Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Avijit Pathak: "Debating Plagiarism: Indian Academia Is Producing Imitative Conformists"

Riffing off on recent cases of plagiarism by Indian academics, he poses a deeper question: "Is ... our thinking itself ... plagiarised?"

To illustrate his point, he presents an episode from his own days "as a student of sociology at a leading university in Delhi":

... Let me recall what I experienced as a student of sociology at a leading university in Delhi. My professor asked me to write a paper on caste. I met my professor and conveyed my wish. ‘Sir, I have read what you have asked us to read. However, in my paper I wish to write something more: the way I saw, experienced and analysed the institutionalisation and practice of caste, and through this account, I would learn and unlearn the texts you have suggested.’

The professor said, ‘No, you can’t write what you think, experience and feel. You are required to write the way the likes of M.N. Srinivas and Louis Dumont have thought about it’.

I followed his instruction and wrote a highly-mechanised but ‘academically impressive’ paper with predictable quotes and references from the big names. Needless to add, I got a good grade. In other words, I got the message: My style, my perception, my words do not count; what matters is a defined academic format, a style created by others. I have to be clever in the art of copying.