ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The twain shall meet: Alok Rai’s Hindi translation of Hindi Nationalism


Karnick Anirudh - University of Pennsylvania, Comparative Literature and South Asia Studies, Philadelphia, United States


20 – Self-translation, translating the self: Multilingual writers in South Asia


 The globalized world of English-language scholarship on the intellectual, cultural and literary history of modern South Asia has in recent decades increasingly turned towards materials in Indian languages other than English. Yet, the traffic between two quite distinct intellectual milieux – those who work on Indian languages and those who work in them – is rarely discussed unless the scholarly world is raucously interrupted by a controversy (a demand for a book ban from ‘activists’ speaking on behalf of a regional language, say).

An unusual case of a writer translating from an academically dominant language, Alok Rai’s self-translation of his Hindi Nationalism (2001) into Hindi Ra??ravad (2022), on a subject of passionate concern to those who work in Hindi, is an excellent opportunity for a study of the relationship between the Hindi intellectual milieu and the world of English-language scholarship about Hindi. As a bilingual intellectual based in India, Rai is willy-nilly accountable to both milieux. How do Rai’s two volumes differ in their composition and in their rhetoric, in how he addresses his audience and what he takes for granted? How was the English volume received by different communities of readers in Hindi and English? What debates – across media,textual and audio-visual – has the Hindi avatar generated? How do Hindi scholars,and Hindi intellectuals more generally, assess the claims of English-language scholarship on Hindi, and how do they modify or contest them?