In this essay, Figueira discusses how the Aryan past can be studied as a myth, meaning a form of discourse that can be employed in the construction or the deconstruction of society. In particular, this examination focuses on the discourse concerning the Aryan race as a shared myth in nineteenth-century India and in Germany. Myths concerning the Aryans gave historical value to ancient Indian history, contributing to the ideological concerns of India during the colonial and nationalist periods. They also served the political and ideological interests of Europe: The history of India could be appropriated as a means of expressing nineteenth-century European concern with origins. An examination of the Aryan myth thus addresses a fundamental concern of postcolonial criticism, namely that the West needed to constitute the Orient as its Other in order to constitute itself and its own subjective position. Finally, Figueira examines how analogous notions regarding identity resurface in modern critical theories of ideal readers and spokespersonship. A comparative analysis of representations of the Aryan in India and in the West can shed light on how South Asia is constructed today in global academe. The conclusion, therefore, investigates how Indian racial ideology continues to resonate in current-day identity politics. Understanding such an ideology necessitates a comparative literary evaluation, particularly if such an analysis can unmask the repetition of hegemonic race relations in current “liberatory” theories and pedagogies.

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