Defining the Japanese Gaze on India in Postwar Fiction: Analysis of Mishima Yukio’s Hojo no Umi

Lakshmi M.V.

Jawaharlal Nehru University. Orcid: Email:

Volume IX, Number 3, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n3.15

Received July 26, 2017; Revised September 11, 2017; Accepted September 18, 2017; Published September 20,  2017.


This paper attempts to bring to light the fictional portrayal of India in a work of postwar Japanese novel-H?j? no Umi (Sea of Fertility), 1970, which paved the way for other works of contemporary Japanese fiction to follow a similar model of depiction of India, such as Fukai Kawa (Deep River) by Endo Sh?saku, 1993. The images employed by the author Mishima Yukio in the novel H?j? no Umi are instrumental in painting a picture of India in not just the eyes of readers of the novel, but also in the minds of contemporary Japanese writers. The paper illustrates the significance of the novel in providing the framework of motifs that are employed to portray India in fiction, through the many images used by the author, which influenced later fictional representations of India, as described above.

Keywords: India, Image, Literature, Mishima Yukio, postwar

Stylistic Evolution of Wooden Idols: Changing Faces of History in Bengal Art

Sanjay Sen Gupta

School of Fine Arts, Amity University Kolkata, India. Email:

 Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.37

Received April 28, 2017; Revised July 14, 2017; Accepted July 15, 2017; Published August 23, 2017.


Idols, i.e., divine images for worship, have always been an important component of Indian sculpture. Throughout the ages, these idols have simultaneously been carved in wood and stone – however the history of wood dates back much earlier than the other. But, the perishable nature of the material and the hot-and-humid climate of the subcontinent didn’t allow the wooden-specimens to survive till date. Hence the rich and varied tradition didn’t get their due importance in the prevailing texts dealing with the history of Indian art. This paper hence attempts to come up with a comprehensive account on the same in order to enable a broader perspective of Indian art and enhance the scopes of further research and discoveries. The methodology included both field-study and academic-research that resulted into a comprehensive overview of this artistic evolution – through the ages – against the panorama of Bengal art.

Keywords: Wooden idols, Bengal, India.

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The Subaltern Voice in Kylas Chunder Dutt’s A Journal of Forty-Eight Hours of the Year 1945

Paromita Sengupta

Sovarani Memorial College, Jagatballavpur, Howrah. ORCID: 0000-0002-3381-0726. Email:

 Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.23

Received April 11, 2017; Revised July 12, 2017; Accepted July 15, 2017; Published August 11, 2017.


This paper reads Kylas Chunder Dutt’s short fictional text A Journal of Forty-Eight Hours of the Year 1945 (1835) as a postcolonial voice, engaged in the act of representation, and of interrogating colonialism much before postcolonialism took formal shape as a theoretical practice. The text represents the injustice of subaltern oppression, and, what is more crucial, more vital, prophetically uses the word “subaltern” in its present post-modern signification. Dutt’s writing enclosed within it the inescapable multi-tensions of the Bengal-British cultural negotiation, of which it was the product, but it was simultaneously implicated in the process of indigenous identity formation and in the formulation of subaltern consciousness.  The text not only suggests armed conflict as a tool of opposing colonialism, it is also prophetic in its use of the concept of the subaltern as far back as 1835- about a hundred and fifty years before Subaltern Studies was formally born.

Keywords: Identity, India, Nationalism, Subaltern

The Promise and the Lie of Humanities

Mohamed Shafeeq Karinkurayil

Post Doctoral Fellow, Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities (MCPH), Manipal University, Karnataka. Orcid Id: 0000-0002-8163-0594.

Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.07b

Received May 20, 2017; Revised July 02, 2017; Accepted July 10, 2017; Published August 10, 2017.


The rising regime of technocracy has generated a slew of self-appraisal on the role of Humanities in the contemporary world, and especially in the institutional location of University. The location of the university is not placed absolutely within the premises of learning but has from the colonial times imbricated itself with the question of social and economic mobility. The university in the postcolonial India continues to be a site of allocation of resources and as such is overdetermined by questions other than the purely academic. This paper delineates the twin concerns for Humanities in India and argues for Humanities which will creatively amalgamate the two concerns that have been worrying it in India – that of the rise of technocracy, and that of a non-complementarity between learner aspirations and institutional requirements. Towards this, the paper advocates on stressing the mutuality of the experience of modernity, thus stressing simultaneity over historicity.

