, in earlier research, was lured by the siren of caste. This is not the place to review or criticize recent work on caste as such. Some of it no doubt represents a partial break with the old Indological paradigm. Yet it must be said that the very importance given to caste has in itself tended to have the effect of reproducing the Indological axiom regarding caste and the state. Marriott and Inden state, for example, that 'it is the moral duty of the ruler (properly a Ksatriya) to use force (danc;la) so as to establish the moral order, especially in order to maintain the rank and separation of the castes, so that their internal self-government and their proper exchanges may continue.'92 I now reject the idea that makes caste rather than kingship or a state the constitutive institution of Indian civilization from its very inception down into the present. My own research on the history of caste and clan formations in Bengal is in large part and, perhaps ironically, responsible for this rejection. There I showed that it was the collapse of Hindu kingship which led to the formation of 'castes' in something resembling their modem form. That is, the distinctive institution of Indian civilization does not appear until the thirteenth or fourteenth century, at the earliest; and castes are not the cause of the weakness and collapse of Hindu kingship, but the effect of it. 93 90

Basham, Wonder That Was India, p. 88. 91 Louis Dumont, Homo hienuchicus: Le systeme des castes et ses implications, first published in 1966. See the revised English translation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 33-49, 65-72, 152-8, and especially, 287-313. 92 McKim Marriott and Ronald lnden, 'Caste Systems', Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edn, vol. 3, p. 989. 93 Ronald lnden, Marriage and Rank in Bengali Culture: A History ofCaste and Clan in Middle Period Bengal {Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 73-82.

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CONCLUSION The privileged voice within Indological discourse has been that of the scholars I have referred to as 'positivist' or 'empirical realist'. That voice denies to Indians the power to represent themselves and appropriates that power for itself. It does this by hierarchizing the knowledges which the Indians have of themselves, by turning them into subjugated knowledges. Indological discourse has this effect because it not only presents Indian thoughts and acts in what I have referred to as descriptive language, it also represents them in commentative language. The commentative aspect of an account represents Indian knowledges of the world as irrational (and largely false) copies of a reality that the Indologist assumes to be unitary, determinate, and objective. The thoughts and acts of Indians are depicted as distortions of reality, as modes of behaviour suffering from 'condensation' and 'displacement'. . Some accounts go further and indulge in theorizing, explanation, or interpretation, which I have compared to 'secondary revision'. Especially important here are those accounts which I have termed 'hegemonic'. This aspect of an account provides a rationalization of the irrationality of the Indians by pointing to a natural cause. Indian civilization is conceived of on the analogy of an organism. The product of racial mixing, it adapted 'in the beginning' to its unique Asian environment. This miraculous birth gave rise to the seemingly bizarre institutions and beliefs supposedly characteristic of Indian civilization. These institutions-village community, joint family, and especially caste and their supporting or 'legitimating' religion-Hinduism-have since their origin performed a number of interrelated survival 'functions'. India has thereby survived repeated conquests, albeit at a rather low level of political and technological 'development'. . Indian civilization is, thus, unlike the West, fundamentally a product of its environment, and a defective product at that. European civilization is the product of rational human action. Especially since the so-called Enlightenment, the West has been guided by scientific reason in shaping its institutions and beliefs. It has, by virtue of its scientific knowledge, obtained better and better 'copies' of reality and has thus been able to reform and even revolutionize itself so that it might better conform to Nature's laws and make more efficient use of Her resources. She has been able to realize the nature or essence that underlies all humanity in her institutions. India, alas, was doomed

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from the start by racial and environmental 'factors' to make false copies, distorted symbolic representations, of this supposed reality. She was from her very origin pre-conquered by caste and Hinduism and pre-condemned after an early history typical of an Asian empire, to centuries of decline and stagnation. Her people, including their leaders, have, thus, not been the true agents of their own actions, the makers of their history (in so far as the Orientalist would allow them that). The societalism of Indology, the view that reduces religion, politics, and economics to the social, has made caste into the true agent of the actions of India's people. Caste, the peculiar institution that underlies Indian civilization, that defines or constitutes its very existence, has been treated as a substantialized agent. It is only since India's incorporation into the 'world system', first under the British and now as an independent nation, that the scientific knowledge of the West has begun to 'modernize' and 'develop' the nations of the subcontinent. The minority view within Indological discourse that has been seen as countering the Enlightenment or positivist view has been that of the romantic idealists. Its proponents emphasize subjectivity and place high value on the myths and symbolic forms which the positivists denigrate or ignore. Where the positivists tend to be absolutists with respect to the rationality of the nature of the world and of the human mind, they tend to be judgemental or cultural relativists, verging on irrationalism. Although these two views appear to be strongly opposed, they often combine together. Both have a similar interest in sustaining the Otherness of India. The holders of the dominant view, best exemplified in the past in imperial administrative discourse (and today probably by that of 'development economics'), would place a traditional, superstition-ridden India in a position of perpetual tutelage to a modem, rational West. The adherents of the romantic view, best exemplified academically in the discourses of Christian liberalism and analytic psychology, concede this realm of the public and the impersonal to the positivist. Taking their succour not from governments and big business, but from a plethora of religious foundations and self-help institutes, and from allies in the 'consciousness industry', not to mention the important industry of tourism, the romantics insist that India embodies a private realm of the imagination and the religious which modem, Western man lacks but needs. They, therefore, like the positivists, but for just the opposite reason, have a vested interest in seeing that the Orientalist view of India as 'spiritual', 'mysterious', and 'exotic' is perpetuated. That is why I have referred to the Digitized by

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romantics or humanists as a kind of 'loyal opposition' within the discipline. This complementation is a reduplication within Indology of the reconciliation within the world at large of the subjectivist's tendency to moral or judgemental relativism and of the empiricist's inclination toward epistemic absolutism. Each person is accorded his/her own opinion, morality, and lifestyle, and each religion, ethnic group, nationality, or culture is permitted its own self-contained (atomized) beliefs or 'heritage' in deference to the relativist position. This can occur, however, only within a framework which delivers over the public realm of technology, business, and administration to the abso1u tist view of the objective world constructed by the empiricist and rationalist. This complementarity is not arbitrary. It is made possible by several crucial assumptions shared (often unconsciously) by the advocates of either position. One could, thus, argue, following Bhaskar, that the two views, far from cancelling or negating each other, complement and reinforce one another. Together they make up, in Foucault's terms, a total 'episteme'. The very fact that it incorporates two seemingly opposite views has, one could argue, made it that much more powerful. Let me now tum to a necessarily brief inspection of these major presuppositions. The first of these has to do with the question of the relationship between knower and known. The scholar, whether positivist and rationalist or a romantic subjectivist, presupposes that his knowledge uses the highest form of reason. This, when identified, is usually referred to as 'theoretical', 'scientific', or 'philosophical' reason. The scholar uses this faculty to represent the reality of the Other. The known is deprived of this capacity. He/she is capable of using practical reason in a more or less conscious form and is even, in Hegel's construct, permitted the use of philosophical reason, albeit unconsciously and, therefore, uncritically and unreflectively. The scholar as knower is, therefore, privileged in relation to the Other as the known. He alone uses philosophical reason in a conscious, critical, and reflective form. He is, hence, singularly capable of representing or mirroring the reality of the Other as it truly is. The dualism of knowledge and reality that predominates in Indology and in the other human sciences rests on the assumption that the Other exists as a reality apart from any knowledge we have of it. Different scholars may have different 'perceptions' of it (as may the people making up the Other themselves), but that is only because Digitized by

