1st Edition

Language Ideologies and the Vernacular in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia

Edited By Nishat Zaidi, Hans Harder Copyright 2024
    354 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    354 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    354 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    This volume critically engages with recent formulations and debates regarding the status of the regional languages of the Indian subcontinent vis-à-vis English. It explores how language ideologies of the “vernacular” are positioned in relation to the language ideologies of English in South Asia.

    The book probes into how we might move beyond the English-vernacular binary in India, explores what happened to “bhasha literatures” during the colonial and post-colonial periods and how to position those literatures by the side of Indian English and international literature. It looks into the ways vernacular community and political rhetoric are intertwined with Anglophone (national or global) positionalities and their roles in political processes.

    This book will be of interest to researchers, students and scholars of literary and cultural studies, Indian Writing in English, Indian literatures, South Asian languages and popular culture. It will also be extremely valuable for language scholars, sociolinguists, social historians, scholars of cultural studies and those who understand the theoretical issues that concern the notion of “vernacularity”.

    List of Figures

    List of Contributors


    Note on Transliteration

    Introduction: Language Ideologies and the ‘Vernacular’: A Critical Perspective

    Nishat Zaidi and Hans Harder

    PART I

    Ideologies of Vernaculars and English

    1 Beyond Hegemonic Binaries: English and the ‘Vernaculars’ in Post-liberalization India

    Javed Majeed

    2 Urdu Language Ideologies and Pakistani Identity

    Arian Hopf

    3 “Mother English”: Savitribai Phule on Caste Patriarchy and the Ideology of the English Vernacular

    Christian Lee Novetzke

    4 The Location of Theory: Bhāṣa Literatures in Indian and North American Postcolonialism

    Suddhaseel Sen

    5 A Vernacular Archive of Sex and Sexuality: Personal Annotations

    Charu Gupta

    6 Political Reform, Territorialising Language: Re-casting Difference, Constitutional Categories and Developmental Goals, 1905–1950s

    Veena Naregal


    Lost/Found in Translation between Vernaculars and English

    7 Linguistic Estrangement: When Is a Language My Own?

    Sudipta Kaviraj

    8 British Translators, Bhagat Singh, and ‘Atheism’: How ‘Reverse Translation’ Alters the Meaning of Philosophical Concepts

    Ruth Vanita

    9 Telling Lives in Forked Tongues: Reading Shanta Gokhale’s and Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s Autobiographical Writings

    Dhrupadi Chattopadhyay

    10 Vernacularizing Science in Colonial Bengal: A Translational Site of ‘Other’ Archives

    Indrani Das Gupta

    11 Multilingual Locals in Transnational Geographies: Vaijñan̄ ik Upanyas̄ and the Cosmopolitanisation of Hindi in Late Colonial North India

    Ishita Singh


    Language Ideology, Literature and the Vernacular Public Spheres

    12 Vernacularizing Emotions: Mohammed Ali’s Comrade and Hamdard

    Margrit Pernau

    13 In Defence of the Prem|sāgar: Re-evaluating the Narrative of the Hindi–Urdu Split

    Gautam Liu

    14 Vernaculars across Texts: Modern Islam and Modern Literature in Bengal

    Neilesh Bose

    15 Reading Caste in Vernacular Journals

    Meenakshi Yadav

    16 A South Asian Vernacular Public Overseas: Tamil in the Straits Settlements, c. 1870–1942

    Torsten Tschacher



    Nishat Zaidi is a professor and former head of the Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. She has authored/translated/edited 16 books. Some of her recent publications include Karbala: A Historical Play (translation of Premchand’s play Karbala with a critical introduction and notes) (2022), Ocean as Method: Thinking with the Maritime (with Dilip Menon et al. 2022), Literary Cultures and Digital Humanities in India (with A. Sean Pue 2022), Makers of Indian Literature: Agha Shahid Ali (2016), Day and Dastan (with Alok Bhalla, 2018) and Between Worlds: The Travels of Yusuf Khan Kambalposh (with Mushirul Hasan, 2014).

    Hans Harder is a professor of Modern South Asian Languages and Literatures at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany. His research interests include modern literatures in South Asia, particularly Bengali, religious movements, and colonial and post-colonial intellectual history. He has written and/or edited Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s Śrım̄adbhagabadgıt̄a:̄ Translation and Analysis (2001); Literature and Nationalist Ideology: Writing Histories of Modern Indian Languages (2010); Sufism and Saint Veneration in Contemporary Bangladesh (Routledge 2011); Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair (with Barbara Mittler, 2013) and Literary Sentiments in the Vernacular (with Charu Gupta, Laura Brueck and Shobna Nijhawan, Routledge 2021).