Keywords: humanities, technocracy, India, Sarukkai

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Social Responsiveness of Higher Education: Access, Equity and Social Justice

Solomon Arulraj David

Faculty of Education, The British University in Dubai (BUiD), Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Email:

  Volume 8, Number 4, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v8n4.20

Received August 31, 2016; Revised September 22, 2016; Accepted November 05, 2016; Published January 14, 2017


The purpose of this study is to understand and present multiple perspectives on the trends and developments on access to higher education in India. It particularly aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on access, equity and social justice as part of social justice demand for higher education. Higher education institutions in India use three approaches to admit students, namely; classical – merit/elite door, social responsive – reservation door and economic responsive – financial interest door or the combination of the three, depending on their status and background such as public, private aided, private unaided. The study consulted relevant documents and literature to understand the problem, gathered empirical data through semi-closed qualitative interviews and used critical reflection and social constructivism approach to analyse and discuss the results. The findings indicate that some of the respondents support merit/elite door, some favour reservation door, some demand fair and square reservation system, some others seem to accept financial interest door, while some others support the combination of the two or the three approaches. The findings confirmed the initial assumption of the study that privatisation of higher education and the emergence of self-financing programmes and institutions have slowed down and posed new challenges to the social justice agenda. The study argues that it is important that higher educational institutions to uphold social responsiveness by embracing equity and social justice.  Moreover, it is important to raise conscious about the social responsiveness of higher education among various stakeholders and accounting divergent perspectives contribute to engineer fair and just society.

 Keywords: Access, Equity, Social Justice, Social Responsiveness, Higher Education, India

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A Deconstructive Perspective of India in the French Gaze in Tasleema Nasreen’s Farashi Premik (The French Lover)

Baijayanti Mukhopadhyay, Banwarilal Bhalotia College, Asansol

Modhurai Gangopadhyay, Bidhan Chandra College Asansol


Our paper discusses the [mis]representation and the imaginary notions of India constructed through the European gaze in Tasleema Nasreen’s Farashi Premik or The French Lover. As the protagonist Nilanjana Mondal begins her search for love and independence far away from her home, in Paris, she feels herself continuously trapped within a prison-house of European gaze—where her motherland India is simply a barbaric land of beggars, poverty and prostitutes. It doesn’t take her long to realise that the French have a subconscious awareness that the Indian culture and civilisation is in some ways, far better and older than theirs and their gaze is an attempt to mask this schizophrenic fear behind a superiority complex. It is easy to give in to this gaze, like many of Neela’s Indian fellow diasporic Indians in Paris do, but much more difficult to deconstruct it, but that does not mean Neela would not try.

[Keywords: India, French, gaze, Neela, Benoir Dupont, European, oriental]

                                                  “They cannot represent themselves, they must be represented.”

                                                                       —Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire  

                                                                                     of Louis Bonaparte

The Europeans’ view of India, Indians and everything associated with the subcontinent can be summed up exactly in the quote above. The tendency of Europeans has always been to speak and write in stereotyped and dehumanizing ways about “The East”, in order to construct an imaginary other and India too has been no exception to this golden rule—as Edward Said’s “Orientalism” makes it clear. According to Said, the “rational west” has to be distinguished from the “irrational” oriental countries like India, simply for the purpose of the construction of an European identity that is superior to non-European cultures like India, which have always been portrayed as inferior, regressive, primitive and irrational— which is amply borne out by Kipling’s portrayal of Indian characters and his unforgettable comment loaded with colonial overtones – “… East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”. India no longer remains a geographical entity, rather it becomes an European invention— a land of “romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes …” ( Said 1). At the same time, India was seen as an oriental land of wish-fulfillment, as Jimmy Porter, the hero of Osborne’s Look Back in Anger points out in his process of “looking back” with longing and nostalgia at the days of India’s colonization:

All home-made cakes and croquet, bright ideas, bright uniforms. Always the same picture: high summer, the long days in the sun, slim volumes of verse, crisp linen, the smell of starch. What a romantic picture. Phoney too, of course. It must have rained sometimes. Still I regret it somehow, phoney or not” (I/6).