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they have not freed themselves from their own biases or prejudices. The purpose of the scientist is to represent the reality of the Other and not to intervene in it. He is supposed to make his representation as accurate a one as he can. The idea here is that his knowledge is supposed to mirror a reality that is independent of the scholar. Implicit here, as Michael Ryan points out,94 is the assumption that intellectual effort is separate from physical or manual effort in an ongoing social world. The knowing subject somehow transcends reality rather than being situated in it. One might also add that this dualism repeats the dualism of the subjective idealist and the empirical realist. The effect of this dualism again and again has been to displace the power to know and act of the Other (not only the externalized Indian Other, but also, it must be remembered, the internalized Others-women, the unemployed, ethnic minorities, office and factory workers et al.) onto the Self. In the nineteenth century, the Self was the Orientalist and the European colonial administrator and trader. Now, of course, the Self (including many South Asians themselves) is the social scientist and his alter egos, the multinational corporation, the agencies of the welfare state, and political parties. This brings us to the second presupposition that I wish to query. The positivistic and rationalistic epistemology enshrined in Indological discourse and its sister sciences continues to be accompanied by a presupposition of ontological unity. It assumes that the world consists of a single, determinate, reality. Human beings as the objects of knowledge are part of that reality. There is (or must be), therefore, a single human nature. Since there is only one reality, it follows that the knowledge which represents it must also be unitary. The human scientist assumes that modem natural _science is privileged in its capacity to make accurate copies and that our own society is built in accord with natural principles. Hence the human sciences must model themselves after the natural sciences. Human nature must be discoverable by naturalistic methods. It is to this assumption that we owe the naturalism, the evolutionism and functionalism, that pervade so much of social science and history. 95 Paradoxically, it is the very 94

Marxism and Deconstruction: A Critical Articulation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins

University Press, 1982), pp. 13, 132-58. 95 A critique of evolutionism is Robert A. Nisbet's Social Change and Histoiy(London: Oxford University Press, 1969). On the anti-democratic implications of evolutionism, see Paul Q. Hirst, Social Evolution and Sociological Categories (London: Allen and Unwin, 1976). For a critique of functionalism see Anthony Giddens, Studies in Social and Political Theoiy (New York: Basic Books, 1977), pp. 96-129. A concise treannent of

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epistemic absolutism of the positivist position that begets its opposite number, the romantic subjectivist who denies that all human activity can be accounted for by reducing them to physical phenomena. So long as we continue to make the assumption of a single, uniform human nature, however loosely, we shall continue, like Hegel and his descendants in the human sciences (whether they recognize his paternity or not), to represent the thoughts and acts of the peoples of other times and places as irrational and false versions of our own. And we shall have to resort to rationalizations that 'explain' their ideas and institutions as everything but what their authors claim them to be. I reject the duality of knower and known presupposed by this episteme. It is my position that knowledge both participates in the construction of reality and is itself not simply natural (in the sense of necessary or given), but, in large part, constructed. This would appear as a tenable position nowadays in the physical sciences. 96 How much more so, then, must it be the case in the social sciences, where knowledges are integral to those who constitute the known and not just confined to the knowing subjects themselves! One consequence of this position is that if I and others wish to produce a world that is more egalitarian and multi-centred, we must also at the same time transform our intellectual practices so as to make them more egalitarian and multi-centred. The capacity to have true knowledge and to act have to be, as it were, returned to the many Others from whom Western practices have taken it. We cannot claim to accord independence of action to a sovereign, independent India while still adhering (whether intentionally or not) to presuppositions that deny the very possibility of it. If we are to transform our knowledge of India in this direction, a 'deconstruction' of the discourse into which we who are the students of India have been inducted is a necessary first step. Unless we become more aware of the nature of that discourse and of its implications we cannot hope to think our way out of it. To name but one glaring example, the encysting of Hegel's text on Asia in the verbal membrane of the 'biased' and the 'out of date' has permitted most Indologists to get on with their work without reading it. Their behaviourism is available in Edmund Ions, Against Behaviouralism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1977). 96 See the discussion of Hacking, Representing and Intervening, part b, especially pp. 220-32.

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ignorance of its effects in actually producing the civilizations of Asia has enabled scholars to go on unwittingly reproducing (with endless minor variations) the major features of its constructs. I do not believe, however, that it is fair simply to end with a deconstruction. So let me suggest what a Western scholar might do. Let me also say before I do so that Indians are, for perhaps the first time since colonization, showing sustained signs of reappropriating the capacity to represent themselves, and in many ways that converge with the suggestions I am about to make. 97 It is also worth restating that such a task will not be easy to accomplish, for we are confronted here not merely with the need to change our 'attitudes'. The problem is, as Foucault and others have been saying, deeper than that. 98 It is a question, first, of our concept of knowledge and of the power over India that it creates. Second, it is a question of the actualization and reproduction of that knowledge in the overlapping and mutually reinforcing disciplines of the human sciences and in 'lay' agencies such as the United Nations and the Social Science Research Council. To begin with, a scholar would want to make a conscious break with the assumption (made for the most part unconsciously) that the world is constituted as a determinate, single external reality and with its corollary, a unitary human nature. This latter usually involves the presupposition that there is a definite substance, an underlying essence, that everywhere constitutes Man. Different civilizations or cultures are accordingly assumed to have their own defining substances which are nothing but distributary adaptations or transformations of that unitary essence. The scholar of a particular 'cultural area' (i.e. South Asia) would, thus, want to break with the notion that the actions of a particular civilization are but the accidents of a substantialized agent (to wit, caste or orthodox Hinduism), the particular essence that underlies and defines that civilization. He or she would assume instead that all humans are constrained by the same indeterminate reality and must take that into account in any body of knowledge they produce. The scholar would also assume that the societies of the world are not more or less 'correct' images of a single reality but are themselves differing realities, constructed again and again in relation to those around them, by human thought and action. Making these assumptions it becomes genuinely possible to present ancient India as Ranajit Guba, ed., Subaltem Studies l· Writings on South Asian History and Society, (Delhi: Oxford University Press, I 982), especially Guha's Introduction, pp. 1-8. 98 Foucault, Power/Knowledge, pp. 78-108. '17

