Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Errors of Interpretation

In discussing histography, the attempt to successfully recycle original narratives with authenticity in tact could prove to be the biggest problem in scholarly interpretation. In regards to the origins of Tantric Buddhism for example, how did those original ideas translate and keep their true form? Even more, how can we best identify and prevent blanketed interpretations from the authenticated source? Bengali scholar Benoytosh in “Making Sense” expressed the same sentiment when he said, “it is very doubtful whether we will ever be in a position to trace the origin of the Tantra in the most precise manner possible”. Historical narratives thread cultures, providing a means to understand origins and beginnings. What’s interesting to think about is the relevance in errors of interpretation and how bare origins of a document, a text, an event say can be pieced, conflated, quieted, ignored; subject to selectivity and plagued with faulty reference. The histography of Buddhism and Hinduism sheds light on this and how Westerners come to understand Buddhism and define its traditions and beliefs. The west has a history of imperialist motivations and I immediately began thinking about this during the beginning of the course when we read the piece by Nicholson on “Unifying Hinduism” which highlighted the tendency of scholars toward creating a new tradition. He argued the problem of scholarly confiscation and it’s effect on the authenticity of origins. On page 2 of the text, Nicholson hit the arrow on the bullseye when he explained how British imperialist scholarship was a ahistorical fabrication of classical traditions and texts noting how the selective reading of ancient texts ignored the depth and scope of variety of beliefs and practices and the complete disregard of a “Hindu unity” that existed prior to British arrival in India. 
  Additionally, the question that Claire brought up of defining beginnings and how they’re perceived both internally and externally engaged my thoughts towards the problem of racism in America and particularly its problem of prevalence during Hurricane Katrina.  Racism in our country held significant weight and prevalence in light of internal events that precipitated days after the storm. In historic Algiers Point, african american men were shot passing through the neighborhood  by white residents, who committed acts of violent white vigilantism. A number of  incidents surrounding the violence, profiling and deaths of unarmed African Americans and the internal cover up and corruption by the New Orleans police department illustrates further the attitudes toward race and the continuous problem of police brutality and racial violence. People outside of New Orleans probably have never heard of the incidents and therefore see no problem, identifying racism with the past. Ask residents of the city and perhaps many can conclude that the problem never ended, that it continues with no end in sight. Living in a modern, post- civil rights era, any one person can assume or think overall and quite generally that the problem of race is behind us. Immediately though, error of reference comes in to play. Ask an older middle class white American and a young, low-income black African American the same question, and the answer most likely will be different. With such parallels of narrative, who’s answer is right and which one will be included in the history of racism? Ultimately the big question is: What definable traces of original fact, dialogue, thought and events transmit untouched among influence, interpretation, reference and narrative, especially in a globalized, technologically driven world today?

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