Saturday, October 1, 2011

What is Indianness? What is to be an Indian?

The word 'Indian' is multivocal--meaning this word refer to multiple things, and hence, can have multiple senses.
We got a triplet: (a word, reference, sense) There are many theories out there in philosophy of language: theory of reference; theory of sense; how sense and reference are related. I am not dwelling on these issues. I am merely registering the fact that the word 'Indian' is multivocal. Whenever we engage in a discussion, we should be univocal (at least referring to the same thing); otherwise, we will commit the fallacy of equivocation.

Let me list various referents that are associated with 'Indian'

1. One who looks Indian (South Asia): colors, looks, etc
2. One who holds an Indian passport
3. One whose culturality is Indian: in this group falls the cultural attitudes about human psyche, etc.
4. One who wears Indian clothes, eats Indian food,  listen to Indian music etc.

All these four sets are not co-extensive, and hence, are not synonyms. 

A person born in the states to South Asian parents can be (1), but not of (3).

The Indianness has more to do with (3). 

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