It is in the light of this ever pervading desire mixed with disgust that has always framed the European gaze and it has been further incensed by the “us-verses-them” contest that we, in this paper, would analyse the (mis)representation of India in the eyes of the French in Tasleema Nasreen’s Farashi Premik (The French Lover).

The French Lover is the tale of a woman’s search for love and independence in Paris, far away from her home. The plot centres around the protagonist Nilanjana Mondal, a young Bengali woman from Kolkata who moves to Paris after her marriage to Kishanlal, a Punjabi restaurant owner in Paris. After the breaking up of her marriage she meets Benoir Dupont, a blonde, blue-eyed handsome Frenchman, and is swept off her feet. What follows is a passionate and sexually liberating relationship with Benoir which ends with her realisation that they both love the same person—she loved Benoir, Benoir too loved himself and only himself and she was nothing but an exotic taste for him.

During her long stay in Paris, Neela is continuously confronted by the European’s [mis]conception about her motherland—they consider it to be an exotic yet uncultured civilization full of poverty, beggars, hunger and diseases. As Greenblat explains, we define our identities always in relation to what we are not—who must be demonised and objectified as “others” (Selden 164) The “unruly” and the “alien” are internalized “others” who help us consolidate our identities; their existence is allowed only as evidence of the rightness of the established order. That is exactly the reason why the Europeans have always sought to hide their fear of an alien culture behind the mask of a superiority complex. For the French, as Neela comes soon to realise, the poor India is the real India. This attitude of the French towards India surfaces when Neela watches a documentary film on India broadcast by a French channel with some of her French friends. The documentary begins with a close-up shot of an empty broken tin plate which diffuses into the picture of naked and bare-feet starved Indian children begging for alms and returning at the end of the day to a dirty unhygienic slum. It is also interesting to note that before his visit to India, Benoir had got himself vaccinated against almost all diseases known to medical science because, according to him, “We Europeans need it” (162) and in spite of the vaccinations, he says that he considers himself lucky to have come out hale and hearty from a disease-ridden country like India There is a reference to yet another documentary on India in the novel—on the life of prostitutes in India and their agitation for their rights causing Benoir to remark:“Holy Earth! There are so many prostitutes in your country, Neela!!”( 278).

Though the word “gaze” literally means an exchange of looks, in the post colonial perspective, it can be taken to mean a gaze that gives primacy to the European look. Thus, when talking about India in the European “gaze”, the word “gaze” actually is the look which denotes the dominant position of the European who controls the Orient as an object of desire and deceit. Thus India is always the object of the gaze—she can never look back, because she has no subjectivity. On the contrary, India and the Indians are expected to model themselves according to the Occidental gaze. The interesting point is that usually the Indian is co-opted into the occidental point of view.

The European gaze is a kind of whirlpool, into which many Indians, including Kishanlal, Sunil, and Choitali had already been sucked in. Comparing Paris to Kolkata, Kishanlal once says: “Do you think this is your dirty Kolkata that I have to wash my hands and feet every time I come home from outside? Ha Ha!” (30). Again, during her visit to Sunil and Choitali’s house, Neela notices that their baby daughter Tumpa does not respond at all to Bengali words. Choitali and Sunil inform her that Tumpa does not know Bengali, she has only been taught French. Since, according to her parents, two languages might confuse the child, they had stuck to French and had decided to leave out Bengali because “of what use would that language [Bengali] be of to her?”(44). Kishan’s view about the Bengali language is also no better; according to him, Neela shouldn’t be proud that she had been a Bengali major in her graduation, because “What can you do with your degree of Bengali literature? Would you be able to earn a Franc with it? You can’t.… So stop showing me your temper”(55). Actually, in spite of being Indians by birth, the European gaze towards their motherland had been thrust on them and they had begun to see India, Indian culture and Indian languages with the spectacles of disgust that the French had lent them, because, after all, it is far easier to swim with the current than against it…Access Full Text of the Article

