Synopses & Reviews
In this new book, Brian Hatcher examines the modern Hindu penchant for constructing religious worlds in an eclectic fashion. Noting how Hindu apologists from Rammohun Roy to Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan make an almost promiscuous use of the world's many philosophies and religions to define and defend Hinduism, Hatcher sets out to explore the ancient roots and contemporary significance of such eclectic borrowing. A discussion of the Vedic and classical roots of Hindu eclecticism affords Hatcher the opportunity to reflect upon the profound and widespread role of eclecticism in South Asian religion, while consideration of the work of Swami Vivekananda--as well as a variety of religious reformers from nineteenth-century Bengal--suggests the ongoing significance of the phenomenon in colonial and postcolonial contexts.
By examining the development of Brahmo and Neo-Vedanta discourse, Hatcher is able both to problematize the notion of a monolithic concept of religious eclecticism and to reflect upon the various ways scholars might nevertheless attempt to make sense of a bewildering variety of eclectic philosophies. What emerges is not simply an attempt to refine our understanding of the role eclecticism has played in the modern Hindu context, but an extended reflection upon changing attitudes toward eclecticism in the West, from Diderot and Kant through postmodern critical theory. By investigating modern and postmodern perspectives on such issues as history, system, authenticity, and difference, Hatcher seeks to set in motion a dialectical approach to the study of eclectic world construction that balances the positivisitic confidence of modern scholarship with the playful exuberance of postmodern pastiche. Invoking the critical theories of Salman Rushdie, Theodor Adorno, and Richard Rorty, Hatcher advocates an approach to modern Hindu eclecticism that honors its creative poetics while retaining the critical distance necessary for judging its sometimes baleful fruits.
"Anyone who has worked on modern Hinduism has struggled with the issues Hatcher handles to deftly here."-- Religious Studies Review
"Those readers who enjoy being challenged will be rewarded by this book."--World Faiths Encounter
"The book is beautifully written. Chapter Three on Vivekananda...is particularly enjoyable and should be a locus classicus for future studies of this important and, well, electic figure."--Religious Studies Review
"This book is a sensitive, subtle, and catholic meditation on electicism as a category in the study of religion using modern Hindu discourse as a test case."--Journal of the American Oriental Society
"Far ranging, deeply penetrating, well written and well researched...Hatcher does a brilliant job juxtaposing architectural electicism...with religious electicism. The latter is worth the price of admission to this very fine study."--Journal of Religion
"A brilliant, erudite, and wide-ranging study that will be of interest in many fields of study: colonial Bengal, neo-Vedanta, modern Hindu chauvinism, the history of eclecticism, and postmodern interpretation." -- History of Religions
Includes bibliographical references (p. 171-194) and index.
Table of Contents
2. Difference Relates: Eclecticism Past and Present
3. Swami in Wonderland: Vivekananda's Eclectic Hermeneutics
4. What's the Connection?: India's Eclectic Heritage
5. Varieties of Eclectic Experience: The Case of Colonial Bengal
6. My Own Private Bungalow: The Dynamics of Eclectic Home-Building