1st Edition

The Anticolonial Linguistics of Nikolai Marr A Critical Reader

Edited By Matthew Carson Allen, Robert Young Copyright 2025
    210 Pages
    by Routledge

    The archaeologist, philologist, and Linguistics theoretician Nikolai Marr (1865-1934) has attracted increasing scholarly attention as a pivotal figure of late-tsarist and early Soviet cultural politics and as an early anticolonial theorist. He remains, however, an elusive thinker who is much written about but seldom read. This volume offers a representative selection of Marr’s writing from several stages of his life translated here for the first time into English.

    The selection of texts allows the reader to trace the key evolving and interconnected preoccupations that animate Marr’s vast oeuvre: his anti-nationalist valorization of the cultural and linguistic hybridity of the Caucasus, his denunciation of the imperialist complicity of Western European comparative linguistics, his anti-Darwinian emphasis on mixture and convergence in place of filial descent within the history of languages, and his unorthodox theories of linguistic origins in gesture rather than speech. Key Marrist terms such as ‘Japhetidology’, or the rejection of the prevalent theory of an Indo-European language family, are clarified. The volume contains original essays that contextualize Marr’s work within the history of linguistics, showing the indebtedness and applicability of his ideas to traditions that are frequently held to be unrelated to one another: Russian proto-structuralism, French deconstruction, and Indian subaltern thought.

    This book was originally published as a special issue of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies.

    Introduction: Resituating Nikolai Marr

    Robert J. C. Young


    1. Japhetic Languages

    Nikolai Marr


    2. On the question of the tasks of Armenian Studies

    Nikolai Marr and Anna Kurkova


    3. The Japhetites

    Nikolai Marr and Anna Kurkova


    4. Main Achievements of the Japhetic Theory

    Nikolai Marr and Anna Kurkova


    5. On the origin of languages

    Nikolai Marr and Anna Kurkova


    6. Nikolai Marr’s Critique of Indo-European Philology and the Subaltern Critique of Brahman Nationalism in Colonial India

    Craig Brandist


    7. If Vico Had Read Engels He Would Be Called Nikolai Marr

    Patrick Sériot and Matthew Carson Allen


    8. Japhetic grammatology: Marr, Derrida and Archi-writing

    Matthew Carson Allen


    9. Introduction to Mikhail Bakhtin’s Article “Experience Based on a Study of Demand among Kolkhoz Workers”

    Anna Balysheva


    10. “Experience Based on a Study of Demand among Kolkhoz Workers”

    Mikhail Bakhtin


    Matthew Carson Allen holds a PhD in French Studies from Warwick University. His dissertation examined the challenges to universalism offered by thinkers from the global periphery including Nikolai Marr and the Haitian intellectual Anténor Firmin. He currently teaches French at secondary school level.

    Robert J.C. Young is Julius Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature at New York University. His writings address literature, postcolonial theory, cultural and political history, and psychoanalysis; they are animated by an interest in the forms of thought adopted by people who are subject to marginalization.