Plagiarism in a column?

BY P Radhakrishnan| IN Opinion | 22/10/2009
Is Neelabh Mishra's write-up--What Caste Is A Nobel?â€"in Outlook plagiarized? Or are both the article and interview cited drawing upon French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's concept of Cultural Capital?
P RADHAKRISHNAN’s letter to the Hoot alleging plagiarism from an interview given by him, and NEELABH MISHRA’s rejoinder.


  The letter                                      The Rejoinder


The write-up What Caste Is A Nobel? by Neelabh Mishra  (Outlookindia.Com, October 26, 2009) is disingenuous and plagiarised for at least two reasons.


One, the author gives the impression as though none other than the author thought about the Brahminical `twist'. Read this Sentence:


"I am surprised how nobody here has yet courted controversy with the Brahminical 'twist' to the Nobel, considering that out of the six Nobel winners of Indian origin, four are Brahmins, of whom three are Tamil Brahmins.'


The fact is that the published a lengthy interview with an me on October 12, 2009 under the title ¿Brahmins dominate all modern professions¿ . It has been picked up by various websites and sections of the media in different parts of the world. At the time of writing this I see as many as 18,900 related hyperlinks on the Internet.


Two, the author feigns ignorance of this interview in the claim"I am surprised how nobody..." and goes on:


"No one will be so facetious as to argue for a Dalit and obc quota in Nobel prizes based on this fact, but some genetic supremacists will latch on to it to insinuate that some communities are congenitally more advanced than others, what with another fact that most Nobel prize winners have been Jews. But it is not genetics, it is cultural capital, which in a hierarchical order is concentrated at the top and is a result of various historical factors and contexts, that explains the apparent correlation between communities and achievement. Cultural capital gets transmitted from generation to generation and over generations, which makes its recipients well-entrenched. Intelligence is distributed across all sections of society, but opportunities are not. So it is with geography. There are plain historical reasons as to why most Nobel winners in India are from the upper castes of Tamil Nadu and Bengal ."


Compare the above paragraph with the following portions of the interview.


"We also see a co-relation between the Nobel Prize and Jews as most of the Nobel Prize winners are from a Jewish background. Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the crucial importance of cultural capital in intellectual achievements; and virtually all the Nobel Prize winners possessed cultural capital.


In one sense, you can use the genes theory -- genetically some groups are advanced. But that may not happen in a hierarchical society, and ours has always been a hierarchical society."


Why do you say that in a hierarchical society, the gene theory won¿t work?

It can only happen randomly. In a hierarchical society, the cultural capital is concentrated at the top. Brahmins are at the summit of the social hierarchy. So, they had all the advantages of society traditionally, though they may not be having the same advantages now.




The sentences above are given in capital letters to highlight that they are also there in the Neelabh Mishra write-up. What a shame! Will Vinod Mehta pay attention to this, publish an explanation and apology, and contain the damage before I take up the issue with the larger print and electronic media?



Dr. P Radhakrishnan doesn't have a copyright over Bourdieu's concept of Cultural Capital. Here's my full reply to his note:


1.    The whole thrust and focus of my article is when will a Dalit from India be capable of winning a Nobel in the light of Obama, a coloured American,getting one, a point not dealt with at all in Mr. Radhakrishnan's interview carried by Rediff.  His interview is mainly about why communities like Tamil Brahmins dominate the list of Nobel Prize winners from India, a point I only refer to in passing in my column while making a subsidiary argument.


2.    I wrote:' I am surprised how nobody here has yet courted controversy with the Brahminical twist to the Nobel….' In this Brahminical refers to an ideology that believes Brahmins are inherently and genetically superior and Dalits and backward castes genetically incapable of excellence, which is what many despisers of quota system believe. Even Dr. Radhakrishnan has argued against the genetic superiority of Brahmins and hence not 'courted controversy', which is what I have said: 'nobody has yet courted controversy with the Brahminical twist…' Moreover, read as a whole my sentence means that no fanatic from the other ideological end has accused the Nobel establishment of a Brahminical bias. It does not mean no one else has noticed that three Tamil Brahmins have been Nobel winners. One should pay attention to the nuances of English language and not rush to misinterpret.


3.    Coming to the most crucial point, Dr.Radhakrishnan cites three sentences about Cultural Capital in an article of 800 words to allege that my write-up is plagiarized. I would like to remind Mr. Radhakrishnan that he does not have a copyright over the concept of Cultural Capital and that it is acquired over and transmitted through generations. This is originally French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu's concept. He first elaborated it in his work written jointly with Jean-Claude Passeron, 'Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction' (1973). In his later work, 'The Forms of Capital'(1986), Bourdieu explored Cultural Capital's relationship with other forms of capital, namely, Economic Capital and Social Capital. He added Symbolic Capital to the list later. Mr. Radhakrishnan has borrowed from Bourdieu but not cited Bourdieu in his interview. Should Mr. Radhakrishnan then be accused of plagiarism? Yet, I would not be foolish enough to do this because Bourdieu's concept of Cultural Capital is so well known that one need not cite him every time one uses it journalistically just as one doesn't cite Einstein every time one refers to the Theory of Relativity or Newton every time one mentions the Laws of Gravitation. Yes, I like many others,including Mr. Radhakrishnan, owe my point about Cultural Capital to Pierre Bourdeau. A journalistic piece's word limit does not often allow for a complete bibliography, set of references and footnotes. Why only Bourdieu and Radhakrishnan, many others would find their echoes in my small opinion piece.












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