Interpreting the Other

Farah Godrej

in Cosmopolitan Political Thought

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199782062
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919123 | DOI:
Interpreting the Other

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Given the unique challenges posed by the interpretation of ideas from other civilizations, the existence of Western interpretive techniques is often insufficient in allowing us to understand well these ideas. Using the Vedic Hindu concept of dharma (variously translated as duty, moral law, or force of moral order) and Gandhi’s appropriation of Vedic hermeneutic techniques, chapter 3 will argue for a particular approach to the interpretation of non-Western texts and ideas. “Existential immersion” suggests that such interpretive study must involve immersion within the practices and life-worlds of members and adherents within a tradition. But a good cosmopolitan scholar will inevitably have to alternate between an internal immersion in the lived experience of texts or ideas, and an external stance of commentary and exegesis regarding. A cosmopolitan political thought must therefore be understood as one in which non-Western intellectual resources are seen as objects of both immersed ethnographic inquiry connected to context, as well as objects of transcultural political relevance across civilizational borders. The radical “self-dislocation” involved in existential immersion is a necessary—if paradoxical—task of the cosmopolitan political theorist, a prelude to a cosmopolitan mode of engagement that eventually troubles and unsettles the disciplinary home.

Keywords: interpret; non-Western; existential; immersion; self-dislocation; Vedic; exegesis; dharma; Gandhi

Chapter.  10914 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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