Putu the Cat

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

On Bullshit

Go read.

Ramu G versus everyone else

Ramachandra Guha is in a particularly angry mood. First, he was irritated at JNU students and JNU professors for the hypocrisy of their politics. Recounting his experience at arguably India's premier post graduate institution he says:

"I then asked who the previous speaker was. They named a Marxist economist. And what did she speak on, I enquired. On how multinational outfits such as this one should not be allowed to contaminate the purity of the JNU campus.

I reeled back in shock. The surprise was occasioned in part by the triviality of the topic chosen by my predecessor. I was speaking on “The Contribution of the Congress Party to the Nurturing and Degrading of India’s Democracy”, and I had thought that those who had come before me had spoken on similarly grave — not to say boring — subjects. But the surprise was also caused by the topic being so much at odds with the speaker’s own biography. “Why does your professor oppose this Nescafé outlet?” I asked. “Because she feels we should encourage indigenous initiatives,” they answered. “Do you know where her own doctoral degree is from?” I asked. They didn’t know, so I supplied the answer — the University of Cambridge. “When you next meet your professor,” I said sarcastically, “ask her one question on my behalf — when she travels by plane to international meetings, does she carry a south Indian filter and Coorg coffee powder with her, or does she quietly drink the beverage offered her on the flight?”"

The JNU lot were quick to respond on their blog no less- " It is very clear from his article that his knowledge about the campaign is based solely on some conversation he had with his “wholly non-political” friends. Well, it is a shame that someone like Mr. Guha who claims to be a ‘historian’ depends solely on a conversation to write his thesis, especially in a public newspaper, thus misinforming the larger public. When an ‘academic’ like him writes for a public, it is not enough that he knows how to write good English but he also needs to convey reliable information. May be he should come back to the University and once again get familiar with his ‘academic’ skills.

And now Ramu G has hit out at the Great Man himself- Edward Said. In a recent editorial for the Calcutta Telegraph he writes that Said was a good scholar, not a great one. "It is always hard to anticipate the verdict of posterity. Still, it seems clear that Edward Said was fortunate in working where and when he did, in being a powerful professor in the American academy when that academy was becoming more multicultural and multinational than ever before. I think that time will show that his reputation at its peak was probably undeserved. Said was a very fine scholar, but not a great one. Orientalism was a useful polemic, not an enduring work of scholarship. And postcolonial theory is an intellectual dead-end. "

As evidence he suggests that Said's work in Orientalism could lead to a form of Occidentalism, a critique that he says is 'little-known'- rather surprising, given that this is the chief critique of his work. He also then argues that Said's work has been open to misinterpretation by those who followed him, and that he was lucky to have been part of academia. How either detracts from Said's work, or his main thesis, or in fact his excellent analyses of the Middle East, Guha does not elaborate.

Last time it was Willy D, then it was the JNU jholawallahs...but this time Ramu G may have bitten off just a bit more than he can chew.