The following petition has been recently posted on the Indology mailing list:
A number of Sanskrit scholars plan to present the following letter to the International Association of Sanskrit Studies. We think it’s important that everyone in the field of Sanskrit studies who is concerned about its future should have the opportunity to read it and add his or her voice. If you would like to add your name, send a message to email@example.com (not to me, please). After a week or two, the list will be finalized and presented to the IASS.
To the International Association of Sanskrit Studies:
The extremely well-organized World Sanskrit Conference that recently took place at the University of British Columbia has given scholars of Sanskrit all over the world an opportunity to reflect on the state of our field—an opportunity that was, unfortunately, missed after the controversial events of the preceding World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok. According to its Statute, the purpose of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies (IASS) is to “to promote, diversify, intensify and coordinate Sanskrit Studies in all the countries of the world; to maintain contacts with the organising committee of the International Congresses of Asian and North African Studies; to organise international conferences of Sanskrit studies; to promote scholarly publication of Sanskrit-based studies; to establish and foster relations with national associations of Sanskrit studies.”
We, the undersigned, believe that the IASS could do much more to “promote, diversify, intensify and coordinate Sanskrit Studies in all the countries of the world.” Taking this mission statement seriously would involve expanding the range of activities of the IASS. More importantly, it would require the IASS to strenuously avoid any actions or remarks, on the part of its members and leadership, which can do serious harm to the goal of fostering Sanskrit Studies globally, and to distance itself, as a professional organization, from such actions or remarks as already have been made. The Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, a former institutional member of the IASS, has withdrawn its membership on precisely these grounds (see ZDMG 168.1 , p. 253), and it is possible that other individual and institutional members will follow suit unless the IASS develops appropriate responses to the challenges currently facing its future.
Specifically, we would like to see the IASS do the following:
Make all offices of the Board subject to regular election. Currently the offices of General Secretary, Treasurer, and President are not subject to a regular election. It is crucial that the members of the association are able to elect the leadership of the association on a regular basis. Call an election of the Board before the end of 2018. The members of the IASS must have the opportunity to decide who will represent them as office holders, and above all, as President of the Association. Make it absolutely clear that the IASS is a scholarly organization, and that membership in the organization, and participation in the World Sanskrit Conference, requires a scholarly engagement with Sanskrit. Sever any ties, official or unofficial, between the IASS and any national governments. Create connections between Sanskrit studies and other disciplines. The study of Sanskrit has always had the potential for close connections to the disciplines of history, philosophy, linguistics, philology, sociology, anthropology, literary studies, religious studies, gender studies, and many more. The IASS should forge connections between its members and the professional organizations that represent those disciplines. Form committees devoted to professional issues, publication, research, diversity, and programming, which will produce reports on a regular basis. Originate guidelines for the conduct of future WSC meetings and other IASS-sponsored activities that emphasise professionalism, neutrality, and independence. It may be the case that these changes cannot be implemented without rewriting the Statute of the IASS. In that case, we request that the IASS will involve a diverse selection of scholars, drawn from outside the current Board and Consultative Committee, to assist in making the required changes, and that this process be as transparent as possible. We also sincerely request the IASS Board to respond to these suggestions in a timely manner and apprise the undersigned scholars what steps it will take and when. We consider these issues to be of utmost importance. We are concerned that if the IASS does not take appropriate steps as a matter of urgency, even more scholars will abandon the Association and its conferences, to the detriment of international Sanskrit studies.
Signed [in alphabetical order],
Martha Ann Selby
Could we have some context for this? I piece together that there were “controversial events” at the preceding World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok, which included “actions or remarks, on the part of its members and leadership, which can do serious harm to the goal of fostering Sanskrit Studies globally,” and which seem to have something to do with organizational ties to national governments. I got more from a Google search but it would be nice to hear more from people who were actually there.
Dear Amod, I hope that others will also chime in, but just to start: The keynote address of the WSC in Bangkok was delivered by Rajiv Malhotra, who delivered his talk about insiders and outsiders and about how India risks to end up being like a goat eaten and digested by a tiger (the West) whenever Indian materials are approached by outsiders. You can listen to the talk here:
Thanks for this, Elisa and Andrew – somehow I missed Elisa’s earlier reply. That Malhotra (a rich non-scholar who once called me a “sepoy in training”) delivered the keynote is a sufficient answer to my question. It sadly sends a clear message that this conference is not to be taken seriously by scholars.
I see your point, Amod. But the WSC is also the only world-wide conference dedicated to Sanskrit studies and it has a prestigious past. Hence, I can understand why some scholars want to try hard before abandoning it.
There was also an incident in which Kaushal Panwar, a female dalit Sanskritist, was treated with derision during and after her talk at the WSC conference in Vancouver: https://www.firstpost.com/living/world-sanskrit-conference-shows-that-sanskritic-scholarship-in-india-remains-afraid-of-gender-and-caste-4895051.html
The complete list of signatories to the letter to the IASS is here: http://list.indology.info/pipermail/indology_list.indology.info/2018-October/143311.html
very useful post.
Pariharam to overcome problems in Chennai