From the title and cover art, which depicts a Brahman “gooroo” with his foot upon the head of a prostrating “Hindoo,” one might imagine that Spiritual Despots would be about gurus, priests, and the internal authority structures of modern Hinduism. It both is and is not. In large part, the gurus and priests of modern Hinduism are a foil against which J. Barton Scott presents readers with an excellent intellectual history of the complex reform assemblage, defined as “an open-ended network of unstable elements” (p. 90) of critiques against priestcraft and “pope-lila” as instigated by nineteenth-century reformers, both Hindus in India and British imperial critics. This generalized foil is not solely of Scott's invention, but rather reflects his nineteenth-century intellectual interlocutors, who largely critique the despotism of priests and gurus as an antiquated power formation in need of reform rather than engage in ad hominem attacks (with...

You do not currently have access to this content.