Western Footprints in South Asia

⚬ July 22, 2021⚬ Hardika | Indic Researchers Forum

The more we talk western, the more we seem indulged with the actual world. The more we behave western, the greater is our impact. The more we think western, the more modernised is our inception. But who made these rules? Why is there a want to become a western output in order to etch any modern and welcoming presence? Are our geopolitical theories so engrossed in the West to belittle the rest?

Asia had always been the foremost choice of the imperialists to demonstrate power. There has been an assumed set of responsibilities by the Occidental world over the Oriental one. Today, even after several years of independent governance of the colonial countries of South Asia, there is no clear hint of independence. These States are still somehow dependent on the western worldviews in terms of socio-cultural-political arrangements apart from their financial and military dependence.

As a result of colonialism, the South Asian countries have experienced disintegration owing to the disruptions of traditional societies caused by imperialism. Several changes in the language, culture, religion, ethnicity, etc. are an outcome of westernisation that seeped into the blood, brain, and behaviours of the colonial slaves. These changes are often welcomed as a source of new ideas like the abolishment of practices like Sati, child marriage, caste system, and many other social evils. Westernised colonies understood the need for education and more refined culture. Many wanted an escape from the traditional culture and they were disparagingly named like "The Bengali Babus". Westernisation paved the way for the rise in nationalism. The concept of "othering" triggered a need to stand against the colonial masters. Then, a considerable number of people equate westernisation to modernisation that resulted in the development of infrastructure and technology. Moreover, western ideologies based on liberty are considered prominent in the arousal of revolt against the foreign invaders. Even the constitutions of the South Asian countries today are a product of the western ideals of democracy and sovereignty. Most significantly, English has become the most convenient and prominent official language of these multilingual, secular, and multicultural States helping them to thrive in the global market and globalisation itself.

Many scholars appreciate globalisation and the integration of several economies thereby binding diverse cultures together. But some scholars acknowledge the omnipresent eurocentrism. From literature to religion every concept of international relations is heavily based on European perspectives. Europe resides as an isolated privileged space according to which other traditions and cultures are studied. The developing countries like the South Asian countries have been tagged as the Third World. This exclusion is established on the grounds of whiggish bias through which the western countries disregard the past of these colonial States and estimate them as unprepared and dependent nations. The concept of the Third World is an outcome of the socio-cultural ideologies of the powerful countries. Numerous subaltern realist theories reflect the shortcomings of the neorealist ones. They question the negligence of the Third World and try to showcase the ideas through the viewpoint of the masses of these countries.

The great movement of feminism too began with the white middle-class, privileged in a lot of ways, women demanding basic legal and political rights. The movement overlooked feminist ideals in the context of the women of "colour", or the Third World women, whose issues are more deeply fixed in the social structures of their countries and their haunting pasts. These women realised the westernised model of feminism and started their movement in the latter part of the 20th century demanding freedom from political and economic enslavement as women of the Third World.

The major problem with the standards of modernisation is the indifference towards the Third World issues. Macaulay could fluently say that the "Oriental culture was defective, unholy, and corrupt" and gifted English education, but could any Occidental divine figure ever wonder about the issues of mass poverty and internal polarisation being the significant cause of crime and economic deficiency?

South Asian countries have always faced and still face microaggressions from all around the world. Race, religion, and culture have been the themes of such subtly produced intentional or unintentional remarks. Whatever they achieve, they are still the brown people wearing denim and talking in a foreign tongue. While leaders like Trump busily appreciate the American community, each part of the world voluntarily chooses to ignore the influence of the west, today mostly through the USA. The biggest example of microaggressive statements is vitally stored in the "neoconservative media discourse" that has strengthened since the 9/11 attacks. Some call it a way to ensure Muslim subjectivity of terrorism. Though non-Christian religions have always been questioned in different lights for their savage and non-elite customs, the internalisation of such western ideals is a great challenge in South Asia where the youth population is in majority. The problems like the generation gap and language divide haven't recently been introduced. They are somehow challenged by the sudden transition in the education system with foreign model challenging ancient ideas. In the pretext of the South Asian youth, education today, though much improved, is a product of colonial master-slave relations. The job-oriented system is taxing for the youth. The westernised education enforced rote learning so that the colonial slaves could serve as an efficient administrative staff. The causalities still prevail.

Another product of westernised Asian structure is the dilemma over the distinction between the eurocentric worldview of right action and personal choices. Recently, in Sri Lanka, the ban on Burqa gained widespread attention. Many women questioned the ban's intrusion with their personal choice to wear a burqa. Also, the idea of housemakers is often seen in a pejorative light as a worthless decision. Out of the impulse to modernise everything, there is no regard for choices left.

Westernisation has given a channel to discover more liberal ideas like intersection feminism and abortion rights and appreciate modern outlook, but in the wake of such a stylish glimmer, there is deep dark ignorance about a lot of significant issues. There is an assumption that western ideals are universally applicable. But can they be?

The South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, etc. were left incompetent to perform their parts in the globalised world today. These countries are still strangled with the colonial disruptions. The books available to the youth, the market ready for the entrepreneurs, the religious ideas muffled for several, and the opinions are so entangled with eurocentrism that there is nothing indigenous left to the people of South Asia.

There is turmoil about whether every idea is completely acceptable as a modern setup or is it just an inexpungible western offering to improve the outdated functioning through powerful and unrecognisable channels of discourse.

About the author:

Hardika is pursuing English Honours from Janki Devi Memorial College, University of Delhi. She has a keen interest in researching and writing about global studies and issues.


The article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of the Organisation.

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