Presentation Title

Orientalism and Modern Varanasi

Faculty Mentor

Harini Narayanan

Start Date

18-11-2017 1:45 PM

End Date

18-11-2017 2:00 PM

Location

15-1814

Session

Social Science 4

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

behavioral_social_sciences

Abstract

India's rich culture and tradition date back thousands of years, but the British colonial period from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries sought to separate Indians from their rich history. Although India has now been independent for over seventy years, the role of colonialism has still proven significant in the development of modern Indian institutions and identity. This paper seeks to analyze the British colonial period and the centuries leading up to it by looking at the historical influence of Orientalism on western perceptions. Edward Said's book 'Orientalism' provides a significant framework for this paper, as does work on colonial Indian identity by Rabindranath Tagore and post-colonial Indian identity by Amartya Sen. While the development of orientalist thought coincided with early considerations of India as exotic, such a perception of India has continued to strengthen and has influenced the shape of modern India. This comes to the fore in Varanasi, a cultural hub of South Asia and one of the longest continually-inhabited cities in the world. While Indian culture is characterized by a multiplicity of traditions, beliefs, and practices, a select few are chosen for display in the nightly ceremonies along the Ganges River. By tracing Orientalism and its relationship with India through recent millennia, this paper seeks to understand both the external and internal factors that define Indian culture as demonstrated in Varanasi. Further, by drawing on data from interviews with foreign and domestic tourists and Varanasi residents, this paper seeks to contextualize the intersections of these three distinct groups within the increasing development of the city's tourism industry.

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Nov 18th, 1:45 PM Nov 18th, 2:00 PM

Orientalism and Modern Varanasi

15-1814

India's rich culture and tradition date back thousands of years, but the British colonial period from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries sought to separate Indians from their rich history. Although India has now been independent for over seventy years, the role of colonialism has still proven significant in the development of modern Indian institutions and identity. This paper seeks to analyze the British colonial period and the centuries leading up to it by looking at the historical influence of Orientalism on western perceptions. Edward Said's book 'Orientalism' provides a significant framework for this paper, as does work on colonial Indian identity by Rabindranath Tagore and post-colonial Indian identity by Amartya Sen. While the development of orientalist thought coincided with early considerations of India as exotic, such a perception of India has continued to strengthen and has influenced the shape of modern India. This comes to the fore in Varanasi, a cultural hub of South Asia and one of the longest continually-inhabited cities in the world. While Indian culture is characterized by a multiplicity of traditions, beliefs, and practices, a select few are chosen for display in the nightly ceremonies along the Ganges River. By tracing Orientalism and its relationship with India through recent millennia, this paper seeks to understand both the external and internal factors that define Indian culture as demonstrated in Varanasi. Further, by drawing on data from interviews with foreign and domestic tourists and Varanasi residents, this paper seeks to contextualize the intersections of these three distinct groups within the increasing development of the city's tourism industry.