An Early Nineteenth Century Vade Mecum for India

Sutapa Dutta, Gargi College, University of Delhi, India


A Guide-Book for an Empire is bound to be of epic dimensions, more so if it is on India. In its length and largeness, in its depth and diversity, in its grand ambition and ambivalence, such works would inevitably reflect the geographical, political and cultural drama of a country that is so varied. There can be no clear distinctions, no acute significations even, as the tragic and the comic, the grand and the common dissolve, intermingle and produce a chaotic discursive montage of what India is. One such early work which presents India through the eyes of an Englishman is the The East India Vade Mecum of Captain Thomas Williamson written in 1810. Meant as a ‘Complete Guide to Gentlemen intended for the Civil, Military, or Naval Service of the Hon. East India Company’, this colonial archive is probably the first patient and meticulous noting down of minute aspects of life and people in India. Spread over two volumes of more than thousand pages, the author’s professed aim in undertaking this stupendous labour was for ‘public utility’, ‘with the view to promote the welfare, and to facilitate the progress, of those young gentlemen, who may from time to time, be appointed to situations under [the] several Presidencies…’(Letter to the Hon. Court of Directors of the East India Company in Vade Mecum).

[Keywords: Colonial Bengal, East India Company, India, Vade Mecum.]

About Captain Thomas Williamson we come to know from what he writes about himself in this book. The author attributes his considerable insight and knowledge to his long stay of ‘twenty years’ in Bengal. He first arrived in India in 1778 and was a Captain in the Bengal army. It is apparent that the Williamson family had spent some time in Calcutta. His father, whom he mentions also lived in India and is buried in Calcutta. By the time he was writing the Vade Mecum, he had already achieved some fame with his Oriental Field Sports, or the Wild Sports of the East, published in 1809, an extraordinary book that documents vivid descriptions and picture plates of animal hunting in India, especially tigers. As a first travel guide to India intended for Europeans, Williamson’s Vade Mecum was intended to fill up the gaps in information required by the statesmen, military men, merchants, civilians and all those who proceed to this new country. Keeping this in mind Williamson adopts an ‘easy’ and ‘familiar’ style rather than a ‘didactic style’. The guide book is meant for those who would travel to India for a long stay and will need information of the place and people of this foreign country. His guide, he claims, has been written with the purpose to provide a ‘just’ conception of the ‘characters of the natives’ in India, and would remove all doubts, prejudices and national opinions, which if allowed to prevail “must occasion every object to be seen through a false medium” (I:Preface,vii).

Williamson’s assertion that his guidebook is not a false medium is apparently a rejection of such historical interpretations which are perceived very often through the narrow and distorted glasses of western preconceptions of India. From the seventeenth century onwards especially with trade links opening up, Western imagination and curiosity were fed with fantastic stories of India’s fabulous wealth and its rich markets. European relationship with India for the next 300 years remained based on vague knowledge, assumptions and misconceptions. From the latter half of the eighteenth century as the British began to consolidate their physical territories in India there began a simultaneous process of constructing a vision of the Empire. Such a vision shaped by the contemporary Enlightenment ideal in Europe, was at once based on an imaginary construct and fashioning of the ways the British conceived of India and their role as rulers. As they undertook from the 1770’s a more detailed study of India, there began an intense cataloguing and categorising of languages, races and tribes in India to secure a better understanding of the unchartered civilization they had to administer. Warren Hastings and his coterie of Oriental scholars like William Jones, Charles Wilkins and Nathaniel Halhed with their massive scholarly endeavours of translations and texts, reasoned that their effort to impart learning would be ‘useful to the state’ and would ‘lessen the weight of the chain by which the natives are held in subjection’ (Letter of Hastings to N. Smith, October 4, 1784, quoted in Kopf, p.18).Although there were obvious political and ideological differences between the Anglicist and the Orientalist point of view, yet both their perceptions were essentially those of the outsider. Charles Grant considered “the people of Hindostan, a race of men lamentably degenerate and base” (Grant: 71) and proposed in his Observations that “The communication of our light and knowledge to them, would prove the best remedy for their disorders” (Grant: 148-9).

