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Tageldin [Shaden M. Tageldin] on. Shaden M. Tageldin is the author of Disarming Words avg rating, 8 ratings, 0 reviews, published. Tageldin unravels the. Author, Tageldin, Shaden M. By Shaden M. Uncommonly good collectible and rare books from uncommonly good booksellers. Books By Shaden M. Most Popular Books. Tageldin is associate professor of cultural studies and comparative Her book, Disarming Words: Empire and the Seductions of Translation in Egypt. Pris: kr. Fri frakt. But after carefully reading his Orientalism, I'm coming to the picked up that theme: Shaden M. Tageldin in Disarming Words and Hala.
Tageldin, Disarming Words, , where this relocation. Main Author: Tageldin, Shaden M. Corporate Author. Shaden Tageldin Literature , surely its obverse—untranslatability—is a ghostwritten word of that decade and a watchword of the next. Tageldin unravels. Tageldin review. Jenine Abboushi. Publication, Berkeley, Calif. Across the Yamuna 7. Indian Literature Abroad 9. Sev- eral key figures in that field—the publisher Ravi Dayal, the writer Nir- mal Verma, the literary scholar Meenakshi Mukherjee—passed away before it was published.
I am grateful to them and to all those repre- sented in these pages who shared their experiences and insights with me. Lawrence Cohen, my advisor at Berkeley, has been with this project from beginning to end, and his support, in too many ways to recount, has been tremendous.
Vasudha Dalmia has been a true mentor to me, and I must have consulted her on every aspect of this book and its publication. The period of revision and further research was made possible when I was a National Science Foundation—funded postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, in the Department of Anthropology, from to , and then by a second postdoctoral fellowship in the Com- mittee on Global Thought in —7. I thank Nick Dirks, Sherry Ort- ner, Brink Messick, Kate Wittenberg, Partha Chatterjee, and Akeel Bilgrami for providing the intellectual support and institutional space that made my time there so productive and enjoyable.
Teaching in India for the past two years has been a wonderful expe- rience and has deepened my understanding of the issues of place and language that are central to this book. I thank my students, as well as V. The Sahitya Akademi was one of my research sites, but it also became a place where I sat and wrote. I thank the staff of the library there and especially S.
I feel lucky to be part of the FlashPoints series and am grateful to the editorial board for its enthusiastic support of the manuscript from the start.
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I also thank my two anonymous reviewers for their excellent suggestions for revision. The continual support of family and friends has strengthened and, in many cases, made possible this work. Narayanan in Chennai. Meanwhile, Ambika delights as we anticipate which language her first words will be in. Prologue The Slush Pile In the mids, working as a part-time editorial assistant at Granta in London, I was, for a very short time, in charge of the slush pile.
The pile consisted mostly of short stories that had been sent in to the maga- zine; they came unsolicited and without representation by a literary agent. The submissions largely came from the United States and Britain but also from places like Bangladesh, Canada, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Singapore—together sometimes referred to as the British Com- monwealth or, lately, the Anglophone world.
I found myself reading stamps and return addresses as carefully as the stories and concluded that they made a story of their own. I read solicited manuscripts, too, most of which came from first- time American and British writers, all of whom had agents. But it is the slush pile I was most impressed by, the collective bulk of it, lying in stacks that lined one side of the office. On several Saturdays I was asked to come in to read through it, that immovable feast.
I was given few formal instructions about what to do, but I knew I was supposed to make the pile smaller, if for no other reason than to create room for the new submissions that were continually streaming in. Someone gave me a stack of little mimeographed rejection slips. It was assumed that if I came across a gem I would pass it on to the editor. The pile offered an array of Englishes, but it also of- fered an array of literary representations from vastly different societ- ies. It seemed too simple to think of this literary democracy that was the slush pile as evidence of a vibrant Commonwealth or Anglophone world of letters.
Instead, I started to think about what was behind some of this English, such as the other languages in its midst, and the realms of literary production in different parts of the world. In the case of India, whose cultural and political history I had been studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies SOAS , English was just one of more than a dozen important literary languages with long histories of their own, including Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, and Bengali, to name a hefty handful. Where, I wondered, did literature begin? In a place?
In a language? Over that year, I started to see in concrete terms how publishing was about the politics of lan- guage and location. I also saw in the offerings of the slush pile a politics of desire. It made me consider what literature was before agents and publication, before texts are made great and become known.
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I became increasingly curious about the writers of these submissions themselves and how they might live in a non-English milieu or a multilingual one, yet write in English, and sometimes desire to be published abroad. Did their stories have to be told in English? Or was it just that the desire to be published inter- nationally was very strong? Was what I was seeing in the slush pile the old Naipaulian quest, writers desperate to connect to a bigger, wider, better literary world, writers whose very sense of self and being in the world depended on it?
Was it not possible to be a writer at home? Or was the very meaning of writing in English still, after years of supposed independence, to aim for London? Some of these questions have been at the center of postcolonial studies for many years. It has largely been the story of how writers of colonized or formerly colonized nations re- appropriated European colonial languages—English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese—as a form of political resistance and cultural critique.
