ANS 384 • Transmission of Knowledge in South Asia
3:00 PM-6:00 PM
The transmission of knowledge involves educational institutions and the contents of their curricula, to be sure, but it also involves the reproduction of belief systems, cultural values, social forms, and political structures. In South Asia, the traditional guru-shishya or ustad-shagird system involved a personal tie between the scholar and his master, the oral transmission of knowledge, and the mastery of certain authoritative texts. With the arrival of the British, a new system of education based on transmission via the printed word was established. Formal curricula, standardized textbooks, and impersonal examinations became the new norm. The contrast between these two systems was striking, and debates over their relative merits, and over the langauge of instruction, raged in both official circles and among the Indian literate classes for years. These debates, the Orientalist-Anglicist controversy, were by no means settled when English was made the medium of higher education and the culture of print became firmly entrenched. Indeed, controversies over the relative merits of Indian and western cultures, literatures, sciences, and their attendant beliefs and social structures continued throughout the colonial period and are by no means resolved today.
Roy Mottahedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge Nigel Crook, ed., The Transmission of Knowledge in South Asia C.A. Bayly, Empire and Information Gauri Viswanathan, Masks of Conquest Breckenridge & Vander Veer, eds. Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament David Lelyveld, Aligarh's First Generation Gail Minault, Secluded Scholars