Such viewpoints and scholarly enterprises reflected usually two extremes; on the one hand, there was an exuberant display of wonder and curiosity in those who saw India as a land of exotic differences. To comprehend such a mystifying entity, there was the obsessive desire to find parallels and common origins of languages, race, literature, etc. The attempt was to divest India of its strangeness and to fit it into a familiar framework that would be more comprehensible for the Western onlooker. The other extreme was to conceive India as a threat – as a land of dirt, disease and death – an exotic but a dangerous place. Throughout the eighteenth century as the British tried to contend with territorial supremacy, first in Bengal and later in the rest of the country, such contradictory tensions of differences and similarities continued to bother them. The sense of doubt, anxiety and uneasiness existed side by side as they tried to ‘master’ the land, the languages and the laws. Captain Williamson’s Vade Mecum shows this inevitable contrast between a seductive desirous India and a land which is at the same time threatening and fearsome. His insistence that the young English recruits ought to ‘know’ this land reflects to a large extent Wellesley’s ambition in setting up the Fort William College in Calcutta in 1800. Wellesley’s anxiety “for the better instruction of junior Civil Servants of the Company” as they were “totally incompetent and ignorant of the languages, laws and usages and customs of India”, was with a view to “the stability of our own interest, as to the happiness and welfare of our native subjects” (Wellesley’s Minute in Council, dated 18th August, 1800 in Roebuck: xx)…Access Full Text of the Article

Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Imagined’ Indianness: Homogenized Othering as a Mimetic Response in Jane Eyre

Debarati Goswami, Independent Researcher, Virginia, USA


This paper problematises Charlotte Bronte’s historically specific, religiously biased and homogenized underrepresentation of Indianness, considering Hinduism as an exchangeable term for Indianness, in Jane Eyre and claims this homogenized Othering to be a mimetic response. It concentrates on the Self/ Other dichotomy constructed through the characters of Jane Eyre and St John, both representing the British and Christian Self, and their individual approaches of Othering Indianness which resulted in a Self/Other polarisation in the Christian Self itself. Considering Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, the objective of the paper is to study Bronte’s twofold way of homogenously Othering Indianness through Jane and St John, with an implication of doubly Othering the non-Hindu and non-Hindustani speaking Indians. It attempts to legitimize the novel as a quintessential discourse of British Selfhood besides being a mimetic response to the British social institutions which ‘constructed’ Jane as the marginalized “Other” in this autobiographical fiction.

[Keywords: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre, homogenized Othering, René Girard, Theory of mimetic desire]

At a conference titled “Europe and its Others” at Essex, while articulating the European strategy of representing itself as the sovereign Self and its colonies as Others or “programmed near-images of that very sovereign Self” (Spivak b. 247) , in her essay “The Rani of Sirmur: An Essay in Reading the Archives”, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak proposed:

On a somewhat precious register of literary theory it is possible to say that this was the construction of a fiction whose task was to produce a whole collection of “effects of the real,” and that the “misreading” of this “fiction” produced the proper name “India” (para. 6).

By grounding its research on the mimetic aspect of the homogenised Othering of Indianness in Jane Eyre, this paper engages itself in problematicing Charlotte Bronte’s ‘constructed’ representation of Indianness in the novel. It prefers the use of the word ‘Indianness’ to ‘India’ as Bronte’s contemptuous Othering in the novel was meant for anything representing or containing the essence of the abstract notion of the colonized, ‘coloured’ object ‘India’ rather than for the landmass with well defined geographical referents called ‘India’.