This paradigm forged new understandings of the nature of knowledge, culture, and power in diverse colonial and postcolonial contexts. It also became a way to begin to understand the neocolonial world in which we live. I believe this premise, based as it is on a single model of resistance, lim- its our understanding of how colonial languages become indigenized and begin to create their own circuits of knowledge and power.
Part of the problem with the postcolonial paradigm is that it has become so linked with issues of migration and transnationalism that the focus has remained on and in many respects has strengthened an East-West dialectic. What, I wondered, had happened and was happening to Eng- lish in India after colonization? How and why did it sustain itself as an Indian language, and to what extent was it part of Indian cultural life? These questions are pertinent not only to the story of English in India, but to the disparate processes of the globalization of English happening around the world.
I became convinced that I would not find the answers only by read- ing and analyzing Indian English texts or by comparing them to other bodies of literature. The texts mattered, but so, I started to believe, did the place from which the writing emerged. For one, I needed more tools that would enable me to see—literally—the ground of literature. As a result, I turned to anthropology as a way to question the role of lan- guage in colonial discourse, the relationship between history and eth- nography, and eventually between language and textual production.
To me this novel is serious literary fiction, and I am happy to hear that it is also selling well.
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A paperback copy of the book is lying face up on the ground with other novels, magazines, travel guides, and histories about India. Whether for tourists or locals, in Delhi the roadside compulsion to define India is strong. The bookshops here on Bungalow Road mostly sell English-lan- guage textbooks. One shop in the row sells spiritual texts and guides; it has the most floor space and the fewest customers.
The pavements are reserved for best-sellers. Some are re-bound photocopies selling for half the price of the published ver- sions. The print is faded, but you can still read it.
Disarming Words By Shaden M Tageldin
The pavement bookseller explains to me in Hindi that when Am- itabh Bachchan asked who the author of Difficult Daughters was, as a trivia question on Kaun Banega Crorepati? Who Wants to Be a Mil- lionaire? The hardcover features a curtained window on the facade of a house with a telephone wire crossing the foreground, all overlaid in mustard hues. I told Kapur how I thought the image perfectly captured the essence of the novel, since the reader gets to pull aside that curtain and witness the intimate lives of a joint family in an everyday Delhi milieu, the old neighbor- hood of Karol Bagh.
It appealed to me naturally! The paper- back version had a shinier look: its cover featured a blurred figure of a woman in a colorful sari with a large bunch of keys tied to her waist, as is the custom of the female head of household in the kind of joint family being depicted in the novel; another woman looms in the background, suggesting intrigue and potential conflict.
Kapur was happy to have more readers, but she was also hoping the new cover would not dimin- ish the seriousness of the work. We returned to Amitabh Bachchan, and Kapur told me she had been at home watching the show with her family the night the question was asked. She seemed amused by it, even if reluctant to associate her works with a distinctly nonliterary media hype. That the show was in Hindi but also offered up elements of Indian English culture was no surprise, as the worlds of Hindi and English constantly over- lap. On the one hand, the urban middle classes have come to define their own identities partly through their associa- tion with the English language; English has become more integral to middle-class identity in the past few decades and has led to the rise of a sizable middle-class readership for English-language publications.
On the other hand, the desire for the language is greatly expanding as more people further down the class and caste hierarchies see the pos- sibility of adding it, in some form, to their social profiles. What has changed for everyone is that the things people feel they should or have to know—cultural information, trends, and trivia—are crossing the linguistic divide like never before. They sell paperbacks and glossy magazines, as well as balloons, roses, tissue boxes, and kitchen towels. The boy, it turns out, gives most of his money to his parents, and with the encouragement of a local nongovernmental organization is learning the Hindi alphabet on some afternoons under the flyover.
The legendary social divides in Indian soci- ety—of caste, class, gender, religion, and, perhaps most significant, urban versus rural belonging—work in tandem with linguistic divides. To speak of urban elites is to refer to the class of people the rich, the upper middle class, and many sectors of the middle classes, who also tend to be upper caste who are educated from primary school onward with English as their medium of instruction. The rest of India, about 80 percent of Indians have, until recently, tended to be educated in gov- ernment schools that may teach English as a subject but whose medium of instruction is in one of the thirteen other official state languages.
And it is in fact what raises the stakes of literary debate in the Indian context. English is part of the social scene, but the bulk of conversations and sentiments of fictional char- acters would in reality take place not in English but in one or more of the other Indian languages. More important, this disjuncture is indica- tive of a larger schism in Indian society that has to do not only with language as it is spoken but with the disparate thought-worlds and hierarchies of language that saturate everyday life.
The linguistic divide is sometimes quite stark, especially where poverty and the lack of ac- cess to education mark its parameters. Kumar was from Jaunpur, a small city in Uttar Pradesh the largest state in India and part of the Hindi heartland , and though he studied English as one of his subjects until the tenth standard, his medium of instruction was Hindi. The issue is not merely one of who speaks English and who does not, but is more substantially about a cultural divide based on the kinds of English that people learn, speak, and write, depending on their access to different levels and kinds of education.
There was a strange contradiction, which always had to be negotiated. This familiarity with and expo- sure to English resides alongside the mother tongues, hence English is at the heart of many social changes, yet exists within the reality and idea of the Hindi heartland.
