Social Scientist. v 19, no. 219-20 (Aug-Sept 1991) p. 78.

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Demystifying Some Ethnographic Texts on the Himalayas

Our thesis in this note is based on the assumption that as legatees of the colonial academic tradition, Indian anthropologists (and other human and social scientists) are home-grown Orientalists as they are caught up in the tyranny of the Orientalist discourse in which they were educated. They are Orientals in that they have been 'othercd' in the discourse of the West about India; they are Orientalists in that they study and 'other' their objects of studyŚthe subordinate (in this case, Himalayan) Orientals.

This dual facet of othering as well as being othered by the tyranny of an as yet unshakeable colonial discourse that has been unquestioningly internalized, we have called Home-grown Orientalism. In this sense, the work of Indian anthropologists in particular is largely eurocentric and is open to all the charges that can be brought against ethnocentrism of the West.

The idea of home-grown/native Orientalism may at first sight appear to be a contradiction in terms; for Orientalism necessarily presupposes the existence, the opposition of two worlds, two geographical areas (or mindscapes if you like): the privileged term Occident exploring/studying/reconstructing the object of its study, i.e., the Orient. What our thesis as a corollary to Said's in Orientalism (1978) sets out to claim is the further division of the Orient (in this case, India) in which the received dominant discourse of the West is assimilated without really challenging it; and continues to carry forward its hegemony in imposing the same values and weaknesses on their objects of inquiry which are thereby rendered marginal. In this era of decolonization, our quarrel is with that grid, that matrix of western imperial culture that continues to subsume our tastes and values.

* Lecturer in English, Jhargram Raj College, Jhargram, Midnapore, West Bengal.

** Senior Lecturer, Centre for Himalayan Studies, North Bengal University, West Bengal.

Social Scientist, Vol.19, Nos. 8-9, August-September, 1991

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