Clemens Jürgenmeyer studied Indology as well as Political Science, and is a Senior Researcher at the Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute and Lecturer at the University of Freiburg. For more than 40 years, he has been dealing with political and social issues in India, particulary such concerning electoral behaviour and Hindu nationalism.
Both India and the West are engaged in dynamic interactions which are bringing changes to both parties. The familiar and the foreign find themselves in a constant exchange of unequal power relations. The political, economic and ideological hegemony of the West is obvious and is supported by the predominant groups in India. This interwovenness of contact makes it impossible to see India as a pure object of externally imposed modernisation or westernisation, where modern spirit meets a traditional society and culture that can do little to stop this onslaught. Indian society, with all its diversity and size, works independently and productively towards meeting these challenges. This often leads to original responses, either individually or collectively, which is unusual, and sometimes even disturbing, for Western observers, as they skip the Eurocentric notions of development, modernity and rationality.
In this debate between familiar and foreign, there is the chance to form an identity of their own, and thus improve their self-understanding in a permanent process of selection and acquisition – and as subjects, not as mere objects. India can point to a thousand-year-long tradition of productive engagement with foreign powers and cultures. The present situation in India is nothing new or particularly threatening, but it casts reflections on everyday life, always looking over society’s shoulder.