More and more Indians know and aspire to learn English, but the language marks a social, economic, and at times cultural divide that most are unable to cross. Its premise is that English has taken on a more contentious and more varied role in Indian society than it did during the period of British colonial rule, which formally ended in After independence, I argue, colonial binaries withered away, as English became a mediator between other Indian languages.
English often takes on the role of mediator because of its seeming neutrality, a position that has a logic and new politics of its own. Politically, English becomes less polarizing even as it remains a clear marker—a dividing line really—of certain kinds of elite privilege. Knowing English fluently provides innumerable social and economic advantages, but—and this is key—it always exists alongside Hindi or other Indian languages. I contend that it is the qualities that different languages impart, at times manifesting themselves as veritable ideologies relating to caste, class, gender, and other social and political identities, that become important in a multilingual context, qualities that highlight or detract from vari- ous aspects of the identity of an individual, an institution, a commu- nity, or even a state.
It is for this reason that an inquiry into the English language in India can never only be a story of numbers or of discernible public spheres. Most crucially, since English in Indian society is no longer a language of colonization, it must be viewed in the context of other Indian languages in order to grasp the profound effects of linguistic identity on modern Indian life.
It is not enough to say that English is a language of privilege, which it is, among other things. English is also a language of globalization, but this fact alone does not tell us very much without delving into the specificities of place, history, and present circumstance. What I find remarkable is not that Indians write, publish, and critique in the language of the former colonizer but that they do so in an English that has been infused with the social and political consequences of its own indigenization. I also mean booksellers, readers, critics, and others who create meaning in and around texts once they are in the public domain.
To write about these figures, con- nected directly and indirectly to the production of literary texts and the social life of those texts, is to do more than contextualize or even historicize the literary text at hand. By combining textual and ethno- graphic analysis, this book critically evaluates the problem and prom- ise of the chasm between social reality and literary representation.
It mines the paradoxes within this chasm. Thus, literary production is not only about the creation of literary texts but also about the produc- tion of social identities and the differences between them. It is in this sense that the anthropology of literature, in the way I have developed it, offers a new analytical frame. Thus, my engagement with English in India is also an engagement with English in the world, that is to say, how English mediates a set of social and linguistic hierarchies not only in India but also globally.
This project is, in many respects, a re- sponse to the phenomenon of Indian fiction in English that has swept the English-reading public and its marketplace around the globe since the s. This phenomenon has been mostly celebrated outside In- dia; within India the response has been more ambivalent and varied, largely because of the homegrown politics of language that frame this international attention.
The broadest aim of this book is to understand how this debate looks from the Indian side and to delve into the social factors and historical circumstances that have shaped it. Literary fiction is a modern artistic and cultural form, replete with social values and symbolic meanings. I contend that these values and meanings created in turn generate their own social reality and that this reality has become central to debates about what is deemed culturally and linguistically authentic.
I present different aspects of the authentic- ity question in the chapters that follow, showing it to be an elastic, ever- changing set of principles, one that drives debate and action forward in unlikely ways. A principal aim of this book is to show how the idea of cultural authenticity is a political variable—rather than a cultural truth—that comes into play depending on particular social and liter- ary circumstances. These circumstances most often hinge on issues of caste, class, and gender—that is to say, markers of identity formation that have been central to the shifting, unstable articulation of modern Indian selves.
English, and the way it is positioned among the other Indian languages, does not represent a fixed pole but rather serves to change political and literary alliances among classes and castes, often in surprising ways. Yet the seeds of cultural debate—essentially about the relationship between literature and society—are planted here. It is not, however, that authors writing in other Indian languages repre- sent monolingual worlds in their novels either.
Where there is Hindi, for instance, and its numerous dialects, there might be Punjabi and Bengali too. Yet the literary divide among these languages—social, cultural, and linguistic—would certainly be smaller. There are more similarities between Bengali and Hindi or Hindi and Punjabi than there are between English and any of these languages. North Indian languages share Sanskrit and Persian-based vocabularies, a fact that distinguishes them as a whole from English. For English, which has long symbolized modernity, its shifting lines of exclusivity create a situation whereby it commands popular recognition as a sign and symbol while largely being an instru- ment of the elite.
All writing and art for that matter is a repre- sentation of reality, even when the language of the text matches the language of the street. As a result, English can at times seem like it is everywhere and nowhere. Yet, I had two other languages at home, languages I spoke and lived my daily life in. Living in a small town in a middle-class family, life was, in fact, lived mainly in Kannada; English came into the picture only for certain purposes and at certain times.
My readers were people who read English, but lived their personal and emotional lives, like I did, in their own languages. She is also informed by the thought-worlds of those languages and that knowledge, and those realities become part of her literary fiction. What is also significant for Deshpande is that her audience is chiefly based in India. Hers is not a Western-based readership but one composed of fellow Indians who have a relationship to the English language similar to hers.
Some would say she is less successful because she is not known abroad, while oth- ers claim she has a more organic and grounded relationship to things Indian, even though she writes in English. It is often these gradations of alleged insider- and outsider-ness that animate Indian cultural debates. An Indian author may write in Eng- lish, but then, what is her perceived proximity to other languages, and by implication, to other social worlds and ways of thinking? It is no longer a question whether English is an Indian lan- guage; what is at issue is the moral dimension of its use and position.