Entitled Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, during its first publication, the novel narrates the journey of an impoverished and orphan eponymous protagonist towards the attainment of her Feminine Selfhood, battling against the conventional patriarchal institutions of family, educational institution, class hierarchy, marriage and even religion. According to Margaret Howard Blom, the novel “(T)races an individual’s desperate struggle against insuperable odds to establish and maintain a sense of her own identity and to satisfy the deepest needs of her nature” (Blom 87). The reception of the novel with wide global acclamation and the erudite interpretations of its various universally appealing themes consolidated its acceptance as a canonical text. However, Bronte’s constructed narrativization of a historically specific socio-historical scenario of India through a religiously biased and homogenized Othering of Indianness, with a specific underrepresentation of Hinduism, proves to be a problematic. An attempt to discover India or Indianness through its representation in Jane Eyre is bound to lead a reader, alien to Indian history, to a factitious understanding of the nation and its socio-historical past from the viewpoint of the “master narrative that could be called ‘the history of Europe’” (Chakrabarty 1). This paper, thus, accentuates on the homogenous Othering of the mainstream Hindu population of India and doubly Othering the marginalised Indians primarily by homogenizing its religious plurality, multiculturalism and multilingualism which together constitute Indianness. The itinerary of this research sequentially includes a textual analysis of the underrepresentation of Indianness through the characters of Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane and St John, Jane’s Othering of Indianness as a response to the British patriarchal institutions which ‘constructed’ her as the marginalized “Other” in the novel and a psychoanalytic interpretation of her homogenous Othering of the Indianness as a mimetic act on the basis of René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire.

As a quintessential discourse of Imperial subject construction, this novel has genuinely represented the British and Christian spirit and the sovereign Self through a meticulous Othering of Indianness, the paradigm of which was profoundly religious, besides being racial. As a testament to establish corroboration of this proposition one must critically focus on the denigrating words of Mr. Brocklehurst, “the black marble clergyman” (81), self-righteous and fastidious proprietor of Jane’s Lowood institution. In a Biblical reference, in her Preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre, Bronte wrote, “Ahab did not like Micaiah, because he never prophesied good concerning him, but evil…” (xxxvii). This allusion justifies Jane’s contempt for Mr. Brocklehurst whose prime concern was to uphold the doctrines advocated by the Evangelical Anglicans in general and by the Methodists in particular (DeVere web) and who was entrusted with the responsibility of guiding Jane on a virtuous path by her aunt Mrs Reed. Like Micaiah, prophesying evil concerning Ahab, Mr. Brocklehurst despised Jane and once decried her for her lack of essential Christian virtues, in the following words:

(A) little castaway: not a member of the true flock, but evidently an interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her; you must shun her example; if necessary, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to save her soul: if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut — this girl is — a liar! (81).

From the perspective of this study, the above speech leads to at least two problems and one hypothesis. First, Bronte’s intention behind making Mr. Brocklehurst insolently refer to the shibboleths of Hinduism was a dissimulation, as Jane was not the signified but a signifier representing the polytheistic population whom the British needed to ‘watch’, ‘scrutinise’ and ‘punish’ for their heathen ways and guide them to ‘salvation’. Second, the insinuation drawn from the possessive determiner ‘its’ again highlights Bronte’s racial abandonment of the belittled population by reducing their identity to a homogenous, singular inanimate object. As the religious or communal group alluded to in the speech remains unspecified, the paper assumes that those polytheistic heathens stand the possibility of belonging either to the mainstream colonized elites group or marginalised communities or even to the ethnic groups of the British colonies. The rationale behind this assumption is that Bronte refers to some of the non-white or rather non- British races in the novel, the African slaves, Persians, Turks and Native Americans, besides Indians, and so it is difficult to specify the exact community she refers to in the speech. Susan Meyer calls this European notion of colonial culture and their tendency of alienating themselves from the colonized natives as “Eurocentric idea of colonized savages” (Meyer 45). Since Mr. Brocklehurst makes an allusion to the Hindu deities, from the standpoint of this research, the paper hypothetically claims that this speech has a disparaging allusion to the “colonized savages” and marginalised citizenry of the undivided nineteenth century India who definitely contributed to the omnium gatherum of Indian culture or Indianness although they were not considered as a part of the majoritarian population…Access Full Text of the Article

