Yvette Rosser’s Survey on American
Attitudes Toward Indic Traditions
The central goal of the Educational Council on Indic Traditions (eCIT) is to improve the portrayal of Indic traditions, both in America and abroad. In order to do this, it is necessary to gauge to what extent the public has an accurate understanding of India and Indian cultural and religious traditions, as well as the extent to which the public believes that false or misleading stereotypes are true and accurate. To achieve these goals, it has from the start been our intention to sponsor public research on attitudes towards Indic traditions, so as to gain information on how various demographic groups perceive these traditions. This would be conducted periodically to track trends, and to identify areas where intervention would be justified to remedy misrepresentations.
In order to achieve this goal, eCIT, the Infinity Foundation and its advisors have decided to give a grant to Ms. Yvette Rosser, a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, a grant to design and conduct surveys to gauge the perceptions concerning Indic Traditions among different segments of the American population. These preliminary surveys will be conducted in several localities. Ms. Rosser will analyze the data, seeking both to draw preliminary conclusions from it, but also, and more importantly, test the validity of the survey design itself. This research will hopefully enable the scientific design of surveys to be conducted on a national scale, both in America and India. The hoped for result of this project will the preparation of these national surveys; the actual implementation of the national surveys is not covered under this grant. For more information about this grant please read Ms. Rosser’s project description, which follows below:
Outline of proposed activities:
1. Design questionnaires to measure attitudes about India and knowledge of Indic Traditions:
– past contributions to world culture
– negative stereotypes (and their sources)
2. These surveys will be developed for several target populations, including:
In the USA:
– Indians (NRI) [of various age groups]
– general population [of various age groups]
– target groups: business people, Christian organizations, etc.
– pre-service teachers in educational institutions
– in-service teachers
– urban/rural mix
– socio-economic/educational level considerations
3. Initiate preliminary testing of survey instrument in several local areas, such as Austin, Princeton, and other parallel communities.
4. Investigate the patterns of responses and determine if the survey instrument is valid and yields coherent results.
5. Prepare the questionnaires for larger scale implementation.
6. Results will quantify the prevailing attitudes towards India and Indic traditions among citizens in the USA and India.
7. Write up the narrative with analysis based on the quantitative data generated by the survey.
1. Images that non-Indians and many Indians often hold about India and Indic traditions are based on negative stereotypes [devil worship, polytheist, pollution-causing, evils of the caste system, irrational, world negating, inferior to scientific West, denial of the autonomous individual, relative morality, narcissism, mushy center].
2. Most people are unaware of India’s historical contributions to world culture. (mathematic, scientific/astronomical, grammatical/linguistic, etc.)
3.Many Americans are insensitive to and uninformed about non-Western traditions, and about the history behind many of today’s problems in India.
1. Many contemporary Indians do not appreciate their own cultural heritage and compare it negatively to the West. [There may be an element of shame due to lack of knowledge.]
2. Many Indians have imbibed the colonial mind-set and still look to the West for wisdom instead of from their own traditions (i.e. allopathic vs. ayurvedic).
3. Many Indians may not be informed about the depth and stability of their civilization, and just as important, the applicability if its insights in the modern world.
In the USA the project will:
1. Quantify the opinions and impressions that Americans have of India and Indic Traditions through a scientific survey targeted to several population groups and the general public. The survey should cover a minimum of approximately 2,500 respondents.
2. Locate the sources of negative, stereotypical information Americans hold about India and Indic Traditions.
3. Based on this data, develop strategies for eliminating and overcoming negative portrayals and exotic representations about India and Indic Traditions.
4. Publish the results of the survey with commentary and analysis along with suggested remedial and long-term solutions. Make this available in a variety of venues: school districts, social studies classes, university Education Departments, public officials, textbook publishers, television producers, news casters, etc.
5. Hold seminars and press conferences to announce the results.
In India the project will:
1. Survey a broad spectrum of individuals in the major states and from many social strata of society.
2. Seek to identify the range of beliefs regarding religious orientation.
3. Measure the opinions and experiences of a broad sample of Indian citizens regarding such issues as Hindutva, secularism, India’s contribution to world culture, the origins and evolution of caste, historical and ideological controversies, etc.
4. Quantify this data to offer a picture of the spiritual and religious orientation of selected groups of Indians.
5. Publish these results to illuminate the disparities in accepted academic knowledge in contrast to the vast wisdom of the Indic Civilization.
6. Hold seminars and press conferences to announce the results.
7. Propose solutions such as Indic Studies courses at universities and colleges.
This grant is for the portion of the implementation that would be in USA. The India portion would be done later and the subject of a separate grant.