She reeks of “more Indian than thou”

Kavin Senapathy on Vandana Shiva:

Undoubtedly a controversial albeit prominent Indian public figure, the stately, self-proclaimed food activist and feminist rakes in big bucks to rival the incomes of doctors and business moguls, and does so on the premise of benevolence. Shiva’s website, which notes that Time Magazine honored the activist as an environmental “hero” in 2003, describes her as working alongside peasants; images of Shiva posing on Indian farms litter the internet.  Demanding $40,000 a pop and round trip business class air fare from New Delhi for her promotional talks, she has achieved the deplorable yet amazing feat of appropriating her own culture. Though defined in varying ways, the term “cultural appropriation” usually describes the use and adulteration of elements of one culture by another. In Shiva’s case, she has managed to exploit and demean her own culture under the guise of standing up for her countrymen, as a means to advance her anti-biotechnology agenda.

40 k per talk?! Wow. And all she has to do is argue for less productive agriculture in India.

Vandana Shiva’s exotification of the country and India-as-victim messaging does her few favors in the Indian community, while her butchering of science has seen her earn monikers like “Luddite”, “dangerous fabulist” and even part of the “lunatic fringe.”

To me, an Indian-American daughter of immigrants, Shiva’s appropriation of her own culture is among the most obscene, offensive tactics in the activist’s repertoire. She reeks of “more Indian than thou”, which colors her mannerisms and shapes her messaging, effectively endowing her with a je ne sais quoi, leaving many non-Indian westerners accepting her without question as the voice of the Indian David against the Big Bad Biotech Goliath, while others presumably refrain from doubting her seeming authority for fear of appearing racist. A clever tactic, indeed.

This acceptance of Indian thieves of their own culture must stop. Farmers like Narhari Pawar, science advocates like Venkat Aditya, and scientists like Rajini Rao and Balasubramanian Ponnuswami are just a handful of folks fed up with the twisting of their culture by fellow Indians for no more than ideological, non evidence-based agendas. No doubt, they are but a representative sliver of those sharing the sentiment.

I blame the hippies. They bought into that whole “India=spiritual” bullshit, and they passed it on to everyone else.

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