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the product of its own thoughts and acts and to do so without lapsing into the atomistic moral relativism of the subjective idealist. The scholar would then be able to stop representing Indian thoughts and acts as distortions of reality. He or she would begin to present Indian ideas and institutions as human products every bit as rational (or irrational) as those of the modem West. The problematic will then have shifted. It will no longer be a question of relating weakly connected thoughts and ineffectual acts produced by a substantialized society (caste), to an external environment or ineffable interiority, known by the scholar independently of subjugated, 'native' knowledges. Human thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) and human acts (their results as well as their authors' intentions) will themselves become the real centre of attention, for they will be seen as producing and transforming their own world and not simply as adapting to it.

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Tradition Against Itself Heesterman's India*

ADMINISTRATIVE UNITY VERSUS CULTURAL INTEGRATION The work of the anthropologist and the philologist have always had close affinities with one another in the study of India despite the seeming discrepancies of the materials to which they devote themselves. Think, for example of their combination in the work of Louis Dumont. One hardly need justify, therefore, paying considerable attention to the work of a Sanskritist in a journal concerned with things anthropological, especially when the Sanskritist in question is J. C. Heesterman. The volume that I am taking up here 1 is a collection of thirteen of his pieces, eleven published elsewhere between 1964 and 1983 and two, apparently, first seeing the light of day here. Much of what Heesterman has to say is very interesting and often filled with insight into certain aspects of ancient Indian practices, especially when it comes to the Vedic sacrifice, about which he knows so much. Heesterman is, however, no narrow specialist. His essays are clearly directed to 'civilizational' issues and in them he engages or takes issue with some of the more important recent scholarship on India. At the same time, Heesterman also makes his views accessible * First published as a review of J . C. Heesterman, Tbe Inner Con.iict of Tradition: Essays in Indian Ritual, Kingship and Society (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1985) in American Ethnologist, vol. 13, no. 4 (November 1986), pp. 762-75. 1 Heesterman, Tbe Inner Conflict of Tradition.

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to a wider audience as several of the included essays, written to address issues on a comparative basis at conferences with rather broad agendas, show. Indeed, it as, Heesterman tells us in his preface, at the urging of two sociologists, Edward Shils and S. N. Eisenstadt, that this collection was published. If any among the American and European Indologists can be taken, since the demise ofW. Norman Brown, as the 'authoritative' interpreter of Indian civilization for academics outside the discipline of Indology (and the related area fields of the other human sciences), it is probably Heesterman. The publication of this set of essays will probably have the effect of consolidating his position. The larger intellectual project to which Heesterman's essays speak is the project of the social sciences that has taken shape since World War II, that concerned with the constitution and maintenance of a world order centred on the United States and its allies. The peoples of a newly discovered 'third world' are no longer to be appendages of European states, they are to be become independent, sovereign nationstates. Social scientists are to take up the question of how, in the absence of direct or even indirect 'administrative' subordination to European centers these 'new nations' are to find their place in the world. The myriad of theoretical and practical discourses that arise on 'community development', 'modernization', 'cultural change', and the transition from 'tradition' to 'modernity', backed up by 'area studies', are all concerned, though in various ways and various degrees of remove from the peoples taken as their object of study, with theorizing this problem and implementing its solutions. They are, thus, the transformed descendants of those earlier discourses on 'oriental despotism', the 'primitive' and 'Asiatic' modes of production, and of the classification of societies as 'ancient' and 'modern'. One answer that is given to the question of how the newly independent countries are to be fitted into the world order is through a double process of change. The one is mental or cultural and is to occur at the world level. The other, sharply distinguished, is organizational or structural and is to take place at the regional level, within the new nations themselves. The first, cultural integration, the assimilation of Western or modem values, is to be accomplished by identifying and educating the 'elites' of the third world. The second is to be accomplished by supporting those elites in their own countries with advice and aid. These elite, in turn, will guide their traditional populations toward modernity (or at least keep them under control). The project of the older European powers is, thus, inverted in its post-War

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construction. Whereas administrative control was the global mode of integration before, it now becomes the regional mode. Whereas the development of shared civic (Western) values in the old empires was previously delayed, discouraged, or prevented, in the 'new nations' it becomes the project with the highest priority. Writing in 1963, Clifford Geertz, a member of the Committee for the Comparative Study of New Nations at the University of Chicago, identified the Indian National Congress as the elite integrating mechanism in India. It has, says Geertz, 'tended to become an ethnically neutral, resolutely modernist, somewhat cosmopolitan force on the national level at the same time that it has built up a multiplicity of separate, and to a large extent independent, parochial party machines to secure its power on the local level'. 2 Quoting from Shils's study of the Indian intellectual elite, Geertz portrays Nehru as the exemplification of the modem, while the 'less pensive regional bosses' he sees as 'deliberately manipulating' what he refers to as 'primordial' ties, the 'local realities of language, caste, culture, and religion to keep the party dominant'. 3 The theorist taken as the immediate father of these discourses concerned with elite culture in political science, sociology, and anthropology is, of course, Max Weber, as read by Talcott Parsons and the two sociologists whom Heesterman names above. Also included here are the anthropologists Geertz and Robert Redfield and his follower, Milton Singer. It is within this context that Heesterman's own work finds its place.4 The main theme of the essays is, as its title announces, the 'inner conflict' of tradition, and is introduced to us in the first chapter. By tradition Heestennan means the 'way society formulates and deals with the basic problems of existence', the 'fundamental problem of life and death'. 5 Since these are by definition 'insoluble', every tradition has to try anew to deal with and this gives tradition an 'irritating 2

Clifford Geertz, 'The Integrative Revolution: Primordial Sentiments and Civil Politics in the New States', in C. Greetz, ed., The Quest for Modemity in Asia and Africa (New York: Free Press, 1963), p. 140. 3 Ibid, p. 140. 4 Unfortunately, the author's most explicit connection with this discourse is to be found in an essay not included in the volume under review here. See J.C. Heesterman 'Political Modernisation in India', in J.D. Legge, ed., Traditional Attitudes and Modem Styles in Political Leadership. Papers of the 28th Intemational Congress of Orientalists (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1973), and the lead article in the volume by Eisenstadt. 5 Heesterman, The Inner Con.iict of Tradition, p. 10.

