The West and the Rest: Interrogating Power Hierarchies in Knowledge Production

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of E​PW.

 

On 28 January 2010, University of Delhi’s Department of Sociology (DOS) inaugurated a European Studies Centre, “despite opposition from the department's own faculty and various students' groups.” In 2011, Claude Alvares added to the opposition, arguing that the DOS, “like every other university department elsewhere on the planet,” has drawn from European scholars since its inauguration. In his article, he calls for a reinvigoration of non-Western forms of knowledge production.

K Ramakrishna Rao agrees with Alvares, adding that seminars and conferences on Indian psychology, including those at University of Delhi, have received “an overwhelming response.” George Thomas responds to and concurs with Alvares as well, adding that his arguments apply not just to the social sciences but also to the physical and biological sciences.

Anirudh Deshpande responds to Alvares, saying that while he is in agreement with the general critique of Eurocentrism, he finds some of Alvares’s contentions problematic, importantly his assumption of the indigenous as “the binary and almost revolutionary opposite of the Eurocentric.” George Varghese K replies to Alvares, writing that despite agreeing with aspects of the latter’s argument, he felt there were several contradictions and oversights in the article. For example, Varghese believes that Alvares has “consciously bypassed” important debates on whether there is a contradiction free non-Western system of knowledge.

Alvares responds to all four authors, writing that he would have preferred it if Deshpande and Varghese had offered suggestions on how to get out of the trappings of Eurocentrism.

 

A few other works that are broadly related to this discussion:

  1. How Egalitarian Are the Social Sciences in India? Gopal Guru, 2002  
  2. Teaching Social Theory as Alternative Discourse, Syed Farid Alatas, 2011
  3. Is Indian Sociology Dominated by the Upper Castes? EPW Engage 2019
  4. Sociological Studies in India, M N Srinivas, 1966

 

Ed: To contribute to a more comprehensive discussion map, please share links to other relevant articles in the comments section or write to us at edit@epw.in with the subject line—"Eurocentrism and Academia"

Curated by Abhishek Shah [abhishekshah@epw.in]

 

Image courtesy: Modified. Canva [Multi-use Licence]; Wikimedia Commons/National Portrait Gallery [Public domain]

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