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Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East" Paperback – April 15, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0415202589 ISBN-10: 0415202582 Edition: First Paperback Edition

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Editorial Reviews


Richard King's Orentalism and Religion is an impressive and truly cross-disciplinary study that tackles head on some of the field's most deeply ingrained yet troublesome presumptions. This book promises to set the terms for future debates on the status, methods and theories of religion.
–Russell McCutcheon, Southwest Missouri State University

An insightful and provocative contribution to recent series of studies that can be best characterized as 'colonial discourse analysis'.
–Gerald Larson, Indiana University

This is an important book. The main theme, the 'othering' of the East, is highly significant and original, painstakingly documented, and with major implications for western scholarship.
–Grace Jantzen, University of Manchester

About the Author

Richard King teaches Religious Studies at the University of Stirling. He is the author of Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; First Paperback Edition edition (April 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415202582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415202589
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #939,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard King was born in London in 1966 and is a scholar of Indian philosophy and religion and theories of religion. He has worked in the UK and the USA and is currently Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. He has written on postcolonial approaches to the study of religion, the history of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy (especially the relationship of early Advaita Vedanta and Indian Buddhism), mysticism and spirituality and has contributed to debates on the colonial construction of modern notions of "Hinduism".

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Philip S Goodchild, Book Review Editor, Religion on April 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The preceding review of Richard King's fine work is a scandalous misrepresentation of its content. This book is not an analysis of Indian philosophy, but an analysis of the reception of Indian thought in the West: it explores the processes by which the East has been represented in the West so as to maintain a view of Western superiority. In brief, it challenges Eurocentric views of the East. In order to evaluate Richard King's own appreciation of Indian philosophy, one should read his other books.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By deafguy on January 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Richard King has written a very provocative and very useful book. In Orientalism and Religion, King argues that the term "Hinduism" does not represent any single ancient "religion." Rather, Hinduism is a construct of western scholars who, upon encountering Indian culture, created a religion along the lines of their own Christian conceptions of what a religion ought to be. These scholars of the nineteenth century sought out Indian equivalents of their own Christian culture (i.e. sacred texts and authority figures), and from these (largely the Vedas and the Brahmin caste, respectively) created the "religion" of the Hindus, or "Hinduism." This construction of a "world religion" abetted the colonial exploitation of Indians. King effectively argues the point through examinations of the works of early "Orientalist" scholars and works of more recent scholars who exhibit the same "essentializing" tendencies.
King's account draws quite explicitly on the work of Michel Foucault and Edward Said, but King deals creatively with both Foucault and Said in generating his own unique approach to the study of the "West's" colonial encounter with India. King is not content with an account that denies the agency of native Indians. He thus focuses on how "native informants," often in reaction against colonial forces, ironically helped perpetuate, and indeed bring into being, the "Hinduism" created by Orientalist scholars.
This book should interest all students of religion, as it is part of a growing recognition that the use of the term "religion" when discussing non-western or ancient cultures is highly problematic. Indeed, a possible difficulty for King is his insistence that there were indigenous "religions" in India before the colonial encounter (as on p. 103). Orientalism and Religion should greatly impact specialists in Hinduism, but it is also accessible for the general reader willing to put forth a little extra effort.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. Farooqui on December 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
I was disappointed in this book. I suggest it is only valuable if one needs a summary of the existing literature. It claims that "Hinduism" is not really a religion, but was constructed by Orientalists. Imperialists adapted Indian beliefs to fit a Western notion, and lumped together holy books, clergy, and religious doctrine and linked a common thread (which did not exist before) called Hinduism. The term Hinduism was never used by Indians until after British imperialism.

As a devout follower of Edward Said, I always enjoy others bouncing off his work (as Said intended). Unfortunately, King not only fails as critic of Orientalism, he fails as a critic of Edward Said. King describes what Orientalists did, but he never says what the true nature of polytheist Indian beliefs is. In other words, he'll point out what Hinduism isn't, but won't say then what Hinduism is. (Interestingly, he criticizes Said for doing the same thing.)

He also has a very good conclusion that native Indians (Gandhi, Roy, etc.) adopted this "Hindu religion" to develop a resistance movement which successfully pushed out the British. In other words, he takes Said to the next level. Not just how the West stereotypes the East, but how the East reacts to these stereotypes (and sometimes accepts them as true).

(P.S. The person with sloppy English who claims that this book needs to realize that Hinduism is a Western invention, and we need to go read so and so, has obviously neither read the book, not the summary. Ignore that review, the whole point of this book is that Hinduism is made in the West.)
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful work of scholarship, which takes Said's 'Orientalism' to a new level, critiquing the weak points of Said's work and applying his insights to the Indian context. This book demonstrates very well how our modern notions of 'Hinduism' and 'Buddhism' have been contructed through a dialectical process of interaction between Western and Indian thinkers, and King uproots assumptions about certain scriptural sources and philosophies being the 'centre' or 'foundation' of these traditions. The author's style is also clear and engaging. I cannot recommend this book highly enough -- every student (and educated practioner) of Indian religions should read it.
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