Priyamvada Gopal is a Professor in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, where she is a Fellow of Churchill College. Her main teaching and research interests are in colonial and postcolonial literature and theory, gender and feminism, Marxism and critical race studies.
An online petition has been launched to remove her because she tweeted that “white lives don’t matter” and called to “abolish whiteness”. Not only did the university not remove her, but they gave Gopal a promotion.
This should come as no surprise when we take into account several sinister factors that have coalesced into the phenomenon that is Priyamvada Gopal. Born into a privileged background, she attended an international high school in Vienna, where her father served as a diplomat in the mid-1980s. Gopal received a BA from the University of Delhi in 1989 and an MA from Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1991. After finishing her studies in India, she moved to the United States, where she taught at different institutions and completed her PhD in colonial and postcolonial literature at Cornell University in 2000.
Her life is thus far removed from the majority of ethnic minorities in the UK, and even more so form the masses in India, where she was born. It is this deracination which makes Gopal’s racism, prejudice and hate that much more complex and insidious.
In the world she inhabits, the old colonial mission of civilising backward savages has become more refined and cosmopolitan. However anyone who is not fully westernised and indeed white will only get so far.
They will never be fully accepted. Hence her lashing out at ‘whiteness’ and regurgitation of ‘white lives don’t matter’. While ashamed of her own roots as backward and obscurantist, Gopal inhabits a twilight zone of instability. It was in this vein that she moved to the University of Cambridge in 2001. In many ways she was the ideal candidate.
Cambridge’s Aryan Problem
In April 2019, Cambridge University launched an investigation into its links with slavery, and how it profited from coerced labour via gifts and bequests. On 22 February 2020 a black student at St Catharine’s College was physically restrained by a porter from seeing his tutor, by being barred from the building. Only after a white student vouched for him was Edouard allowed to pass.
This was only one instance among the many of micro-aggression suffered by minority students at this prestigious world institution. This prejudice manifests in many forms. Gopal’s attack on whiteness is but another attempt to jump on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon, which was itself triggered by the brutal public murder of a member of the public in Minneapolis. However, this academic is no stranger to controversy or fanning the flames of hate.
In 2006 she raged against Hindu ‘extremists’ after protests over MF Husain’s pornographic depiction of Hindu sacred imagery caused exhibition of that work to be withdrawn.
On BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme she claimed that Hindu Human Rights were too scared to debate her, when in fact we were given very short notice. Now in the latest saga, Gopal has responding to criticism over her incendiary tweets by calling for “abolishing Brahmins and upper caste.” Just as with police brutality in America, Gopal returns back to the easiest, low-hanging fruit to target. In this case it is Hindus.
She continues in her rant that:
“I’m from a Brahmin family. That makes me a Brahmin. “I will say this too then, since Brahmins are the whites of India. Brahmin lives don’t matter– not as Brahmin& lives. Abolish Brahmins and the upper castes.”
How did we move from whiteness and white lives don’t matter to Brahmins? Because when Gopal attacks her own Brahmin background she is lamenting how she herself is not white.
In this Kafkaesque nightmare, all her attacks on racism reveal that Gopal is using a very racist invective herself. How exactly are Brahmins white anymore more than the Druids were a master race over other Celts?
In fact it smacks of Nazi style racial profiling and pseudo-science, because that is exactly what it is. To cover her tracks, Gopal disowns and shows hate for her won background. But what is more interesting is that she uses race science which came from the colonial period and was closely tied with eugenics and the eventual Holocaust.
Brahmins being ‘whites’, when they are evidently not, is based upon the racist Aryan invasion theory. This was invented by German Indologist Max Muller to justify British rule in India. He later retracted the myth saying that he was looking into linguistics, not race.
It also mirrored the imperialism and mass emigration of the time, when whites were displacing indigenous inhabitants in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Algeria and southern Africa. This is something which should be familiar to the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Stephen Toope.
He is originally from Canada, where the native inhabitants were exterminated and vastly reduced to make way for white settlers. It was this ethnic cleansing which inspired Hitler in his idea of lebensraum, living space created by despoiling the Slavic inhabitants to the east of Germany. Indeed to this day First Nations people are disproportionately the victims of police brutality and mysterious disappearances and murders of girls and women in British Columbia.