Indian Religions in the Roman Catholics’ Gaze: 1920-1965

Enrico Beltramini, Notre Dame de Namur University in California, USA


How contemporary European Roman Catholicism elaborated a representation of Indian religions as spiritual and mystical, or pre-modern, is the theme of this article. After a brief summary of the Catholic Church’s recognition of the Indian religious Other in the context of the Second Vatican Council, and in particular the Church’s watershed document Nostra Aetate, this article addresses the preparatory work of French Catholic theologians and missionaries in the decades before the council, particularly in relation to theological approaches to Indian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

[Key Words: Roman Catholicism, India, Vatican II, Nostra Aetate]

  1. Introduction

In a personal recollection of his participation in a session of the Second Vatican Council (also “Vatican II”), arguably the most significant event in the modern era of the Catholic Church, Francis Cardinal Arinze argued that “Thanks to Vatican II, the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to meeting other believers” (Madges and Daley 2012, 207). He did not elaborate further about the identity of those categorized as “other believers.” In this article, the notion of “other believers” is understood as a Catholic representation according to Vatican II. The Catholic construction of the religious Other, including the Indian religious Other, at the Vatican II was significant for Catholicism’s self-definition, at a time when the Church struggled to articulate a post-colonial missionary discourse and enter into dialogue with the modern world (Nostra Aetate, Part One and Five)

  1. Nostra Aetate

The “Declaration on the Relation of the Roman Catholic Church to Non-Christian Religions” Nostra Aetate (Latin: In our Time) was a major contribution of the Second Vatican Council. The original draft document was titled “Decree on the Jews.” The decree was devoted to conveying details about the bond between Christians and Jews, while decrying all displays and acts of anti-Semitism—this only twenty years after the horrors of the Shoah. During preparation, the scope of the document was broadened to address the Catholic Church’s relationships with the world’s different faiths. Nostra Aetate mentions only four world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, arranged in an order indicating increasing closeness to Christianity. On Hinduism and Buddhism, the declaration states that:

In Hinduism people explore the divine mystery and express it both in the limitless riches of myth and the accurately defined insights of philosophy. They seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love. Buddhism in its various forms testifies to the essential inadequacy of this changing world. It proposes a way of life by which people can, with confidence and trust, attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or with divine help (Nostra Aetate, Part Two).

Nostra Aetate is not apologetic about the truth of the Christian faith. While the declaration does not display a sense of superiority or emphasize the limitations of other religious traditions, going so far as to state that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions,” it also does not indicate that non-Christian religions might be considered as ways of salvation per se.

 While inclusive of only a limited number of statements on Indian religions, Nostra Aetate stands as a document of momentous historical significance: it is the first official recognition in the history of the Catholic Church of the existence and relevance of non-Christian religions as living traditions, on which the declaration shows a convinced option for a paradigm of inclusion. In 1965, when Nostra Aetate was solemnly announced, the Church was probably ready for a substantial, official rethinking of its attitudes about other believers, thanks to the preparatory work of the previous decades in the different fields of historical theology, theology of religions and missiology, including a fundamental encyclical of pope Pius XI in terms of development of autonomous local churches. A deeper look at Nostra Aetate may help identify the issues that the declaration maintains with regard to Indian religions…Access Full Text of the Article

Eliade in the Looking Glass

Monica Spiridon, University of Bucharest, Romania


Our paper focuses on the intertwining of modern travel writing with a series of major questions pointing to Western culture. In the realor imaginary texts of Mircea Eliade, Thomas Mann and   J.-M.G. Le Clézio,European identity is at stake. Regardless of their different starting points, the authors end up questioning the status of the equation civilized versus wild, as a basic principle of Western culture. A special emphasis   is placed by the three writers on the stereotypes of the encounter Self / Other, fostered by modern European culture mainly through mythical patterns.

[Key words: travel writing; European identity; marginal; exotic]

  1. Myths of European Identity

It is common knowledge that standard European identity has always been flaked by the image of the other, both as a barbaric figure opposed to the Western man and as an obstacle to a free cross-cultural communication. One of the basic principles of Western culture and a major landmark of European identity has been the equation civilized versus wild. In the process by which Western identity was constituted, the opposition civilized versus barbarian as well as the Figure of the Barbarian played an important part. The myth of the barbarian is tightly bound up with the main mythical components of Western identity (Bartra, 1994:146).

