chapter  5
Questioning Authority: Constructions and Deconstructions of Hinduism
ByBrian K. Smith
Pages 23

Questioning, and indeed countering, such claims to ultimate authority is not only desirable but also inevitable in an academic discipline that regards religion, adopts the historical method, and recognizes the cultural conditioning and relativity of all religious claims and authorities. The study of Hinduism has been making significant contributions to the study of religion since at least the nineteenth century, when Friedrich Max Muller and others used Indian data extensively in their formulations of the new disciplines of comparative mythology and comparative religion. The Indological authorities of the past created "Hinduism", and the Indological authorities of the present are now busy disestablishing its conceptual existence. The deconstruction of a monolithic category like "Hinduism" can be portrayed as in the interests not only of "truth" but also of "authenticity". The vast majority of western experts, however, have envisioned Hinduism in precisely the very fluid, pluralistic terms that contemporary deconstructionists favor.