- 'Europe' and 'The Islamic World' : Perceptions and Stereotypes (2007)
- Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture has been exposed by some learned voices of 'the Muslim world' as alluding, by the means of one particular quotation, to age-old stereotypes about Islam being an essentially violent creed in which moderation through reason has no legitimate place, and of representing Muhammadas an evil and inhuman man who preached that Islam should be spread by the sword. While none of these presumably 'Muslim' voices deny that the Pope has the right to express his opinions, even when they are plainly wrong in the face of historic facts that show how Islam and Christianity were spread (or were made to spread) across the world, he is criticised for a host of omissions in terms of intellectual honesty and factual accuracy. These omissions, it is argued here, cast an unfortunate light on the compatibility of scientific and religious rationality much advocated by the Pope in his 12 September 2006 lecture. This flagrant 'performative contradiction' (Habermas) leaves room for speculation about the true aim of the speech. Is Benedict XVI's appeal to theology as a legitimate academic discipline a credible attempt to explicate Roman Catholicism's rightful place in a modern world governed by liberal democracy and ethical-political pluralism, or is it a reflection of a move to restore the age-old, intolerant, anti-scientific, and anti-democratic legacy of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church?
- German Romantics Imagining India : Friedrich Schlegel in Paris and Roots of Ethnic Nationalism in Europe (2011)
- When, some two centuries ago, German Romantics turned their backs on modernity – industrialisation, urbanisation, commerce and secularisation – they turned to ancient India. For them, India exemplified the primordial unity of mankind with this and the afterworld. For sections of the emerging nationalist movement in Germany, found the deployment of India handy to question the cultural hegemony, and eventually break the political dominance, of France. They tried to surpass the French, who claimed the ancient Roman heritage, by claiming an even older heritage for the Germans. Friedrich Schlegel for example suggested that the German language, and not the French, stood in unbroken continuity with ancient Sanskrit. For Romantics such as he, Sanskrit, the oldest surviving Indo-European language, was closest to the language of original divine revelation. This lead Schlegel to romanticise India in a way that stood in marked contrast to the Orientalist clichés current in other parts of Europe at the time. For him, the link between Sanskrit and German made Germany the true oriental self of Europe. The importance of this particular representation of India for the German national movement is underlined by the great number of university chairs that sprang up in the course of the nineteenth century: twenty two in Germany as opposed to only three in the United Kingdom. This paper explores the particular kind of ‘inverse’ Orientalism of the Germans in the context of its recent post-colonial critique.