Critically examining the discourse of Indo-European scholarship over the past two hundred years, Aryan Idols demonstrates how the interconnected concepts of “Indo-European” and “Aryan” as ethnic categories have been shaped by, and used for, various ideologies.
Stefan Arvidsson traces the evolution of the Aryan idea through the nineteenth century—from its roots in Bible-based classifications and William Jones’s discovery of commonalities among Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek to its use by scholars in fields such as archaeology, anthropology, folklore, comparative religion, and history. Along the way, Arvidsson maps out the changing ways in which Aryans were imagined and relates such shifts to social, historical, and political processes. Considering the developments of the twentieth century, Arvidsson focuses on the adoption of Indo-European scholarship (or pseudoscholarship) by the Nazis and by Fascist Catholics.
A wide-ranging discussion of the intellectual history of the past two centuries, Aryan Idols links the pervasive idea of the Indo-European people to major scientific, philosophical, and political developments of the times, while raising important questions about the nature of scholarship as well.
"This brief review cannot do justice to the many issues that Arvidsson raises--not only about our understanding of what the Indo-European discourse is, but also about why it exists and in what terms and contexts. . . . [The] work exposes prevailing assumptions, documents and summarizes the discourse, and opens provocative new perspectives on the troublesome but perpetually fascinating concept of the Indo-European."