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flexibility and fluidity'.6 Traditions may appear to be unchanging but they are not, yet it cannot be said that they really make any headway with life's problems. The major content of the Indian tradition (note how there is only one of these to a civilization) is provided by the notion of dhanna. Its inner conflict is the 'insoluble dilemma' posed by an atemporal order or dharma which is supposed to provide order in the world, but can only maintain its integrity by remaining apart from it. Which is to say, Indian tradition is fundamentally at odds with itself. Heesterman's idea of an Indian tradition rests on two assumptions. The first is that it is built on a mental and social dichotomy or duality. The second is that this dichotomy constitutes the stable and unchanging essence of that tradition. But there is more to Heesterman's construct of an Indian tradition than this dichotomous essentialism, difficult as it is to accept. I have earlier argued that Indological discourse constructs its Other by deploying a mode of characterization similar to that used by Freud in analysing dreams. 7 That is, it depicts the Other as irrational without necessarily saying that it is doing so and, indeed, while often maintaining just the opposite. It accomplishes this by implicitly portraying Indian thought and institutions as suffering from features such as displacement and overdetermination. Heesterman's own style of presentation lies clearly within this tradition. As he opens his discussion of tradition in India, Heesterman seems to criticize earlier scholars' 'orientalist' views when he says that an India, held in the grip of 'caste' continues to be seen as a 'world without history other than aberration, decline, and final failure' and is often used as a screen on which to project our own nostalgia for the past. So far so good. But then he asserts that 'Indian civilization' contributes to this view because its own scriptures 'do indeed project the image of a monolithic world order, the dhanna~ This idea that Indian tradition is dominated by a unitary concept of dharma that is to be found at work in virtually every aspect of Indian life, despite its inadequacies in coping with the real world, is an excellent example of overdetermination. Now, this overdetermination of India's tradition is, we are asked to believe, not attributed to it by this scholar. It is actually 'there' in the texts of the tradition itself. This may well be, but how is it that 6

Ibid., p. 10. 7 Ronald lnden, 'Orientalist Constructions of India', Modem Asian Studies, vol. 20, no. 3 (1986), pp. 1-46, included as ch.1 in this volume.

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these scriptures will speak to us, except through the mediation of the very Indologists who have continually portrayed India as the essence of changeless tradition? How are we to disentangle our reading of these texts from the very constructs that perform this task using the texts as their 'evidence'? Alas, we are not told this. We are asked, with a single illustrative quotation, simply to accept that this is so. As I shall presently show, however, this view of dharma and of Indian tradition depends in its overall formulation much more on a European metaphysics of dichotomies and essences than it does on evidence drawn from Indian texts.

THE TRANSCENDENT WORLD OF REASON AND RITUAL The essays in this collection fall into two groups. The six that follow the opening essay are concerned primarily with the texts and people taken by Heesterman to constitute the core of the Indian tradition, the Vedic texts and the Brahmai:is. The second group of six deals with kingship and society and their relationship to the Veda and the Brahmai:is, the last being devoted, appropriately enough to Weber's view of caste and kanna. The work of Georges Dumezil on IndoEuropean 'myths' did a great deal to modify the earlier view of Vedic religion as the worship of 'nature' and in particular the intellectualist treatment of it, which saw ritual as an attempt to control nature, that is as a sort of false technology. His thesis, that the myths are ordered by the principle of three opposed but complementary functions, those of priest, warrior, and commoner enabled him and some of his students to see a unified structure in what had seemed to many earlier scholars to be an incoherent mass of hymns and rites. Heesterman's view of Vedic sacrifice as 'agonistic' implicitly challenges the static and unitary implications of this structuralist theory. The idea that the Vedic rituals were originally the rites of tribesmen engaged in perennial contest with one another is not altogether new. It was adumbrated in James Tod's classic study of the Rajputs8 and certain aspects of it (as Heesterman indicates) were pointed to by Hubert and Mauss. Heesterman is, so far as I know, the first to make a theory of agonistic relationships central to an understanding of the Vedic religion and of its history. 8 James

Tod, Annals and Antiquities ofRajasthan (London: G Routledge, 1914, first published 1829), vol. 1, pp. 41-3.

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The argument that Heesterman makes9 is that two forms of Vedic religion can be seen in the Vedic texts. The one, which appears in the surface reading of the texts, is what he refers to as the 'classical' form. The other, which can be seen below the surface or between the cracks, is the 'preclassical'. It is this latter which Heesterman sees as agonistic, as a contest between rivals, a potlatch of the sort anthropologists have described for 'primitive' or 'tribal' societies. The sacrifice was, according to his interpretation, an exchange that took place between patron and officiant in the quest for life's goods. It was cyclical in nature, with first one side taking on the death-cum-impurity of the other only to receive it in return on a later occasion. Some of the features of these rites he takes as agonistic elements are the chariot races, gaming matches, and verbal contests, along with the movement between village, scene of settled life, and forest, site of cattle raids. A second and related thesis 10 is concerned with the shift from the earlier to the later form. The argument here seems to have been precipitated by the author's participation in a conference on the 'axial age', a notion first propounded by the existentialist philosopher, Karl Jaspers. 11 The most likely place to look for an 'axial breakthrough' in ancient India would, according to the more conventional view of things, be Buddhism, 'heterodox' response to an overbearing Vedic ritualism. Heesterman himself admits that Buddhism, which rejects the Veda, had an 'impact' on the 'mundane order' through its connection with the Mauryas at the end of the 'axial age'. Buddhism, we are told, gave their empire a 'new ethical legitimation' and owed to it, 'the realization of its universalistic claim'. Indeed, he asserts that 'the Veda ... though ostensibly addressing itself to man and his mundane interests, kept out of such involvement with the world and its powers'.12 Nonetheless, he argues, Vedic ritualism 'does indeed represent in its own•and powerful manner the axial breakthrough'.13 It is during this same period that the classical form of the sacrifice develops. Heesterman construes the classical Vedic ritualism that emerged in this so-called axial age as subjective and idealist in the extreme. Its character is 'unmythical, rational, and individualistic'. The 'sacrificial 9

Heesterman, The Inner Conflict of Tradition, chs 2 and 3. 10 Ibid., eh. 7. 11 Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal ofHistory, tr., M. Bullock (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1953). 12 Heesterman, The Inner Conflict of Tradition, p. 96. 13 Ibid., p. 97.

