RCVC - Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap

Department of Comparative sciences of culture
Research Region 
Research Language 
Research Methodology 


  1. Participation of the research group in two international symposia The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Its 8th Decade: Fostering Dignity and Equality, Mumbai and Bangalore, 4-7 February 2019, organised by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, Brigham Young University and SACRALS.

  2.  Participation of the research group in international conference Society and Management: Indian culture vis-à-vis Western culture, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India, 7-8 december 2018.

  3. Workshop on the research programme Comparative Science of Cultures, for MBA and PhD students and faculty members, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, India, 7 December 2018.

  4. Joint conference panel of the research group: “Is Our Understanding of Indian Culture the Result of a Dialogue?” Annual Conference of the European Association for the Study of Religion (EASR), KULeuven, 18-21 September 2017.

  5. Three-day seminar on the research programme Comparative Science of Cultures for PhD students and faculty members. University of Pardubice, Czech Republic, 3-6 September 2017.
  6. Workshop Comparative Political Theory and the Question of Secularization12-13 May 2017.

  7. International conference Liberal Education and the Future of the University, co-organized with BMS College of Engineering and India Platform, Bangalore, India, 10-11 June 2016

  8. International Conference, Dharma and Ethics, VIII: Revisiting Vivekananda, co-organized with the SDM Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Humanities and Social Sciences (CIRHS at the SDM PG College, Ujire, India) and the India Platform, hosted by Alva's Educational Foundation, Moodbidri, India, 3-5 June 2016

  9. Book release event, Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularismorganized by Aarohi Research Centre at Rasthrottahana Parishat, Bangalore, 28 May 2016

  10. International Conference Series Rethinking Religion in India, 2008-2012: 4 conferences in Delhi and Mangalore, India, and Pardubice, Czech Republic



The Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap (RCVC, 'Comparative Science of Cultures') emerges from a fundamental question: "What makes a difference between human beings, any difference, into a cultural difference, rather than a social, psychological, biological ... difference?" Current theory formation in the social sciences and humanities does not address this question and often ignores the significance of cultural difference in the study of human beings and societies. Yet, understanding the cultural differences between Europe and Asia is becoming more and more important in a globalized world where Asia is on the rise politically and economically.

This lacuna has led to very problematic descriptions of India, and Asia more generally, in today's social sciences and humanities. Indian culture is supposed to consist of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism; Indian society is said to be constituted by a caste system; "the cow is sacred" and "religion permeates all aspects of life." In the European media, similar stories dominate the reporting about India: it is represented as a country of caste, cows, corruption, and rape. Our research programme suggests that these accounts do not describe Indian culture and society; instead, they describe how Western culture has systematically experienced that culture and society. 

More generally, current theory formation in the social sciences and humanities is a reflection of how Western culture has experienced itself and other cultures. By taking the Western cultural experience as a universal human experience, these disciplines tend to transform all cultures into variations on one model, namely, the basic structure and self-image of Western culture. From this perspective, all cultures are constituted by a religion, world view or belief system; their traditional practices are expressions of this belief system; their ethics revolve around moral norms, rules or virtues; their social life and political domain are regulated by a legal system; their psychologies are driven by beliefs, desires, purposes, etc. In other words, theories in different domains of these sciences share a number of limitations upon their conceptualizations of human beings and societies. These limitations are those of the Western cultural experience. And they also constrain the current descriptions of non-western cultures like those of Asia.

The problems which the research programme seeks to address, then, are the following: How does one get beyond these constraints and develop alternative descriptions of the Western culture and Asian cultures? How can one conceptualize the Indian traditions in a way which shows their characteristic contribution to human knowledge, rather than making them into variants of biblical religion? How could one make sense of cultural differences and different cultures, if they are not variations on one single model of religion, society, law, ethics?  How does our understanding of human beings and societies change, once we see that cultures can differ in different ways?

To address these issues, the research programme takes a unique entry point: the Western characterizations of India (and Asia in general) are approached as oblique reflections on Western cultural experience. That is, we identify the limitations on the Western understanding of human beings and societies by studying the way in which the West has viewed India and other Asian cultures. Once these conceptual limitations or constraints are identified and an alternative description of Western culture comes into being, the research programme allows us to develop alternative descriptions of the Indian culture and its traditions also. These descriptions give a new access to the Indian traditions and make their experiences and insights available for the development of new theories in the human sciences. 

The research group focuses on different domains in its study of the cultural differences between Indian culture and Western culture: law and politics, religion and tradition, music and sound. Within these domains, its research deals with different questions and problems.




Sufiya Pathan

SDM Educational Society