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What Does it Mean to be an Indian?

S.N. Balagangadhara, Sarika Rao

Why ask this question today? After all, a lot is written about India, her culture, her past, her society, the psychology and sociology of individuals and groups. Why is that not enough? It is because what we have learnt so far is either false or fragmentary. If Indian culture is not a slightly inferior, slightly idiosyncratic variant of Western culture, as the received view has it for a very long time, what else is it? Research into culture and cultural differences gives novel and surprising answers. Written for an intelligent but lay public, this book shares the results of 40 years of scientific investigations in the research programme Comparative Science of Cultures. It transcends the political distinction between ‘the right’ and ‘the left’ by looking deeper into ideas on human beings, society, culture, experience, the past, impact of colonialism etc. Today, the question ‘What does it mean to be ‘Indian’?’ is both important and difficult to answer. Is there something ‘Indian’ about this culture that goes beyond the differences between Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or Jains? What does it überhaupt mean to belong to Indian culture?

Prof. Dr. S.N. Balagangadhara has formulated ‘decolonizing social sciences’ as an intellectual and cognitive project spanning multiple generations. Resulting from the understanding that the currently dominant theories are expressions of one specific culture’s experience of the world, the research programme Comparative Science of Cultures extends across different social scientific domains. He has authored many articles and books: “The Heathen in His Blindness…”: Asia, the West and the Dynamic of Religion (Brill, 1994; Manohar, 2005); Reconceptualizing India Studies (Oxford University Press, 2012); Do All Roads Lead to Jerusalem? (Manohar, 2014); Cultures Differ Differently (Routledge, 2022).

Sarika Rao is a graduate student and research assistant at the Department of Comparative Science of Cultures, Ghent University, Belgium. Her research focusses on the secularization of religion.