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battleground' is a 'serene and perfectly ordered ritual emplacement'. The celebrant is 'freed from the ties and contingencies of the world', and 'strikes out in his own universe through the artifice of the ritual'. The older warrior's sacrifice has turned into the renouncer's ritual: The ritualists' enterprise was a bold attempt at forcing a way out into outer-worldly freedom and life untainted by death and destruction. They could not revolutionize the hard facts of reality, nor did they try. They tried instead to create a separate world, the ideally ordered world of rationalized sacrifice. 14

It has been rationalized not only in the sense that it has been systematized, but in the sense that it has been intellectualized. The violence formerly central to the sacrifice has been excluded from it and been replaced by a non-contested gift or offering. The 'numinous meaning of sacrifice' has been stripped away. Religious acts that were once concerned with the social world now become almost completely divorced from it. From now on the sacrifice is 'meaningless'. 15 An irreconcilable contrast thus arises between the world of the individual sacrificer and the social world: 'But this artificial universe, for all its systematic control of even the smallest detail, is brittle and ephemeral. The price it must pay for the perfection of its order is divorce from the world' .16 One should, therefore, not be mislead by the 'rationality' of the Brahma1_1s. It is not the world-ordering rationality of Weber's West. There, with the rise of Protestantism and the Enlightenment, the world becomes 'disenchanted'. Within India, however, it is not the world that is stripped of a magical sacrifice, it is the sacrifice that is stripped of the magical world. 17 The rationality of the Brahma1_1s does not, I might add, seem to be different in its content from that of the Western intellectuals. It is (perhaps too much like that of the West) a selfcentred rationality and one that orders the 'world' into hierarchically arranged, mutually exclusive categories. The difference is in the objects of the two rationalities. The West, we are meant to believe, not only rationally orders its mental world, it also rationally orders its social world. In India, however, rationalization is confined to the sacrificial terrain. That is, rationality is displaced from the world onto itself. Outside that private, mental realm, however, there is no rationality, only rationalizations, half-baked and patently ineffectual attempts to 14

Ibid., p. 58. 15 Ibid., pp. 102-3. A more sweeping hypothesis of 'meaninglessness' is developed by J. F. Staal, 'The Meaninglessness of Ritual', Numen, vol. 26 (1979), pp. 2-22. 16 Ibid., p. 101. 17 Ibid., pp. 98, 100-1.

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reconcile the transcendent world of the sacrifice and the immanent world of conflict and self-aggrandizement. That world is, so to speak, left behind. It remains a magical, tribal world. We can see here Heesterman's use of displacement to construct the Other. Within the West, a world-ordering rationality properly has the world as its object. But in India that same rationality is allegedly displaced onto religion itself. The result is a civilization that must seem to many readers a fundamentally irrational one, though, of course, Heesterman never says this. It is largely a function of the way in which the case has been put; it is not, I repeat, 'there' in the evidence itself. Heesterman's notion of the classical is, to begin with, highly problematic, both from the viewpoint of its placement in time and of its supposed orthodoxy. Heesterman postulates a reform of the ritual texts, but does not tell us when and where or how this took place. It was preceded or accompanied by the 'growth and spread of agriculture'. 18 The reform thus apparently antedates the Epics. Still, we are left not knowing whether the reform of the Vedic sacrifice precedes the rise of Buddhism, is contemporaneous with the Buddha, or postdates the triumph of Buddhism under Asoka three centuries later. Second, although Heesterman holds that the views of one school on the Veda and on sacrifice, the Piuvamimaips8, are authoritative; he nowhere shows where and when in India this view prevailed. He simply assumes, as have most Indologists, that it is or represents orthodoxy. But if the classical sacrifice is a response to Buddhism's triumph in the subcontinent, it is hard to maintain that the victor is heterodox and the school that is in retreat is orthodox. This problem is further complicated by the position of the theistic religious orders of the 'postaxial Hinduism'. Heesterman nowhere tells us that their views of Vedic sacrifices are quite different from ,that expounded in the Piuvamimaips8. The reframing of the Vedic (Srauta) liturgy as a cycle of offerings to Vishnu in the Mahabharata is but one such example. On the basis of that one might ask: are the Vedic sacrifices offered by the Gupta emperors in the fourth and fifth centuries, professing themselves Vai~~avas, the sacrifices reformulated by the adherents of Piuvamimaips8 or those reformulated by the Vai~~avas? Who decided what was orthodox? The way in which Heesterman formulates this transformation also belies the teleological view of history to which the axialists subscribe: 18

Ibid., p. 124.

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the world's civilizations undergo the axial breakthrough. The agents of this change are not the transitory historical actors of the different civilizations. The agent is a unitary entity, world civilization itself. The best that can be said for this variant of a Hegelian pattern of history is that it no longer confines true growth to the West. Consistent with post-World War II pluralism, it permits all of the civilizations to go through this rite of puberty. Yet change takes place differently in each civilization and, more than a little reminiscent of the old East-West divide, we are told that while Zarathustra's break with the old Aryan tribal world 'aimed at reforming the world', that of the Vedic ritualists, 'turned away from the world and in the last resort aimed at its dissolution'. 19 Do we really want, at this point, to rehearse the romantic truism that the West was destined to develop the material side of humanity while the East was destined to develop its spiritual side? Certainly if we are to adhere to a teleological view of history we are entitled to know what its goal or goals are. Heesterman is certainly to be given credit for arguing the case that Vedic ritual changed, that it did not remain a constant over the centuries and millennia from the moment of its origin. Yet his argument is not a historical one, for he does seem to assume that once it undergoes transformation and takes on its classical pattern -in the unique axial age, it remains more or less the same thing down the centuries. Nonetheless, Heesterman may well be right in his characterizations of the earlier and later forms of the sacrifice. There could well be a great deal of truth in the dichotomy Heesterman draws between Vedic ritualism and the social world. But it may not be the contrast between the predominant ideology of that world and its social reality. It might just be the contrast between a religious order on the defensive and a social reality that was looking , elsewhere, either, initially, to Buddhism or, later, to Vaisnavism or Saivism. The Brahmans who rethink and • • • reform the Vedic ritual and its metaphysics after Buddhism becomes the predominant imperial religion may well have preferred to cut themselves off from a world in which their own practices were no longer regnant. But to think along these lines would change his characterization from an essentialist one into a contingent one, it would place the Vedic religion in a real set of circumstances to which its practitioners and apologists responded and would view the texts from which Heesterman draws his material as the products of acts which actually 19

Ibid., p. 107.

