?TAKING the late eighteenth century as a very roughly defined starting-point Orientalism can be discussed and analysed as a corporate institution for dealing with the Orient ? dealing with it by making statements about it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a western style for dominating, restructuring and having authority over the Orient.?
?Edward; Orientalism; P. 3
A debate on the kind of education we as a nation deserve has long engaged our attention seeking to undo the wrongs that were imposed on us mainly as a colonised society.
The issue of education dominated the concerns of the nationalist leaders right from the onset of the national movement. In fact the concerns about the content, system and direction of education constituted one of the core ideological issues. Indigenous system of imparting education was sought to be replaced by a system enunciated by Macaulay seeking to colonise Indian minds. The end of colonial rule did not end the system but it was further supplemented by Marxism and a kind of secularist discourse, which was located in the framework of Orientalism. A demarcation of academic vs. un-academic discourse was constructed; ?non-modern? was un-academic and ?modern? was academic thereby initiating a process of rejection of the knowledge systems which were pre-colonial hence ?pre-modern?.
It has been argued that the Macaulay'sframework of education was designed to colonise the minds of the conquered societies so as to prolong the western academic dominance in the country. It is not to say that India is alone in having had experienced such process of academic domination under which it continues to remain subordinated, but it may be emphasised that other societies in the world colonised by the European powers share such predicament. It may be noted that even after these colonies were liberated, the domination of the west in the academia continues and therefore western intellectual-academic dispensation enjoys a kind of power which gives it an exalted position to select/reject/legitimise/ sanctify any knowledge system and discourses.
Intellectual movements in the west culminated in the dawn of the modern age passing through the historical phases of enlightenment and renaissance. The post-enlightenment era saw the colonisation of the world outside Europe wherein the zeal to ?civilise? and ?modernise? the world led the colonisers to wrought immense destructions in the colonised societies.
In many of the colonies, the language of the colonisers became the language of the elite circle that carved a domain for those having access to that language and helping them to monopolise the power structure of the state and the society. A large number of erstwhile colonies have continued to treat the language of the colonising countries as official, thereby allowing the western knowledge system to exercise its sway over the academic discourse. Such system of domination is further facilitated by publications, seminars, researches, etc of various hues. The university system created in colonial times along with Study Chairs/Departments is sought to be sustained by appointments and their connectedness to the global academic network. We are also witnessing a large number of Research Institutes that have sprung up as appendages to such academic structure built up over a long period of time especially in the colonies and sustained by imparting it a global power structure.
Similarly in India, a situation prevails wherein the debate regarding Indo-centric education system and western-colonial system is yet to be settled. Marxism, by its virtue of being rooted in western environment, continues to play second fiddle to the Macaulayian academia. It refuses to recognise Indian knowledge system as legitimate and attempts to dub it obscurantist and obsolete. Like the colonial masters, the Marxists too are very much interested in controlling the intelligentsia by monopolising the space within academia. The communist leadership in India tried to build its hegemonic presence in academia right from its very inception using every occasion that they found in course of extending support to various coalition governments in the country.
The debate that we witness today on the textbooks has its origin in the struggle between those who want to rescue the country from Macaulay-Marxist academic nexus and those who want to perpetuate it. There have been sincere academic initiatives to weaken the hold of this nexus in the academia, which has led to the erosion in its legitimacy but still a lot of ground has to be covered.
Its monopolising tendencies have been so often challenged and certain individual initiatives have exposed its soft underbelly. But as long as the erstwhile colonies show reluctance in approaching it through sincere initiatives of institution building its monopolising tendencies would keep reinforcing it and the goal of a free academia would remain elusive.
(The author is Research Scholar in JNU.)