Esteemed scholar Wendy Doniger will present the 2014 Lindesmith Lecture at Carleton College on Thursday, May 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the Weitz Center for Creativity Cinema. Entitled “Freedom of Speech in India, from the Vedas to the Present,” Doniger’s lecture will address issues of censorship in India. Considered one of the world’s leading scholars in Hinduism, Sanskrit, and Indian textual traditions, The Washington Post calls Doniger “a feisty and exhilarating teacher.” This event is free and open to the public.
At Carleton, Doniger will speak on censorship in India, particularly in light of Penguin India’s recent settlement to stop printing her book The Hindus: An Alternative History. Published in the U.S. in 2009 and India in 2010, the book won two awards in India: the Ramnath Goenka Award (for a writer whose published work, through in-depth research and investigation, covers an issue/idea on a scale which newspapers or television channels with their limited space and time cannot aspire to tackle), and the Colonel James Tod Award (whose previous recipients include Dominique Lapierre, V.S. Naipaul, Richard Attenborough, Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, and William Dalrymple). In the U.S., Doniger was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award.
However, shortly after The Hindus hit the press, a leading member of the far-right organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) filed charges against Penguin, arguing that the book violated the Indian Penal Code, which forbids "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the feelings of any class" of citizens. In February 2014, after fighting the lawsuit for four years, Penguin agreed to cease publishing the book, and to pulp it (though the latter did not happen, as people rushed out and bought up all the copies from the bookstores). The decision triggered an outpouring of indignation in the U.S. and in India, where literally thousands of people have written articles and signed petitions against the publisher.
Doniger has published over thirty books, including Siva: The Erotic Ascetic; The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology; Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts; Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities; Tales of Sex and Violence: Folkore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana; Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes; Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India; The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade; The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth; The Woman Who Pretended To Be Who She Was; The Hindus: An Alternative History; and On Hinduism.
Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she also serves in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Committee on Social Thought. She has been named the 2015 Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecturer by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS); named for the first chairman of ACLS, the Haskins Prize Lecture series, entitled “A Life of Learning,” celebrates scholarly careers of distinctive importance.
Doniger earned her MA and PhD from Harvard University and her Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University. Her research and teaching interests revolve around two basic areas, Hinduism and mythology. Her courses in mythology address themes in cross-cultural expanses, such as death, dreams, evil, horses, sex, and women; her courses in Hinduism cover a broad spectrum that, in addition to mythology, considers literature, law, gender, and zoology.
This event is sponsored by the Carleton College Department of Asian Studies, the Department of Religion, the Humanities Center, and the Elizabeth Nason Distinguished Women Visitor’s Fund. For more information, including disability accommodations, please call (507) 222-4232. The Weitz Center for Creativity is located at Third and College Streets in Northfield.