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constructed a position of remove for certain Brahmai:is. Instead, they are taken to be expressions of an underlying subjective idealism which has always been there and just becomes manifest in the axial age; and the extreme form of world renunciation that it is said to exhibit is treated not as one position among many in a multi-stranded Indian tradition. It is rather turned into the core of a unitary Indian tradition which was destined to develop as it did. Another way to put it is to say that the body of evidence to which Heesterman makes constant reference, the Vedic ritual and moral texts, cannot be made to do the global work which he has tried to make it do. So far we have allowed for the possibility that the dichotomy Heesterman draws between the BrahmaQ. and society in his portrayal of the Indian tradition might be correct even if his essentialist treatment is not. Unfortunately, however, this is also a problem. Let me now tum to this question by looking more closely at how Heesterman constructs the relationship of the BrahmaQ., practitioner of the classical Vedic ritual, to the world and, in particular, to •the king. The English philosopher, Collingwood, argued that 'philosophical' thinking (and, by implication, much of everyday or social thinking) should be distinguished from 'scientific'. 20 Whereas the former proceeds by the use of overlapping classes, the latter proceeds by using mutually exclusive ones. The former, therefore, has no difficulty in conceiving of the relations of paired entities as simultaneously those of opposition and distinction. The latter, however, finds this repugnant. It is my contention that Heesterman, like many others who have fallen into the habit of using 'structuralist' principles for analysing the relations between pairs, commits the fallacy first of treating overlapping classes as if they were mutually exclusive and second of continually seeing only oppositions between pairs where distinctions are also present. During his discussion of ritual and renunciation, 21 Heesterman makes the argument that the Brahmai:i who is the 'real' BrahmaQ. is not the priest but the renouncer, the BrahmaQ. who does not perform rituals for others. He comes close to taking the position that it is not the Brahma~ caste as such that transcends society but an elite of BrahmaQ. savants and ritualists. He rightly criticizes Dumont for assuming that it is the social function of the BrahmaQ., that of the priesthood, that gives him his superiority. He also argues that this 20

R.G. Collingwood, An Essay on Philosophical Method (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933). 21 Heesterman, The Inner Conflict of Tradition, chs 2, 10, 12.

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elite has to be extremely careful in its interactions with others in order to maintain its position. This depends not, as some have supposed, on asserting their superiority in a cycle of exchanges, but rather on their removal from it, on their maintaining of their independence. It is at this point that he brings in evidence about gifts. Heestennan points out, contra the anthropologist Mauss in his classical study of the gift, that the Brahmanical theory rules out the obligatory return of the gift. This is important, but Heestennan does not follow through in his discussion of gifts, making instead an argument about the 'interiorization' of the ritual. If Heestennan had continued with the question of gifts, he might have seen that the discourses about gifts to Brahma~ have not so much to do with the relationship of kings to priests, but of kings to the very renouncer Brahmans . that figure so prominently in Heesterman's construct of classical Brahmanism. Those Brahmans • did not live on the fees they collected from patrons of the sacrifice, royal or otherwise, but on the gifts of land and other valuables (often referred to as mahadana or 'great gift') made to them by kings and other notables. The very fact that these were not exchanges made it possible both for the elite Brahm~ to live as householders and for the king to partake of their 'authority' without either jeopardizing the Brahmar:i's transcendence or requiring the king to renounce 'power' and leave society. The Brahmanical theory of gifts is, in other words, a genuine solution to the problem of transcendence and immanence. It is, furthermore, one that seems to have been successful. The Brahman• communities, the brahmadeyas or agraharas that appear in so many thousands of royal donative charters-Heesterman seems to be unaware of or perhaps uninterested in these should, I think, be taken as evidence not only of Heestennan's point about the Brahmanical theory, but also of its success. Thus, while it is certainly correct to consider the relation between the Brahman• savant on his Brahman• estate and the king, court, and populace of the kingdom in which that estate is situated as problematic, it is not necessary to go to the extreme of portraying those relations as inherently fraught with tension and to treat the textual evidence on gifts and worship as simply an expression of a fundamental contradiction, as a 'desperate means of trying to deal with an insoluble problem-the problem of relating the ultramondane order of Veda and purity with the worldly realities of power and dominance'. 22 .

22

Ibid., p. 189.

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There is indeed some evidence used by Heesterman himself that would suggest that the Brahmai:is of whom he speaks themselves assumed there to be a continuity between inner spiritual life and outer material life. The idea of performing the sacrifice in oneself (atmayaj.ia) would seem to rest on the assumption not of a fundamental dichotomy between sacrificial action and renunciatory knowledge23 but rather of their continuity. So, too, would the evidence about a 'hierarchy' (grades?) of sacrifices24 and of Brihmai:is.25 The concern of the texts he cites with the conduct of the Brahman• elite also tends in that direction. If inner purity and knowledge were so fundamentally at odds with social reality, one would expect that Brihmai:is would have to be celibate recluses; yet the Brihma~s discussed are, for the most part, married householders. Another way to state the matter is to conceive of the relations between the pairs of ritual and renunciation, savant and priest, and even of Brahma~ savant and king, as relations not only of opposition, as Heesterman does, but also as relations of distinction. They are also relations of degree as well as of kind. One might rather try to think of Indian social orders as 'chains of being' with many degrees of 'perfection' than as an absolute dichotomy consisting of an intellectual elite and a social mass.

THE IMMANENT REALM OF THE KING Although the state appears in many of Heesterman's essays, it is the special focus of four of them. Drawing mainly on evidence concerned with the Rijasuya, the Vedic ceremony of 'royal consecration' on which he did his doctoral research, 26 Heesterman asserts27 that although the king is 'primarily a religious figure: a divinity as well as chief celebrant', 28 the texts do not put all the pieces together: 'What is lacking is a consistent overall scheme that would give substance to a consolidated theory of sacral kingship. '29 The king's divinity is, thus, dismissed as 'essentially a construction'. 30 Why? Because it is the Brahmai:i who 23

Ibid., p. 39. 2 ◄ Ibid., p. 38. 25 Ibid., p. 25. 26 J.C. Heesterman, The Ancient Indian Royal Consecration: The R.ijasiiya Descnbed according to the Yajin Texts and Anno{ta}ted (The Hague: Mouton, 1957). 27 Heesterman, The Inner Conflict of Tradition, eh. 8. 28 Ibid., p. 110. 29 Ibid., p. 111. 30 Ibid., p. 110.