After introductions over tea and biscuits in the foyer, we moved to a small auditorium and sat in clusters in the front center sec- tion. The two leaders of the group, an older man with short white hair and a woman in her late forties, sat up front facing the small group. The hosts then alternated reading from parts of the beginning of the novel to give the flavor of the text. Written as a series of long letters from the protagonist, Balram Halwai, to the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, they explained, the novel begins: Mr Premier, Sir.
Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English. My ex-employer the late Mr. In fact, each time when great men like you visit our country I say it. Not that I have anything against great men. In my way, sir, I consider myself one of your kind. But whenever I see our prime minister and his distinguished sidekicks drive to the airport in black cars and get out and do namastes before you in front of a TV camera and tell you about how moral and saintly India is, I have to say that thing in English.
They continued for a few pages and then came to another section: I am talking of a place in India, at least a third of the country, a fertile place, full of rice fields and wheat fields and ponds in the middle of those fields choked with lotuses and water lilies, and water buffaloes wading through the ponds and chewing on the lotuses and lilies. Those who live in this place call it the Darkness. The ocean brings light to my country.
Every place on the map of India near the ocean is well-off. But the river brings darkness to India—the black river. Some said that his use of English did not convey the pain of the oppressed but mocked them by making them sound like American teenagers. In what is essentially an amoral morality tale, the servant-driver Balram eventually kills his rich employer, absconds with a bag of cash, and starts anew as an entrepreneur in Bangalore. He is never caught, nor does he feel remorse, he tells us, even with the knowledge that his extended family in his village would have surely been killed as punish- ment for his own deed.
The crux of the book club debate that evening—for it turned into a debate—was whether the novel revealed something true about the perpetual state of unease between the haves and have-nots in Delhi or whether it was merely sensationalistic. And if it was sensationalistic, as three quarters of the people in attendance seemed to think, why did it win the Booker? This award was given by a Western agency after all. Several people raised their hands, and a lively discussion ensued. One woman started to explain that ever since moving to Delhi she had felt under threat and spoke of how her home had been burgled twice, coinciding with the marriage of each of her daughters.
These are the issues—the competing values, ideologies, and identities associated with language—that I explore in the context of literary pro- duction today. Some of the languages of the subcontinent. English great prestige in the Indian context, while its lack of regional specificity within India often marks it as being culturally inauthentic.
It is this geography that at once confirms and marginalizes the place of each language in its regional context. And it is this linguistic geography that has inadvertently impinged on many re- gional and national literary and cultural debates. It may be true, as Pascale Casanova has written, that language is the major component of literary capital, but it is perhaps most vital to understand how the nature of that capital changes in different geographic contexts.
Meanwhile, Hindi was the most widely spoken language in India, even if its speakers were concentrated in the North. It is not that the members of the commission did not see the value of English, especially in the realms of science and technology, and the way in which India had benefited and would continue to do so by us- ing the language. In fact, there were as many proponents of keeping English as the official language of the union as there were those who wanted to switch to Hindi.
Hindi became a cause and a symbol of national unity, but the language debates pointed to a larger malaise: the Indian languages in general had languished under colonial rule. Where English had previously forged a pan-Indian con- sciousness, credited with enabling a countrywide nationalist leader- ship to orchestrate the ousting of the British, Hindi would now take over and spread.
To this end, the Ministry of Education was charged with creating a new sci- entific vocabulary in Hindi, organizing the massive translation of administrative documents, teacher training, correspondence courses for Indians in non-Hindi regions, subsidies to Hindi publishers and prizes to their authors, and the elaborate distribution of Hindi books to non-Hindi states, schools, colleges, and libraries.
Beyond the rhetoric and debates, what was being called for was nothing less than a linguistic revolution. Instead, the language became even more entrenched in public life and the change-over to Hindi never happened. At the same time, governmental programs to promote Hindi have had long-lasting effects on institutions such as publishing houses and cultural bodies such as the Sahitya Akademi. So, for instance, although Marathi is the mother tongue of nearly three quarters of those living in the western state of Maharashtra, about 8 percent of Maharashtri- ans count Hindi as their mother tongue and a little less than 8 percent Urdu.
For example, there are close to 80 million Hindi speakers in the state of Bihar alone, 74 million Telugu speakers largely in the state of Andhra Pradesh , and 83 million Bengali speakers, mostly in West Bengal. In the face of globalized English literary production and the prominence of Indian English writing, the regional has to some extent become a diminutive. Being confined to a limited geographic space has in many respects come to restrict the stature of bhasha liter- ary texts when placed side by side with Indian English ones, as they increasingly and inevitably are.
It had not always been this way. When there were fewer Indians writing in English, in the s, s, and s, for instance, these writers e. Narayan, and Raja Rao were thought to be writing against the grain. They were thusly perceived in part because they were not taken as seriously by the English literary establishment based, naturally, in London. Yet they were also not taken as seriously in India, since at this time English was not an Indian language in the way it is today.
