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Letters...but in all the shouting, no one’s listening.


In “The Interpretation of Gods” Amy M. Braverman seems to suggest a simplistically bifurcated way of viewing Hinduism: that of the objective scholar and that of the narrow-minded, conservative Hindu. Is it really so clearly defined? What happened to the critical thinking one would expect in a University of Chicago publication? Wendy Doniger is a respected, astute, and well-known scholar, and she has a right to her views. The other academics mentioned do as well. At the same time, no academic’s work should be off-limits to critique. When one assumes that clearly questionable and often discredited methodological tools such as those of Freud can be used unequivocally to deconstruct and analyze the cultural beliefs and practices of others, while rejecting indigenous understanding and interpretation, is this not a form of intellectual colonialism? I wonder if Braverman has read Michel Foucault. Even Louis Dumont acknowledged that as scholars, we “must learn from the people themselves which modes of thinking we have the right to apply [to them] and which we should reject.”

Scholars and practitioners are not inherently distinct groupings, and there are many of us who coexist in both realms. There is much in the approach and understanding of each that can further and enhance the other. Unfortunately, Braverman’s article will do more to hamper than promote that process.

Ramdas Lamb
Manoa, Hawaii

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