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is the higher repository of the sacred: 'We know, of course, what the reason for this undecided state of affairs is, namely, that it is not the king but the brahmin who, according to the classical conception, holds the key to ultimate value and therefore to legitimacy and authority'. 31 The 'critical point', according to Heesterman, 'is that the classical theory of sacrifice has resolutely and as a matter of principle turned its back on society'. 32 The king has no authority in the place of the sacrifice which is set apart from the 'life of the community'. He cites the passage from the Rajasuya in which the Brahmai:is proclaim that the recipient of the rite is the king of the Bharatas, but that Soma is their king.33 He even goes so far, elsewhere, as to maintain that the king is, as a sacrificer or celebrant of the sacrifice, no higher in status than the common man and need not be given the ceremonial bath (abhi!eka) or undergo the Vedic Rajasuya. 34 The 'final blow' is given by the commentators when they state that whoever holds the de facto power is king. India has, to be sure, had effective kings, but 'kingship as an institution has no authority and legitimacy of its own'. 35 The correlative of this idea that the royal rites are simply private rituals is the notion, adumbrated at several places, that the there were no sacra publica in ancient India. If indeed the sacrifice was a purely individual affair, then this would logically follow. Yet we are told that the king was the 'celebrant at the great festivals' and that (with the overdetermination Indology likes to atu ibute to Indian practices) 'these rituals would leave the king no time for anything else, if indeed he would ever be able to finish all the ritual cycles and cycles 31

Ibid., p. 111. 32 Ibid., p. 111. 33 Heesterman's earlier interpretation of this ( The Andent India, Royal Coronation, pp. 75-8), that 'the royal sacrificer himself is king Soma', and that, 'far from being a document of the brahmins' supposed independence from or even superiority over the king, it implies the glorification of the royal sacrificer', is quite at odds with his later position, the one that develops after his reading of Dumont; alas, it seems preferable to it. ~ The evidence Heesterman cites can hardly be taken as he intends ( The Inner Conflict of Tradition, 24; repeated on pp. 15~). It states that the king should be a ~ttiya who has undergone the brahmasaipskaras, by which is meant the initiation ( upa.nayana). It certainly seems to have been the understanding of the ritual texts that the king who performed the Rajasuya was one who claimed to be independent of any superior king and announced his worthiness to conquer the quarters. But it is everywhere assumed that the king of a kingdom that seems to be the object of Manu's text was indeed 'bathed' into kingship (abh~ikta) . It is likely that the ritual procedure followed by the king who did not have imperial ambitions was the less elaborate rite of the Ka~iblsiitra, attached to the Atharvaveda, the ritual text of the royal priests. 35 Ibid., p. 112.

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within cycles'. 36 One begins to wonder why a king would perform specifically royal rites if these were not somehow public, at least in their effects. But then the rites to which Heesterman is referring here are not the reformed Vedic rites. They are the post-Vedic rites of the , Hindu Puranas. Vai~1_1avism and Saivism are theistic religions that advocate 'participation' (bhakti, commonly translated as 'devotion') in a High God as much as they advocate separation from the world. If post-axial kings have taken these religions as the transcendent authorities of their kingdoms, could one not argue that the 'conundrum' of the king's authority is alleviated, if not altogether removed? Heesterman does not, however, even consider this an option. The reason? He simply assumes that these theistic religions are inferior forms of the transcendent Vedic religion. Despite the claims of the , Vai~1_1avas and Saivas to incorporate their own readings of the Veda (and its rites) into religions, despite their elaboration of ontologies every bit as rational as those of Piirvamimaips8, despite their claims to be superior to that of the Vedic ritualists, they are simply relegated to the immanent, tribal realm of which the king is the 'symbol'. The difficulties do not ease when we turn to Heesterman's account of the king's divinity. He does not resort to the secularist notion that it was a fiction invented by the rulers to induce obedience and perhaps even a foreign import; nor does he adhere to the idea that equates his divinity with the transcendent, centralized power of a High God. Instead, Heesterman, implicitly distinguishing between the divine and the sacred, makes a different argument. He asserts that the king becomes the focus of the sacred, by which he means the magical and numinous, with the rise of the classical pattern of sacrifice. It happens because the Brahma1_1 had become (despite the insistence of the texts on which Heesterman relies that the Brahma1_1, and especially the renunciatory man of knowledge, and the king are both divinities) 'emptied of magic and sacrality'. The sacrality thus displaced onto the king 'resides in his connectiveness', signifying the immanence of his authority: The sacral or divine king does not derive his authority from a transcendent principle, but from the community itself. As the chief organizer and celebrant of communal festivals, he symbolizes its essential unity. He is, as it were, the nodal point where the relationships of cooperation and rivalry that make up the community and that are ritually expressed in communal festivals come together. 37 36

Ibid., p. 110. 37 Ibid., p. 131.

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Far from lifting him above society, however, this neo-Frazerian sacrality 'weighs him down and enmeshes him in the constricting web of connective relationships'. This he counterposes to the 'separative authority' of the Brahm~, the authority that is transcendent and ultimate. 38 Now, authority is a problem in Heesterman's dichotomous view of the world in every tradition. India is a 'special' example of this more general problem. The 'essential difference' between India and the Christian and Islamic worlds is that there, 'both spiritual authority and temporal power have to be realized in the single sphere of society'. In India, however, 'the spiritual one simply opts out, leaving the other to cope for itself as best it can'. 39 Once again, this idea of the king who performs communal sacred rites and whose authority is immanent makes sense only if we understand that Heesterman always places his version of Brahmai;usm in the position of, the highest religious authority and places the religions of Vi~i:iu and Siva in the realm of the social, along with the king. This is a forced and confused argument. It rests, as I have already indicated, on the tendency Heesterman has to see the relation of the Brahmai:i and king, or the secular and sacred, as one of opposition and not, at the same time, as one also of distinction. If the world is divided up into an individualized realm of ritual transcendence, on the one hand, ·and a social realm of self-interested immanence, then the king must be fitted either into the one or the other. Since he cannot be accommodated in the higher, mental realm, he has to be placed in the lower, social one. Yet the Vedic rites he performs must be placed in the higher rather than the lower. His position also presupposes that there was one ultimate authority, that of the Vedic Brahmai:i (in its Piirvamimmpsa rendering). This forces him to demote , the religions of the Vai~i:iavas and Saivas to the level of being magical, social religions, concerned only with the immanent. It discounts the possibility that those religions, though they adhere to the Veda and perform some of its rites, including the Rajasuya, have actually appropriated them for their own theological purposes. One might go even further and ask if it is necessary to hold that even the classical Vedic sacrifices are totally assimilated to the individualist and renunciatory concept of sacrifice Heesterman proposes? Is there really a fully atomistic notion of the individual operating in the sacrificial sphere? Do not even these reformed rites have mundane 38

Ibid., p. 151, 151-6. 39 Ibid., p. 112.

