In a field still dominated by the St Stephen's mafia and the Doon School diaspora, Mishra is an outsider. Mishra does not lecture the world about South Asia from the sanitised safety of an East Coast campus. Instead, he writes as a man who really knows, from hard experience, the provincial India he writes about.
Okay, agree that Dalrymple genuinely thinks less highly of the Doon school diaspora writing. I guess there may be many such people. Guha says:
[For] it is how a writer tackles his subject that is important, not where he studied or lives.
Indian scholars are more likely to be moved by 'social relevance' in choosing their topic of study and strategies of research. European scholars are by temperament and training more inclined to seek out, and answer, an intellectual puzzle. And scholars based in America are just a little more likely to be driven by fashion. [EPW]
At least two Indian historians of my acquaintance have abandoned empirical research after moving to permanent jobs in US universities. They each wrote a fine work of social history, based on research in a dozen different archives. They have now taken to writing essays based on books ordered from the library. These essays are supposed to be exercises in 'theory'. For the most part, however, they are merely extended literature reviews, parasitic assessments of other people's works according to the winds of theoretical fashion and the canons of political correctness.
Any criticism of the styles of scholarship that run under the rubrics of 'post-structuralism' and 'cultural studies' would expose them to accusations of being 'racist' or 'ethnocentric'. However poorly founded, these accusations, once made, would be deadly in personal as well as political terms. This is doubly unfortunate, because post-structuralism and cultural studies are trends of dubious intellectual worth, and because its south Asian proponents belong overwhelmingly to the upper class.
Guha concludes his EPW article thus:
Judging by what it has produced in the past, [social science research doene in India] is of rather more worth than the self-regarding productions advertised as the intellectual achievements of the south Asian diaspora.