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


A blind spot in Amy M. Braverman’s “The Interpretation of Gods” (December/04) and in Wendy Doniger’s camp is that they give no consideration to education’s ethical consequences. The propagation of caste, cows, and curry stereotypes of India is a disservice to Chicago’s students, many of whom will hold globalized careers. The times demand a radical departure from the prejudiced constructions and dubious scholarship peddled by segments of the old guard of the American intellectual establishment and transmitted through a Eurocentric core curriculum.

Arriving at more accurate, balanced representations of Indian culture requires the participation of noncareer intellectuals, not bound by academic cronyism or prepackaged “theories” by which Chicago’s PhD factory churns out India “experts.” Academicians should dialogue with public intellectuals like me, rather than caricaturing us as political “activists” and psychoanalyzing us as native informants under the white gaze.

Reversing the gaze—allowing the Indian gazer to anthropologize and psychoanalyze the dominant white culture—is a prerequisite to the honest intellectual debate evaded by Doniger and her ilk. Unfortunately, the article re-reverses the gaze upon the dissenters personally. The whole affair is choreographed as a violent conspiracy in which Doniger plays the innocent victim. Are Doniger and Braverman subconsciously applying the doctrine of Manifest Destiny in which white supremacy was legitimized by framing others as violent, irrational, and unfit to self-govern?

The article’s credibility is also compromised by lumping together unrelated Indian political antics with legitimate intellectual challenges by the Hindu American minority. Poli-tical correctness has superseded journalistic rigor.

I introduced Braverman to 30 knowledgeable scholars, many of whom e-mailed their views to her and expressed willingness to be interviewed. She ignored almost all of them. Instead, Vijay Prashad, AM’90, PhD’94, who does not pretend to be a religious-studies scholar or a spokesman for practicing Hindus, is used as a loyal proxy for the establishment. Prashad scored political brownie points by demonizing me, although my dissent is against the very imperialistic system he frequently attacks to prop up his own brand value as a Marxist.

Will the incumbents in control of institutionalized discourse on India respect the challengers’ rights to intellectual freedom, including the right to a Gandhian satyagraha (campaign for truth)? Or will their teachings produce more Abu Ghraibs?

Rajiv Malhotra
Princeton, New Jersey

The Magazine welcomes letters. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited. To ensure a range of views, we encourage letters of fewer than 300 words. Write Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. Or e-mail: