U.S. Hinduism Studies: A Question of Shoddy Scholarship
Criticism of crude academic writing on Hinduism is coming from the community because it is not present in the academy.
BY: Sankrant Sanu
In arecent column
, prominent religion professor Martin E. Marty says that scholars of Moses or Jesus haven't had to "duck eggs or death threats" lately and asks why Hindu groups are attacking U.S. professors of Hinduism. This unfortunately shows that people in the academy are still talking past those in the Hindu community rather than attempting to have a conversation.
Many Hindus have expressed concern about the quality and nature of Hinduism scholarship emanating from the U.S. academy. What kind of work has drawn criticism from the Hindu community? Here are just a few examples:
"Kali's Child" has become a standard reference on Ramakrishna in the U.S. academia; the works of Courtright, Kripal and Doniger are similarly served up as mainstream interpretations of the Hindu tradition, finding their way into museum exhibits and primary references for encyclopedias.
Many learned people in the Hindu community, most of them non-academicians, have take a critical look at the work of these scholars. Rajiv Malhotra's RISA Lila I: Wendy's Child Syndrome examines the work and assertions of Doniger, Courtright, Kripal and Sarah Caldwell. When the Cigar Becomes A Phallus by Vishal Agarwal And Kalavai Venkat is a detailed examination of Paul Courtright's book on Ganesha. And my article Are Hinduism Studies Prejudiced? compares Microsoft Encarta's article on Hinduism, written by Doniger, with articles about other major world religions. The list goes on.