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In Every Issue ::

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.
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At the end of Rajiv Malhotra’s lengthy criticism of Wendy Doniger’s studies of Hindu texts, he writes: “Rights of individual scholars must be balanced against rights of cultures and communities they portray, especially minorities that often face intimidation. Scholars should criticize but not define another’s religion.” If this means that slander is wrong and colonialism is pernicious, who could disagree? Yet, if this means, as I read him, that scholars should contort their readings of sacred texts to honor the opinions of traditionalists, I must dissent.
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As I read “The Interpretation of Gods,” I found my mind entertaining the following image: Imagine a Martian anthropologist—learned, sensitive, but quite deaf and not a little arrogant. Suppose him to visit Chicago and attend a performance of the symphony. And suppose we looked at the notes our Martian scholar was scribbling—how might they read?
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The real fight is that the University’s Religious Studies Department [Chicago has no religious-studies department per se; there is a graduate-level Divinity School, and the College offers a religious-studies major.—Ed.] is deeply immersed in social-sciences methodologies which do not provide legitimate interpretations of classical Indic texts dealing with religious experience.
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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.
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Thank you for the discussion of the objections to non-Hindu psychoanalytic interpretations of Hindu scripture. I object to most psychoanalytic interpretation of literature, claiming serious intentions, as reduction by an immature hermeneutic. Admittedly the issues in the present case are complex, but psychobabble in any case exploits the vocabulary of diagnosis.
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This is in response to the first two feature articles of the December/04 issue. I felt the need to write as an alumna of the University of Chicago who returned to India after receiving a PhD (with honors) and built her professional career in India, apart from an academic year spent as a fellow of the National Humanities Center in the United States. I am shocked and amazed that the University of Chicago Magazine should profile a former CIA agent in a lead story [“Spy Guy”], given the very negative image the CIA has come to acquire among many millions of ordinary people worldwide.
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Re: “Falcon Quest” (“Chicago Journal,” December/04). Attached you will find my photograph of “our” female peregrine falcon perched on a Cobb Hall gutter, taken from the fourth floor of the Administration Building last spring.
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Shocked! Shocked! That’s the reaction to the “Figure 1” chart (December/04). The chart claims to display “The Levelized Cost of Electricity.” Levelized? Levelized? Has the English Department been abolished? Are the authors of the study (economics, GSB, Harris School of Public Policy) without adequate vocabularies to express their conclusions without such a hateful neologism? Please incentivize them to study our rich and beautiful language.

Robert N. Kharasch, PhB’46, BS’48, JD’51


“Putting It All Together” (“Editor’s Notes,” December/04), about jigsaw puzzles, is a delightful piece and its question, “Why do we do them?” is a good one. But in glancing at answers, you skate on thin ice—one can quickly fall through and encounter surprising depths.
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I was distressed to see the “War Stories” (October/04) piece trumpeting what was evidently considered to be the achievements of grads Wolfowitz, Chalabi, and Ashcroft, in connection with the Iraq war. The subhead’s “godfather” reference for Wolfowitz was especially suitable, as a “godfather” figure is one who directs a ruthless gang in the conduct of illegal activities, generally of a violent and socially harmful nature. Not at all inappropriate for Mr. Wolfowitz. This is a U of C favorite son? Is the pride of association an accurate reflection of the wider U of C family or only the editorial staff?
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I just finished reading “War Stories” and was surprised to see that you only mentioned a select few alumni. Here are a couple of alumni you ignored.
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Give me a break. So Chicago graduates are publishing too many books for you to list—much less describe in any detail—in the Magazine. What a shame! We’ve become what we were educated to be. Instead of the joy I’ve had learning about the books written by fellow alumni, I am now flipping through your mass-market inspired People magazine meets Time. You seem to have plenty of room for full-page photographs.
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Because of the title of the October/04 article about the Graduate School of Business’s new building—“Prairie Gothic”—I felt I must respond. The choice of relating context to a residence, when you are designing a building in excess of 400,000 square feet, only works if it is a residence for a duke or earl, or at least several hundred students, not a single family home. The Gothic comparison is minimal.
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“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world....” In “Feel the Film Music” (“Investigations,” December/04) the Casablanca still was not from Rick’s Café but a bar in Paris. In the same issue’s “Arts & Letters” section, the photograph accompanying the “Welcome Home” article about Second City founder Bernie Sahlins, AB’43, showed the improv institution’s Toronto outpost. The 3,500-piece Boone Collection featured in “Investigations” was donated to the Field Museum over many years, with the last gift made by Katherine Boone, Commander Gilbert E. Boone’s widow. The collection ws exhibited twice in the early 1990s, and the Field’s Boone internships have been ongoing. And in the “Chicago Journal” report on the Human Rights Program internships, the citizens of Ghana should have been referred to by the preferred term, Ghanaians.

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: