September 17, 2011

Five stages of appropriation of Indic traditions: Rajiv Malhotra

by AH Venkatesh

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Rajiv Malhotra has termed it as the U-Turn Theory. According to this theory[16]: "Appropriation occurs in the following five stages:

1. Student/Disciple: In the first stage, the Westerner is loyal to the Indic traditions, and writes with the deepest respect. Many such scholars have genuinely tried and aspired to give up their Western identities and adopt Hinduism/Buddhism very sincerely. In many instances, India has helped the person to "find" himself/herself. A large number of scholars remain in this stage for life, while others move on to subsequent stages, not necessarily in the exact sequence below.

2. Neutral/New Age/Perennial Repackaging: In this stage, Indic traditions are repackaged as "original" discoveries by the scholar, or relocated by interpolating within obscure Greek, Christian or other "Western" texts, or assumed to be generic thoughts found in all cultures. In many instances, this is the scholar's personal brand management to expand the market for the books, tapes and seminars, by distancing oneself from the negative brands of the "caste, cows and curry" traditions.

3. Hero's return to his/her original tradition: Once the ego takes over and the scholar's native identity reasserts itself, he/she returns to the Eurocentric tradition, typically Judaism or Christianity, with bounties of knowledge to enrich it. Alternatively,the scholar repackages the material in secular vernacular, such as"Western psychology" or "phenomenology" or a "scientific" framework.Now the sales mushroom, as the Western audiences congratulate themselves for their culture's sophistication. In some cases, this happens to Indians also who reject their Indian identity after gaining enough mileage out of Indic sources.

4. Denigrating the source: In this stage, into which only some scholars proceed intentionally, they denigrate the source Indic traditions. It furthers their claims of "originality" and absolves them from links to denigrated traditions. In some instance, stages 3 and 4 are in reverse sequence.[17]

5. Mobilizing the sepoys and becharis: This is the phenomenon whereby Indians become proxies for Western sponsors. Bechari is typically an Indian woman who perpetuates the idea that the Indian traditions are oppressive of women and only the Western feminism areliberating, so as to get some kind of recognition or gain in the West.
These gains could be in the form of jobs, recognition as a scholar, invitation to conferences etc. The perpetuation of 'becharihood' ofIndian women is used as a justification for 'white woman's burden'.The sepoys also push the Eurocentric agenda and fight against thenatives, just like British hirelings did in 1857. They are the resultof the Lord McCauley's agenda of "producing Indians with Western waysof thinking." Often they claim to be championing the subaltern causes, using this stage to gain recognition in the West. Becharis and sepoystend to prove native cultures as the social criminal. This legitimizesthe subversion of native culture in the name of human rights and hence becomes the civilizing mission for Western powers.

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