The change in the relationship between English and bhasha litera- tures is partly due to the shift in how Indian English writing has been received and published abroad, a dynamic that, I argue in chapter 8 , generates a new politics of place. Yet Indian literature in English also has more validity and social resonance because of a thriving Indian English culture in India itself. This power derives not only from the numerical strength of each language but also from its perceived cultural worth. They, and their elites, vied for the role of official language ra- jbhasha of the union as well as for the unofficial role as link language.
As a result, English and Hindi are in some respects competing national languages. What we see in the relationship between English and Hindi is a dovetailing of the cultural and the political. Hindi is not only a regional language but also, by virtue of being the most widely spoken Indian language, a national language. The major south Indian languages—Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam—are Dravidian based and use differ- ent scripts from each other and from the Indo-European languages of the North.
This north-south linguistic divide is as relevant to contem- porary Indian language politics as the global promises and pretensions of English. Yet English is also implicated in this divide. In , during colonial rule, the British made English the language of government replacing Persian , and knowing English became necessary to obtain coveted government jobs, includ- ing those in the railways and the police force.
Over a century later, if Hindi were to replace English at the national level in post-indepen- dence India, access to government jobs would require knowing Hindi instead. If Hindi was to become the national language, as leaders such as Mohandas K. Gandhi had fervently hoped and planned, the practical consequence would be that south Indians would all of a sudden be at a disadvantage.
For educated, largely Brahmin or other upper-caste south Indians, English was already the language of social advancement and cultural comfort. It did not threaten their regional linguistic identities precisely because it was not the language of another Indian region; yet it allowed them a place to assert themselves on an equal footing with English-educated north Indians and to excel at the national level.
For non-Brahmins the overwhelming majority in Tamilnadu, for instance, Hindi was threatening on at least two accounts: first, it drew away from education in Tamil and represented Sanskrit-based north Indian cultural hegemony; and second, if they had to learn a sec- ond language, they wanted it to be English, which they saw as a world language and one that Brahmins had already had the opportunity to master.
English thus became more deeply entrenched in the postcolonial government bureaucracy and also became the official lan- guage of higher education. The Official Languages Act of allowed for the continued use alongside Hindi, even after the fifteen-year phas- ing out period that was to come to an end in In , when there were more attempts to institute Hindi alone, more protests in the South and elsewhere ensued. Despite its pan-Indian pose, English comes with ready-made restraints. Hindi is not only the language of the home, the street, and popular culture film, radio, tele- vision, pulp fiction, comics, music, theater in north India but also the language of conversation and asides in the very spaces where English is supposedly the most entrenched: government halls and university campuses.
The very fact that political constituencies may be defined in terms of language of course means that these constituencies themselves may be in flux. Contemporary language politics in fact hinges on the politics of both caste and class. English, in the meantime, is signified less and less as a colonial remnant and more as a contemporary global attribute. In fact, some see the language as the most feasible and direct method of social empowerment. In one fell swoop arguments such as his threaten the Hindu vote bank, one that is dependent on lower-caste and Dalit voters.
The real question has become whether or not government schools, which are administered by each state, will offer English-medium education and not just English as one among many subjects. What may seem linguistically expedient to some is a fierce cultural debate for others. These proponents tend to be from the ranks of the cultural and political elite, who see language as a key associative symbol in consolidating vote banks; the mother tongues are to be defended from everything from urban elites to the forces of globalization.
Most centrally, perhaps, is the notion of what the mother tongues are in the first place. With the standardization of grammar, a more Sanskritized vocabulary, and the choice of script, the bhashas as modern, written languages are also expressions of upper- caste culture. Its neutrality is premised on more direct access to power, one that bypasses more traditional or engrained social boundaries. Ilaiah and other activists also point out that those same mother tongue pro- ponents, not to mention many mother-tongue-loving politicians who see Dalits as being essential for their own Hindu vote banks, make sure to send their own children to private English-medium schools.
He wonders why in the past six decades of Indian independence the demand for government-sponsored education in the language has not flourished. In line with this cause is what many see as his audacious valorization of Thomas B. Macaulay as a kind of saint for the oppressed Dalits. It is clear, however, that the idea of English education as being the sole provenance of the elite is changing.
For these reasons and others, thinking about English solely as a postcolonial language fails to capture the complexity of the distinc- tions associated with language in India today. Even in Delhi, where the architectural and gov- ernmental remnants of the British Raj are most obvious, English is no longer a postcolonial language.
Instead, as I argue throughout, it is a mediator in a variety of cultural and political realms. Recog- nizing Delhi as the site of the major publishing houses in English and Hindi first enabled me to see the city as a literary field. While my research took me to other places and people in those places, it always brought me back to Delhi.
At the same time, this book is not a case study of literary production in Delhi; rather it views questions through Delhi and its institutions. My inquiry began by focusing on the city as the publishing center for Hindi and English, the two most published languages in India. On the roadside the connection between publishers, distributors, and con- sumers seemed very direct. I would see the small publishing houses on Ansari Road just within the walls of Old Delhi and often buy books directly from them.
