Translating South Asia

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreNA4

Semester and Year Offered: NA

Course Coordinator and Team: Prof. Radha Chakravarty

Email of course coordinator

Pre-requisites: None

This course draws attention to the crucial role of translation in cultural and political processes in our part of the world. The term “South Asia” is used here as theoretical shorthand for the complex realities and prehistories that constitute the region. The course acts as a bridge between Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, for it highlights the instability of boundaries, demonstrating how ideas, languages, ethnicities, religions and socio-cultural practices can cut across geopolitical borders in ways that challenge reified ideas of “national” literatures. It addresses the conspicuous gaps in our knowledge about our own region and the lack of adequate archives of translations across the languages of South Asia, to question sanctioned silences about prevailing political, social, cultural and linguistic hierarchies. It also problematises the perceived relationship between South Asia and the rest of the world, and the impact this has on the production and reception of South Asian literatures. It looks ahead to future roadmaps for translation as a practice imbued with the power to interrogate these hierarchies through a collaborative will towards engaging our Others.

Course Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to

  1. Place Indic culture at the heart of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.
  2. Adopt new approaches to translation, with a special focus on the ways in which literature operates at the borders that tend to divide cultures/languages.
  3. Think beyond conventional binaries such as East/West or colonial/postcolonial, and gain a nuanced idea of the interfaces between local, national, regional and planetary perspectives.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: Imagining a new South Asia: problems and issues. This module problematizes the conventional idea of “South Asia”, and promotes a more inclusive approach to defining the geopolitical constitution of the region. It posits “South Asia” as a concept that displaces the national/international binary by focusing on borders where literary, linguistic and cultural transactions take place. It also demands a nuanced understanding of the place of “South Asia” within the broad, homogenizing term “Asia”.

Module 2: Translation and the transnational: This module emphasizes the importance of translation in promoting cultural connectivity in contemporary South Asia, and in placing the region on the international literary map.

Module 3: Literature, politics, culture: translation as mediation: This module aims to promote new approaches to translating South Asia, through an understanding of the ways in which translation can function as a mode of intervention. It also emphasizes problems of translating across the multiple languages of a heterogeneous region like South Asia, to encourage experimental, collaborative approaches to translation.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Two short papers (20% + 20%)
  • Class participation (10%)
  • Term paper (50%)

Reading List:

  1. Chakraborty, Chandrima and Anupama Mohan. “Translated Worlds: Passages, Journeys and Returns.” Postcolonial Text, 10: 3 & 4 (2015). 1-12.
  2. Chakravarty, Radha, and Selina Hossain, eds. Writing Freedom: South Asian Voices. Dhaka: University Press Limited, 2010.
  3. Chhetri, Sharad. “Hands”. (Nepal). Translated by Prakash L. Shreshtha.
  4. Choden, Kunzang. Folktales from Bhutan. (Bhutan). Trans. KunzangChoden.
  5. Fani, Aria. “Daughters of Afghanistan: Literary Voices of Change.” Poems trans. AdeebaTalukder and Aria Fani. (Persian/English). 2012.
  6. Goonetilleke, D. C. R. A., ed. The Penguin New Writing in Sri Lanka. (Sri Lanka). (Sinhalese/Tamil/English). Penguin, 1992.
  7. Haider, Rashid. “Incognita”. (Bangladesh). (Bengali/English). Trans. Radha Chakravarty. 2003.
  8. Pollock, Sheldon, ed. Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
  9. Rahman, Mahmud. “On the Dearth of South Asian Translations in the US”. Asymptote (Aug. 4, 2014). translations-published-in-the-u-s-part-i/
  10. Ricci, Ronit and Jan van der Putten, eds. Translation in Asia: Theories, Practices, Histories. Routledge, 2011.
  11. Walilullah, Syed. Tree Without Roots. (Bangladesh). (Bengali/English).


  1.  Abrams, Dennis, ed. Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds. (Myanmar). (Translated into English from 11 languages). British Council, UK: 2016.
  2. Hashmi, Alamgir. Post-Independence Voices in South Asian Writing. New Delhi: Doaba, 2001.
  3. Merrill, Christi A. “South Asian Literature in Translation: The Power of Babel” Carol Maier and Françoise Massardier-Kenney, eds. Teaching Literary Texts in Translation: Issues and Pedagogical Options. (Translation Series) Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2010: 211-22.
  4. Mufti, Aamir. Forget English!
  5. Nadeem, Shahid. Burqavaganza (Urdu/English). (Pakistan). 2007. Translated by Shahid Nadeem with The Little Magazine. 6. Sadiq, Abdullah. DhonHiyala and Ali Fulhu (Maldives). Translated from the Dhivehi by Fareesha Abdullah and Michael O’Shea. 2004
  6. Shankar, S. Flesh and Fish Blood: Postcolonialism, Translation, and the Vernacular. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
  7. Spivak, GayatriChakravorty. “Rethinking Comparativism”. New Literary History, 40: 3 (Summer 2009), 609-626.