Jason Freitag (Department of History) recently presented a paper at the 26th European Conference on South Asian Studies, an event organized by the University of Vienna in cooperation with the Austrian Academy of Sciences with the support of the European Association for South Asian Studies. The paper was presented via Zoom.
Freitag presented a paper entitled “Nietzsche in India: A. K. Coomaraswamy and the Supermen in the East,” which examined the translation of cultural ideals in the service of Indian nationalist cultural politics, specifically A. K. Coomaraswamy’s understanding of Friedrich Nietzsche. The paper argues that Coomaraswamy, in a series of essays, intended to locate generally in India the spiritual power and particularly in the Rajput princes the temporal power that Nietzsche sought in his ideological antidote to Western civilization. Coomaraswamy, however, far from privileging Nietzsche, actually subordinated and Indianized Nietzsche by arguing that Indian spiritual achievers have long existed in that space beyond good and evil that Nietzsche idolized.
The paper was part of the panel “Beyond knowledge transfer: Circulation of intellectual resources between Europe and South Asia from early 19th to mid-20th century.” This panel explored how knowledge has been circulated/exchanged between Europe and South Asia approximately from the colonial times till the end of WWII. It also examined the political and socio-cultural currents that influenced these processes and privileged certain types of knowledge over others.