Author: Meera Nanda
Publisher: Permanent Black
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8178240904
This book argues that the secularization of cultural commonsense is the best answer to Hindu nationalist bigotry in contemporary India. It demonstrates how, under a Hindu nationalist regime, the country took a turn towards reactionary forms of modernism, acquiring cutting-edge technologies-including nuclear weapons-while reviving superstition in the guise of Vedic Sciences. Aggressive modernization in the technological sphere accompanied an assault on modernity in the cultural sphere.
Prophets Facing Backward examines the intellectual sources of this reactionary modernism. It shows a convergence between Vedic Sciences. Hindu modernity and postmodernist/postcolonial critiques of science by left-inclined intellectuals and new social movements. Postmodernist despair over enlightenment legacies, this book argues, has served as a bridge to reactionary modernism. The ideology of Hindutva on the Right is scrutinized alongside social movements on the left, the later including alternative science, people’s science, and ecofeminist/post-development movements. Nanda contends that by eroding all distinctions between modern science and other ways of knowing, the postmodernist left has unwittingly aided the growth of reactionary modernism.
She asks fundamental questions that tend to be brushed aside: are local knowledges good for marginalized groups? Are there trans-cultural criteria to evaluate the truth-content of local knowledges against modern science? Is modern science a source of Eurocentrism or does it have unfulfilled potential for challenging the political appropriation of traditional Hinduism? Even as she refutes postmodernist critics, Nanda turns to the modernist neo-Buddhist writings of B R Ambedkar to locate some of the cultural resources for her critique.
This is first-rate, It says important things in a clear and compelling way, and it is quite unique in the way it combines valuable criticism of postmodern science with a close study of how these ideas influence actual political developments in a developing country. Meera Nanda possesses a rare combination of abilities. She is a very sharp philosopher of science and also knowledgable about the history of rationality and modernity in the Indian political debate, and thus about the recent influence of postmodernism on that debate.
-Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago
In this courageous and important book, Meera Nanda shows in dispiriting detail how postmodernist-oriented intellectuals have unwittingly helped pave the way for the rise to power of right-wing Hindu nationalists. A must read for anyone who still doubts that abstract philosophical debates can have real-world consequences.
-Alan, Sokal, Professor of Physics, New York University
Prophets Facing backward: Betrayal of the Clerks
PART I: HINDU NATIONALISM AND VEDIC SCIENCE
Dharma and The Bomb: Reactionary Modernism in India
Vedic Science, Part One: Legitimation of the Hindu Nationalist worldview
Vedic Science, part Two: Philosophical Justification of Vedic Science
PART II: POSTMODERN CRITIQUES OF SCIENCE
Epistemic Charity: Equality of all Ethnosciences
We Are All Hybrids Now! Paths to Reactionary Modernism
A Dalit Defence of the Deweyan-Buddhist View Of Science
PART III: POSTMODERNISM AND NEW SOCIAL MOVEMNTS IN INDIA
The Battle for the Scientific Temper in India’s New Social Movements
The Ecofeminist Critique of the Green Revolution
The Hindu Left, Agrarian Populism, and the Hindu Right
Conclusion: Prophets Facing Forward