Session Abstract: This panel traces the development of leftist thought, discourse, and reading publics in late and post-colonial South Asia between the 1930s and 1980s. With a particular focus on political texts and literary fiction in the vernacular languages of Marathi, Telugu, and Urdu, we position these developments at the crossroads of their domestic and global contexts. Moving across time and space, from the labor movement in colonial Bombay to the editorial offices of the world’s largest Cold War-era foreign language publishing house in Moscow, we ask how Marxism became part of the political vocabularies of the subcontinent. Shaikh considers a Marathi novel from 1933, whose conceptual categories are informed by Marxism, but depicts a time during World War I when workers were not well-versed in it. Mitchell and Bachman examine the role of the USSR’s Progress Publishers in translating texts for a South Asian readership. Bachman shows how questions of materiality and form mediated the reception of Soviet political and literary texts for Urdu readers located in both India and Pakistan. Mitchell reveals how the translations produced by Progress Publishers' cohort of Telugu translators came to influence political thought in Telugu-speaking regions of South India. Collectively, the panel fosters an opportunity for dialogue between political, social, and labor historians and scholars interested in Soviet-Third World engagements, translation studies, and modern South Asian literary history. It also serves as a forum to discuss the expansion of traditional source bases for the writing of South Asian political and literary history.
Paper Presenter: Juned Shaikh – University of California, Santa Cruz
Paper Presenter: Jessica L. Bachman – University of Washington
Paper Presenter: Lisa Mitchell – University of Pennsylvania