From Goebbels to Gopal
Yet Gopal continues with this highlighting of Aryan master race pseudo-science. On 8 June, she tweeted:
“In Priti Patel you see the lethal intersection of vicious Hindu majoritarianism/caste hierarchies and colonial racism, which loved wheeling out Asians to kick black people.”
In reality Patel is married to a white English man called Alex Sawyer, and her son is called Freddie. While criticism of her policies is part of normal healthy debate, there is nothing in her actions or social patterns that have anything to do with Hindu majority or caste hierarchy.
As for Asians kicking black people, this is actually done by Gopal using that aforementioned Aryan myth to link caste to race, and Brahmins as some primeval white master race. It was this same type of racism and pseudo-science which led to neo-Nazis marching in Southall in the 1970s and the murder in 1993 of black teenager Stephen Lawrence and Asian schoolboy Rohit Duggal.
In fact in Gopal we see the intersection of the Aryan race myth and the Hinduphobia which it embodies. It is this which makes lives for ethnic minorities increasingly precarious in Britain, and academics like Gopal a force for division rather than communal harmony.
Sealed off in their largely white inhabited surburbicons and leafy habitations, they can absolve themselves from any vicarious liability for the social hazards they cause when their ideas get magnified and fester in the deprived urban jungles from which they are sheltered.
In India the academic and media elite preach secularism, democracy and champagne socialism while the masses eke to survive in a dog eat dog world. Again understanding this and how the kleptocratic elite are sealed off is key to understanding Gopal’s odium against whiteness and Hinduness.
The latter is in fact Gopal’s main target, not whiteness as such In fact whiteness is but a footnote. On 21 January 2020 she wrote on al-Jazeera news, that India’s democracy was in danger from BJP linked mobs attacking Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The irony here is double. Al-Jazeera is based in Wahabi Qatar which has no democracy and in fact is built upon a modern slave system known as kafala, where South Asian and Filipino low paid or unpaid workers toil for their Arab masters.
JNU is a known Marxist influenced propaganda centre much like Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, Himmler’s think-tank which specialised in crackpot theories about the Aryan race.
If there has been any campus violence it has historically been against Hindus and Hindu ideas, led by Marxist demagogues who show their contempt for democracy.
Then she slams the CAA as a piece of discrimination. In fact this citizenship amendment was passed to grant asylum to religious minorities persecuted and exterminated in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
While dabbling in racist quack theories, Gopal is very eager to attack others. In 2006 she attacked Niall Ferguson for his book Empire claiming that it condoned racism.
She debated him on Radio 4 by constantly admitting scant interest in anything he said. It would be interesting to know if she now thinks Ferguson has abolished his own whiteness by marrying Somali-born former Dutch MP, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. However if someone like Priti Patel can be a Hindu and caste chauvinist by marrying out, then what hope is there for Niall Ferguson doing the same after being accused of being a white supremacist?
No Free Speech for Hindus
Cambridge University has backed Gopal saying it is a question of freedom of speech, Yet there was scant evidence of this last year when the University dismissed the young researcher Noah Carl after a mob that was totally ignorant of Carl’s areas of research decided that he was guilty of racism. Or when the invitation to Canada’s Jordan Peterson was rescinded.
What is less well known is the case of Dr Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar. As the founder-convenor of the Indian National Students Association (INSA), Majumdar attracted the unhealthy attention of Hinduphobic bigots, who ironically would react with horror being called this term.
But then as with the Far Right, the related ultra-Left is hardly democratic and open minded – which is why the two intersect, overlap, and ideologically share their DNA.
He was literally hounded out for exposing the powerful anti-Hindu and anti-India voices on campus; suffering loss of employment and well as tarnished reputation for being associated with ‘fascism’. This more than anything exposes the real racism, Hinduphobia, and double standards that is at the heart of Cambridge University’s ethos. Majumdar defends hindu values and India and is forced out. Gopal indulges in crass Hinduphobia, anti-white racism, and a more menacing form of outdated colonialist pseudo-science based on caste being linked to an Aryan invasion of ancient India, and she gets promoted. The rot at the core of today’s academic life could not be more obvious.
This may be the twenty-first century but demagogues like Gopal are essential if Cambridge University needs to continue with its revamped colonial mission to the uncivilised Hindu savage. Although she looks like the victim group, in mind she is the epitome of colonial racism. Just exactly what Thomas Babington Macaulay wanted when he set out to create “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect” in the nineteenth century.