Traveling creates images of the other, analyzes otherness, and makes it easier to accept and to cope with (Moura, 1998). In the real and imaginary travelelogues of Mircea Eliade, Thomas Mann and J.M.G. Le Clézio that I am pointing to in the following pages, one can see the intertwining of modern travel writings with major questions concerning Western culture.

Turning the tables on those who suggest that the primitive peoples, discovered and colonized by European explorers, gave birth to the myth, we have to accept that, in fact, the already existing myth of the wild man shaped the reactions of the Europeans to real people. In this way, the wild man underpins the notion of civilization on which much of Western identity has been based (Bartra 147-48).

The very idea of a contrast between a wild natural state and a civilized cultural configuration is part of an ensemble of myths sustaining the identity of the civilized West and emphasizing the otherness, the difference. Yet, one needs to merely cast an eye on the myth of the wild man to realize that we are dealing with an imaginary form existing only on a mythological level (Duer 1986).

In his book, India, the Library ofthe Maharajah,Mircea Eliade usually sets the epithet “barbarian” between inverted commas when he is referring to India or to Indians. It is his way of showing that he is using it as a quotation from the standard European discourse. (The discourse of the white man who brought “civilization” to India). By using it, the author of the journal is challenging the idea, turning its meaning upside down: “In double ventilated train cars, Americans are praising the blessings and the reforms of continental civilization in a barbarian country” (Eliade a. 54). And further on: “Benares is stretching in all its weary barbarian beauty” (Eliade a. 64).

At a certain point the author maintains that “barbarian is rather the outlook of modern Europeans on the botanical garden: a concept that can only have its roots in a stupid epoch like the nineteenthcentury” (Eliade a. 104).

The current equation is reversed. The barbarian is the civilization-bringing Englishman who seeks to build up a monotonous town like Darjeeling, in order to feel at home: “Englishmen who are forced to spend a longer time in wilderness would make any effort to change their habitat into a small corner of England. It is they who refer to local people as poor savages “ (Eliade a. 106).

Civilization, its motives, and its models unify but also flatten differences and nuances. “It is not Europe – splendid and immortal reality – that I dislike, he concludes. It is the stupid tendency of the European of molding all the rest of the world after himself” (Eliade a. 84).

In Thomas Mann’s travel journal Travelling with Quixote journal the relationship between civilized and barbarian is explicitly phrased and emphatically reiterated. The epithet “civilized” is frequently used. Mann is, for instance, talking about “being disgusted of the mechanism of civilization” deeply hidden within his own personality. He also expresses his desire to give up civilization for primitivism, and uncertainty, for the irrational and for adventure:

“Does this pleasure betray my own disgust with the mechanism of civilization, a desire to abandon it, to deny it, to reject it, as being destructive for my soul and for my life, a desire to search for a new life style, closer to the primitive and to improvisation? Is there in me a voice that is crying for the irrational, for this cult of danger, of risks and of abuses, this cult against which I have been guarded by my critical rational consciousness, a cult which I have fought against – out of my sympathy for the European, for rationality and for order, or maybe because of an in-built need for balance – as if I didn’t’ t have in myself enough to battle against?”(Mann 293).

The escape of the self-exiled writer from Europe provides an opportunity to take a stimulating distance and to review a highly debatable equation. Civilization and the barbaric – generally speaking – are for Mann the torn halves of a cultural hybrid. The German writer is able to discover a barbarian side of modern European culture – the barbarity of Nazism, for instance, as well as Nietzsche’ s criticism of canonical European values.

Nietzsche himself – who is seen by Mann in close connection with the idea of the barbarian side of European identity – includes in his Birth of Tragedy, a dialogue about the recipe of happiness between the Fridjean king Midas and the barbarian Silenus. Although Silenus himself is meant to be the very embodiment of the non-European, he can also be seen as a symbol of the hidden, repressed dimension of Europeanism…Access Full Text of the Article