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benefits which are shared in by those of whom the king or sacrificer is the lord or master-his wife, children, ministers, and subjects? Heesterman himself talks at some length about the 'differential rights' of the Indian social world. Is there any reason why these must be so sharply opposed to an individual notion that is exclusively associated with renunciation? I suspect that if both were , seen to operate in the Vedic sacrifice, as well as in V~~ava and Saiva rites, many of the contradictions concerning the king's authority could be resolved. Let us now peer into the immanent social world to which the king belongs and of which he is, in Heesterman's theory, the connector. Earlier constructs of India also held to the position that the king was not a free agent, but they tended to see the king as the instrument of a caste and village society, and the tool of the BrahmaJ.lS. Heesterman40 rejects the idea that caste and village are the bedrock of Indian society. He argues, quite convincingly, that the older 'official view' of caste and village was one that derived from the project of the modem British state in India. It was, 'an exhaustive grid of narrowly defined categories covering the whole of society and enabling the state to apply its impersonal rules and regulations rationally'. 41 The centre of gravity in the Indian society is not, according to Heesterman, caste or the village nor the king, but the patrimonial 'man of substance', referred to repeatedly as the co-sharer in the realm with the king. 42 He bears a strong resemblance to the 'big man' of anthropology and more relevant, perhaps, the landowner of the Burkean or Hegelian state (one example of which are the Junkers of central European history). The difference is that whereas the hereditary landowners (represented in an upper chamber) are supposed to form the stabilizing basis of a unified, hierarchically ordered state, their counterparts in India seem ever to prevent such a political formation there. Why is this? The answer lies in the collectivity to which the big man of India belongs, a 'brotherhood'. This is the 'institutional form' or 'formal instrument' for holding and distributing rights and shares in Indian society. Characterized as 'anchored in the jural order of rights and shares' and 'afloat in a sea of exchange arrangements', 43 it is, as a sociologist would put it, the traditional mechanism for the integration of society. The result of the emphasis Heesterman places on these 40

Ibid., 41 Ibid., 42 Ibid., 43 Ibid.,

p. p. p. p.

12. 182.

184. 191.

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'brotherhoods' is that he tends to reduce Indian states to temporary and unstable coalitions of big men and their lineages. The brotherhoods, those sub-polities that occupy the space around the edges of Indian states or between the village and the state, especially in its moments of dissolution or dispersal, become the 'real' actors of Indian politics, discoverable in all circumstances once we know how to peel away the appearances of unitary states. The very agencies that the older British construct tried to reduce to caste and village thus re-emerge as the major actors of Indian society. The examples Heesterman uses to illustrate how the brotherhood operates come either from the eighteenth century or the early nineteenth (none of which can be said to be 'undistorted by the overlay of the official inodem view', since all of the evidence is reported by Westerners shaped in part by that concept), when a number of polities and sub-polities were contending for position in the subcontinent as the will of the Mughal state weakened. One should, therefore, be at least somewhat cautious about extrapolating from these examples to the whole of Indian society over time and space. It is just possible that these sub-polities of the brotherhoods would both look different and seem less important if we looked at evidence from India during one of its moments of unity. We might find that the men of these brotherhoods are not then co-sharers in the realm; or they are those who were the co-sharers of the previous government or might claim to be in the government that emerges as a result of the political struggles in which they are engaged. But then the existence of such moments are denied in advance, for we are confronted here with a strongly essentialist position. The idea here seems to be that the 'classical' anthropologist's favourite essence of the primitive society, 'kinship', is the essence of the social in India, too. This comes out clearly in Heesterman's analysis of that part of the Rajasfiya, in which the king exchanges offerings with the 'jewel-holders' (ratnins), his 'household officials'. This in reality is a 'personal network', the 'basic paradigm' of which seems to be 'kinship and connubium'.44 Heesterman is surely right to reject the British attempt to displace their notion of order onto Indian tradition. Yet I think he goes too far in an equal-and-opposite direction. He ends up exchanging a unitary, static model of society for one that is in constant flux and virtually centreless. One part, the brotherhood, becomes the whole of the Indian polity. Caste as the true essence 44

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of Indian society is swapped for the even more visceral essence of kinship. The image of a society that is integrated and reintegrated, but only in a purposeless, volatile, and ramshackle manner is, of course, not accidental, nor is it simply the result of empirical research; it is integral to Heesterman's dualistic construct of Indian civilization. If kinship turns out to be the essence of the social and political in India, it is because it is the perfect emblem of an immanent social reality. We should not, however, make the mistake of seeing this as the single essence of Indian civilization. There is, we must remember, the other essence of Indian tradition, the one that is just the opposite of the outer, social, and objective essence of kinship. It is the inner, individual, and subjective essence of renunciation. The best statement Heesterman makes on this concludes his lengthy discussion of the brotherhood and the problem of 'integration'. He tells his Western reader that when we touch the 'inner springs' of Indian civilization, we find that, 'its heart is not with society and its integrative pressures'. Supplying India with a unitary mind, he continues: 'It devalorizes society and disregards power. The ideal is not hierarchical interdependence but the individual break with society. The ultimate value is release from the world. And this cannot be realized in a hierarchical way, but only by the abrupt break of renunciation.'45 It is not just that renunciation and the social are distinct in India, they are irreconcilable opposites. India, furthermore, wants it that way: Indian society and its ideal are separated by a chasm and cannot be united. Nor are they intended to be united. The chasm is intentional. Therefore all attempts, whether by the observer or the participant, at joining together the two orders in their different forms-king and brahmin, power and authority, jiti and van:ia, 'worship' and Veda, society and its rejection-are doomed to failure. Above the Indian world, rejecting and at the same time informing it, the renouncer stands out as the exemplar of ultimate value and authority. 46

Tradition, thus, becomes two-tiered, consisting of a higher individualistic, universalistic, transcendent order of removal or renunciation and a lower social, particularistic, and immanent order. The one is the realm of the Brahma!), the other that of the king and of the co-sharers in the realm, the men of substance and the brotherhoods, the castes and villages. The one is the inner mental realm of Indian civilization, the 45

Ibid., p. 192. 46 Ibid., pp. 192-3.

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UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

TRADITION AGAINST ITSELF



79

other is, so to speak, its outer body. Each is as internally uniform and unchanging as it is fundamentally different from its would-be complement. And in the last analysis, it is the material or social in this binary opposition that is inferiorized and devalued. Another of the essays47 deals with that troublesome text, the ArthaJastra of Kauµlya. It is a particularly vexing one for Heesterman, for if he is to sustain his argument about India as a tribal polity, he must account for this, the text that has been taken as evidence for the existence of bureaucratic, centralized governments in ancient India. One can only agree with the author when he says of the Arthaf.a.