The Madras School of Orientalism: Producing Knowledge in Colonial South India

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Thomas R. Trautmann
Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2009 - History - 334 pages
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Exchange of ideas among Indian and European scholars in early nineteenth century Madras led to unprecedented new discoveries about the history, literatures, religion, law and land systems of India. Giving name to this distinctive form of knowledge coming from Madras during the early nineteenth century, this volume presents the Madras School of Orientalism (MSO), an intellectual formation whose impact is only beginning to become apparent in recent studies. A string of fresh ideas emerged from the MSO even though it patterned itself on the Asiatic Society of Calcutta challenging several generalizations about India s history and culture. The vast collection of maps, drawings, and manuscripts of Colin Mackenzie, the publications of F.W. Ellis, and the holdings at the college of Fort St George bring forth a view from the South, of India as a whole. This significant perspective enables the contributors of this book to rethink early colonial interactions, evolving institutions, and altering language systems. Analysing the projects undertaken, The Madras School of Orientalism examines Mackenzie s archive and his investigations at Mahabalipuram. Another theme explored here is the effective engagement on the state of Islamic learning at Madras that led to a common platform for the development of Orientalism. Subsequently, the Indian intellectuals Tamil pandits, Telugu lineages of state servants such as the Kavali brothers, poets associated with the projects are studied to elucidate the long-term effects of European Indian interchange. The scrutiny of changing forms of scribal culture, philology, and documentation in South India facilitate a better understanding of the interactive patterns. Together the essays open up avenues for further investigation and research on not only these facets but also about other objects of study such as law, religion, and land. In the introduction, Trautmann considers the influence of indigenous knowledge in the emergence of Orientalism. He highlights the transition from a regime of knowledge based on royal patronage to one based on government and university scholarship and print culture.

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About the author (2009)

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Thomas R. Trautmann is Professor, Department of History, University of Michigan

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