This exploration led me to the Hindi publishers Raj- kamal Prakashan and Vani Prakashan, with informal chats leading to longer interviews. It was the artisanal bent of these publishers, and also of the English publisher Ravi Dayal, that I found most interesting. They were small operations, yet pioneering ones that had become major cul- tural institutions. The life histories of the publishers themselves—how they came to publishing, how they related to the various languages they spoke, how the publishing endeavor itself was a way of imagining post- colonial India—said much about Hindi and English from the decades just after Indian independence to the cultural changes that economic liberalization brought from the s onward.
I saw that there was a larger significance to Delhi being the center of publishing of these two languages in particular since they are competing national languages. Furthermore, as I soon discovered, other languages—Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, for instance—figure prominently in the story of both Hindi and English.
In this latter case the relationship between Hindi and the other Indian languages and English and the other Indian languages comes into sharp relief. In part, my argument is that what is produced not only books but also ideas, policies, attitudes, experiences, and discourses in Delhi, by virtue of its position as the former colonial capital and current, increasingly global- izing cultural capital of India, frames and influences debates regard- ing other Indian languages in their respective regions.
However, rather than merely finding a hegemonic Delhi-centric discourse, what I came to see were its obstinacies, fissures, and inconsistencies, spurring me on to unravel what I saw as the decentering politics of identity, language, nationhood, regionalism, and globalization. Delhi is the place where many writers from regional centers come to work and live, so the interaction between region and nation also plays out in the everyday life of the city and its institutions.
Several of the figures I engage with throughout this book come from language back- grounds other than Hindi e. Delhi has, not surprisingly, played a dominant role in defining the parameters of national culture, yet these definitions are more often than not contested in regional milieus. This book explores what is at stake in some of these contestations by posit- ing Delhi not only as a site of literary production but also as a producer of cultural meaning. People like to say that Delhi has no literary culture of its own. This perception is due in part to the migration of Punjabis and their lan- guage to the city at the time of partition, in The language on the street changed forever, as, to the chagrin of many, you now hear a mix of Hindi and Punjabi.
Yet the city has the largest concentration of Hindi writers and publishers. Though Delhi is the geographic center of the Hindi belt, where many Hindi writers, publishers, academics, and other elites live, it is not the only cultural center of Hindi. Centers of Hindi culture are also to be found in other places in the Hindi belt, places where Hindi is spoken without as much English or Punjabi , where fewer people speak English fluently, and where the daily culture is saturated with Hindi rather than a mix of Hindi and English.
Most of these Hindi centers—such as Allahabad and Varanasi—are in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which borders Delhi and is the most populous state in India. And in Madhya Pradesh, it is the city of Bhopal that is a cultural center for many Hindi novelists and poets. My reading of Delhi, my conversations with publishers, writers, and others, and my analysis of texts is meant to suggest how the meanings of a language, from the everyday to the ideological, emerge from the places in which it is located and lived through.
In the chapters that follow I document subjective relationships peo- ple have to language and their own linguistic histories. I locate them in particular places and in different paradigms, including the local, national, regional, and global. This book is not a survey of all I saw and everyone I met but instead is organized around key figures and places in the literary landscape that I believe encapsulate the most im- portant features, moments, and problems that have defined Indian lit- erary life since the early s.
Each chapter moves across the literary field, from text to institution to publisher to author or translator, highlighting and expanding on key ethnographic moments and milieus. My approach is not only a method but also a vision of how to understand English in India and the relationship between literature and politics in the world more generally. At first I relied on newspaper listings for cultural events, crunched in extra small type at the bottom of pages in news- papers such as the Times of India, Hindustan Times in Hindi and English , and The Hindu.
Then, as I got to know people, I was invited to events or often just had a sense of where to show up or whom to call. He was right in terms of—and this is what Mishra emphasized—the quality and standards of writing, editing, reviewing, and publishing that one found elsewhere and were essential to creating an informed reading public leading to that somewhat elusive scene.
Yet my sense was that there was something to be found and discerned, even if it might not look the same, or feel the same, as it did elsewhere. I started to see English in relation to the bhashas, especially when listening to writers who inhabited multiple worlds, such as Gagan Gill, Nirmal Verma, K. Satchidanandan, Kiran Nagarkar, and Geetanjali Shree. And when I had conversations with publishers such as Ashok Maheshwari and Ravi Dayal, who offered their own linguistic ethnographies of the city, a map of the literary field began to emerge. As I connected my knowl- edge of texts to places and people, I began not only to read differently but also to see how a variety of literary practitioners were connected to each other and to recurring notions, realities, and moralities of place.
Most of all, I started to see how different languages stood for differ- ent things to different people and what was being created emotionally, intellectually, and politically—on the page, in their lives, and in soci- ety—because of it. The more research I did, the more my methods adapted to what I was seeing and listening to and the more I saw how language ideolo- gies exist not only in political realms but in everyday life as well.
Literature reflects and represents, but it is also produced and consumed under particular social and political conditions. An ethnographic ap- proach emphasizes the connection between literary analysis and the meaning of everyday life, even as it interrogates and unravels it. How- ever, the point is not merely to juxtapose the methods of ethnogra- phy and literary analysis for some kind of layering effect, interpreta- tion upon interpretation.
I use the insights gleaned from one practice or realm to question and inform the analysis of an- other. It is this intercutting, a practice that emerged from my own expe- rience of research, that is central to the critical perspective I introduce in the pages that follow. It was always summer, and we spent the afternoons under the fan.
