India, once a major civilizational and economic power that suffered centuries of decline, is now newly resurgent in business, geopolitics and culture. However, a powerful counterforce within the American Academy is systematically undermining core icons and ideals of Indic Culture and thought. For instance, scholars of this counterforce have disparaged the Bhagavad Gita as “a dishonest book”; declared Ganesha’s trunk a “limp phallus”; classified Devi as the “mother with a penis” and Shiva as “a notorious womanizer” who incites violence in India; pronounced Sri Ramakrishna a pedophile who sexually molested the young Swami Vivekananda; condemned Indian mothers as being less loving of their children than white women; and interpreted the bindi as a drop of menstrual fluid and the “ha” in sacred mantras as a woman’s sound during orgasm.
Are these isolated instances of ignorance or links in an institutionalized pattern of bias driven by certain civilizational worldviews?
Are these academic pronouncements based on evidence, and how carefully is this evidence cross-examined? How do these images of India and Indians created in the American Academy influence public perceptions through the media, the education system, policymakers and popular culture?
Adopting a politically impartial stance, this book, the product of an intensive multi-year research project, uncovers the invisible networks behind this Hinduphobia, narrates the Indian Diaspora’s challenges to such scholarship, and documents how those who dared to speak up have been branded as “dangerous”. The book hopes to provoke serious debate. For example:
- how do Hinduphobic works resemble earlier American literature depicting non-whites as dangerous savages needing to be civilized by the West?
- Are India’s internal social problems going to be managed by foreign interventions in the name of human rights?
- How do power imbalances and systemic biases affect the objectivity and quality of scholarship?
- What are the rights of practitioner-experts in “talking back” to academicians?
- What is the role of India’s intellectuals, policymakers and universities in fashioning an authentic and enduring response?