2002 Indic Colloquium
Participant Detail

Back to Schedule and Participants
Back to Colloquium Home

David Gray

Contact Information




Center for the Study of Cultures MS#620
Rice University
Houston, Texas 77251

2742 Jeanetta Drive
Houston, TX 77063


(713) 348-5312

(713) 785-0940


(713) 348-5207


Phone (other)






Web site






Background Information

David Gray received his Ph.D., with distinction, in Columbia University's History of Religion Program, specializing in Buddhist Studies. He served for one year as the Executive Director of the Educational Council on Indic Traditions, a foundation based in Princeton, New Jersey. He is currently a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University, where he is completing a book on the history of the development of Tantric Buddhism in India.


Blinded By The Light Of "World History" –
Re-Centering India In The Mandala Of Eurasian Civilizations

Recent works by Ranajit Guha and others have demonstrated the extent to which the historical project of Hegel, and – by extension – the historiographical tradition to which he gave rise, is crippled by a pervasive Eurocentric bias. Although this tradition had the pretense to aspire to the title of "World History," it failed even to give an adequate account of Europe's rise to prominence in the early modern era, insofar as it is unable to articulate Europe's dependence upon the Colonial Other. Recent "macrohistories" have attempted to remedy this distortion by arguing for the existence of a premodern world economy in which Europe played only a marginal role; many have particularly sought to do this by arguing for the economic centrality of China.

In this paper I will seek to complement this initiative and correct a tendency of Colonial era historiography regarding India, namely, the tendency to deny India's historical agency. In order to do so I will argue that India played a central and pivotal role in the premodern world, both economically and, more importantly, culturally. In the terminology of Norbert Elias, I will argue that India played a central role in catalyzing the "civilizing process" of numerous neighboring polities, including those of Central, East and Southeast Asia. Moreover, this was a "process" that was almost entirely peaceful, largely conducted through non-violent cultural transmission. I will give several examples of this cultural transmission with regard to political, spiritual and artistic technologies, focusing on the early medieval period.

Read the entire paper in PDF format (112K, 40 pp.)