My cousins and I would quiz each other over world geography, they with their British-inflected accents and spellings, me with my wide American syllables. By early evening one of my uncles would show up with a bag of warm samosas and a few bottles of sweet, sizzling Thums Up. Later, another uncle would whiz me around on his scooter to the market. He would get a paan, and I would stand next to him and in- variably be approached by street children for a rupee coin.
Once on the outskirts of the city where partition-era refugees bought government-subsidized plots of land, today South Extension is a con- gested, central, and upscale residential area and shopping hub. Over the years I have watched as the area has become emblematic of the new New Delhi, surrounded by flyovers, jammed with cars, and home to an array of Indian and multinational shops. Land prices have skyrocketed, and today the horseshoe-shaped market looks like a car dealership, its mass of metal gleaming under the sun.
I argue that it is precisely how English becomes indigenized and com- promised in specific instances and discrete contexts that will come to characterize the language and its eventual role as mediator. English was accepted, by necessity, in the political realm because it allowed a pan-Indian movement, one that was at first merely critical of British rule and then eventually anti-British, to take shape. On the other hand, it is not that English came to represent a national consciousness in any holistic sense but rather that the language created a new set of compromises, both emotional and ideological.
In the British colonial government in India passed the Vernacular Press Act, which allowed legal censorship of the Indian press. English, of course, was not a vernacular language, and, in this case, publishing in English turned out to be a safe zone for Indians. The Brit- ish were not willing to censor the English-language press, among which Amrita Bazar Patrika could now be counted, since doing so would go against their own notions of free speech.
In line with their liberal val- ues, freedom of the English-language press was paramount. That the editors of Amrita Bazar Patrika switched from publishing in Bengali to publishing in English suggested an attempt to alter the language-knowledge-power equation to their advantage. There was a social and political cost to the Indian editors, who in a move to retain their right to publish, had to turn their Bengali newspaper into an English-language one.
It is this kind of pro- cess that created a wedge between Indian English-speaking elites and Indians who did not have English, a wedge that would create its own set of problems for the subsequent nationalist movement. And yet if English was seen as the language of whites alone, this was beginning to change. In a column that appeared in English on August 25, , in the consciousness-rais- ing journal Harijan, Mohandas K. This line of reasoning, of course, required a definition of what constituted Indian civilization. Gandhi saw his critique of English in India as a critique of the class of people in India and those abroad, such as the Indian expats in London whom he had met who spoke English and claimed to represent the nation.
Despite the fact that English may have been one of the factors lead- ing to the very creation of the first pan-Indian national organization, in the form of the Indian National Congress, established in , Gan- dhi saw English as another example of what divided Indians and ar- gued that it obstructed real freedom, or swaraj self-rule.
To give millions a knowledge of English is to enslave them. The foundation that Macaulay laid of education has enslaved us. I do not suggest that he had any such intention, but that has been the result. Is it not a sad commentary that we should have to speak of Home Rule in a foreign tongue? Is it not a most painful thing that, if I want to go to a court of justice, I must employ the English language as a medium; that, when I become a barrister, I may not speak my mother-tongue, and that someone else should have to translate to me from my own language?
Is not this abso- lutely absurd? Is it not a sign of slavery? Am I to blame the English for it or myself? It is we, the English-knowing men, that have enslaved India. The curse of the nation will rest not upon the English but upon us. Gandhi saw it as an impediment to the winning of independence and self-government. How could Indians come to know themselves in English?
To be sure, Gandhi did not want to imagine an inde- pendent India where English was still entrenched. But even if English had its place during colonial rule, that place would have to change after independence had been won. At the same time, his own strategic uses of English, Gujarati, and Hindi, depending on whom he was addressing or in which form and genre he was writing, were in some respects a precursor to how issues of lan- guage in post-independence India would unfold.
This shift is not wholesale; instead, as I will show, English comes to take on a mediating role. This relationship has to do with the social locations of language—of Urdu, Hindi, and English—and the conflicts that arise therein. Both novels happen to be classics, although that is not why I write about them. Rather, I was struck by the resonances— relating to language, genre, and narrative—between them as I thought about the corpus of writing in English by Indians as a whole. This resonance tells a story about the temporal and political disjuncture be- tween the colonial and the postcolonial and relays a social and cultural narrative of acclimatization.
English becomes a way for Indians to reflect on their own society and to speak to different publics but also, most crucially perhaps, to assess the other Indian languages in its midst. Forty-four years later, Anita Desai wrote another novel about the demise of Urdu; In Custody recounts the tale of a Hindi and Hindu lecturer from the provinces who comes to Old Delhi to find and interview one of the last great Urdu poets.
Read one after the other, the two novels create a surprising narrative of their own. This narrative is not a straightforward sociology or history of the city of Delhi but instead has to do with the kinds of artifice being created by each author. It is also a narrative whose resonance is felt pre- cisely because of the gap in time between the writing of the two texts. Both tales highlight a disjuncture in terms of language and of genre, whereby the form of the novel is summoned to explain, as it were, the poetic.
