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The Critical Traditionalism of Ashis Nandy: Occidentalism and the Dilemmas of Innocence

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alastair Bonnett


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This article offers an analysis of the construction and deployment of the ideas of 'the West' and 'tradition' in the social commentary of Ashis Nandy. It argues that Nandy's 'critical' defence of tradition is framed and animated by occidentalism and renders tradition into a paradoxical space of redemption and innocence. The first part of the paper shows that Nandy's nativist narratives of loss and his suspicion of political ideologies place him both in and against post-colonial cultural politics. The second section examines and illustrates the mutually defining nature of occidentalism and traditionalism. It is shown that Nandy's stereotypes of authentic Indian culture undermine the critical capabilities of his 'critical traditionalism'. Part three explores Nandy's dilemmas further by reference to his attempts to align tradition with reflexivity.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bonnett A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Theory, Culture & Society

Year: 2012

Volume: 29

Issue: 1

Pages: 138-157

Print publication date: 01/01/2012

ISSN (print): 0263-2764

ISSN (electronic): 1460-3616

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0263276411417462


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