Both novels tell tales of how po- etry is romanticized, comically and tragically, and how it is ultimately squashed by a less forgiving, prose-dominant world. The lament for language is also a lament for genre. Ali —94 was part of an earlier generation of Indian English writers, those whose literary consciousness was formed during the colo- nial period. His novel employs the English language to tell Britons of the emotional toll on their colonial subjects in a language they will not only understand, but uncannily recognize, as it describes a foreign city they themselves have come to dominate.
Desai b. She came of age just after Indian independence but is usually not included in the post-Rushdie Indian fiction boom. The protagonist changes from an Urduwallah to a Hindiwallah; Delhi is still the capital but is no longer ruled by the British; most important, the population and character of Delhi have changed considerably after the partition of In an attempt to locate Ali and Desai on the same map but then chart the distance between them, I will illus- trate the shift from one kind of English to another, a movement that illuminates both the fact of Indian independence from the British and the complicated legacy of the social and linguistic upheavals of the par- tition of the Indian subcontinent.
As a result, In Custody may be read as a satirical coda to Twilight in Delhi and an index of how English has gone from dominator to the mediator of other Indian languages in the postcolonial era. Ali admits that he must disavow Urdu in order to highlight Urdu, a move that may appear to us today as a classic postcolonial maneuver. His novel writing begins with self-con- sciousness about the very language in which he chooses to write.
And yet, while there is a certain utility in his decision to write in English, his use of the language also leaves a deep literary impression: it marks the very death of Urdu in Delhi that it laments. Twilight in Delhi chronicles the decline of Urdu culture in the face of colonial infringements on city space and lifestyles. The novel is an elegy to a Muslim cultural sensibility that by the early twentieth cen- tury is inextricably linked to the Urdu language but must now adapt to the new spaces of British-inspired rationality.
It should be emphasized that until the early twentieth century the core and political heart of Delhi had always been Old Delhi, the Old City, or Shahjahanabad, as it is still sometimes called. The British reorganization of Delhi, then, is seen as both an assault and containment of this core of the city and the culture within it, both of which over time will become increasingly peripheral. At the start of the novel British authorities are implementing a num- ber of changes to the urban landscape and infrastructure: the removal of native trees, the widening of streets into boulevards, new sewage systems.
Changes in urban form are accompanied by the pomp and circumstance of the public coronation of George V and the grand ar- chitectural constructions of what will come to be called New Delhi. But no king lives there today, and the poets are feeling the lack of patronage; and the old inhabitants, though still alive, have lost their pride and grandeur under a foreign yoke. The narrator dwells on what was, but even more powerfully, the tone of the novel is such that the reader continually feels as if something is still being taken away.
Lament is not a leftover sentiment but some- thing that seeps from the cracks in the soon to be demolished city walls. These descriptions of early-twentieth-century Delhi are paralleled with flashbacks to the humiliations that Muslims experienced at the hands of the British in the Mutiny and the First War of Indian Independence. The narrator creates a continuum between these two historical moments to fashion his contemporary despair. The la- ment begins in and is literally cemented when the British create a new colonial capital that will be New Delhi.
Old Delhi, meanwhile, is home to the historic Muslim quarters of the city, especially in the ad- joining by-lanes of the Jama Masjid. This religious containment is mir- rored in the Urdu language. The loss of language as lived in the city is the loss of an entire world. His dislocation goes beyond the colonizing presence of the British; it is indicative of a sea of cultural changes that are occur- ring within his own family and in his own neighborhood. Further, this dislocation is a mirroring of the linguistic dislocation in the city itself.
It comes at a time when the political distinctions and agendas of Hin- dus and Muslims under colonial rule have grown, and the shared north Indian language of Hindustani has split into a Sanskritized Hindi and Persianized Urdu. In narrative terms, the loss of Urdu culture and its replacement by a crass modernity introduced by the English and their language is most powerfully relayed as a classic generational struggle between father and son. I will have no aping of the Farangis in my house.
Throw them away! When, three quarters of the way into the novel, Asghar finally succeeds in marrying Bilqeece, with whom he has been obsessed from the start, the sad disconnect between the newly wed couple epitomizes the kind of emotional disjuncture with which Ali is preoccupied. The narrator explains: Sometimes when they were alone, Ashgar would put his hand round her waist, but this annoyed Bilqeece.
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She did not say anything to Asghar, but she felt constrained, and would become silent. Now and then Bilqeece looked at him with beautiful, furtive eyes. At such moments Asghar loved her more than anything in the world, and smothered her with kisses. But she was not romantic at all. He thought of his Mushtari Bai and other sweethearts. He remembered the warmth of their passion and their loving ways. By con- trast Bilqeece looked so dull and insipid. But she was young and beautiful; and Asghar had built most beautiful castles around her lovely frame.
It is not a simple question of love becoming an exclusive part of so-called private space but rather that the male gaze turns inward to a love unconnected to the city itself. The imposition of new ways of thinking and being or, importantly, in the case of Asghar, the yearning for and grasping of those new ways begins a process of shifting social norms. Ashgar puts his modern desires and expectations onto his new, unsuspecting bride. For Ali, English is the language of his text, but it is also a sign of the intrusions of a Westernized, English sensibility.
The mounting tragedy of the novel is that Mir Nihal continually refuses the possibility that he can find a place in this changed world.