Translation and the languages of Islam: Indo-Persian tarjuma in a comparative perspective
On the occasion of the 4th international conference of the Perso-Indica project (http://www.perso-indica.net/), we would like to consider our main object of research—the Persian translations and original works bearing on Indic cultures—in a wider perspective than has generally been the case. We aim to do so by comparing the Indo-Persian movement of translation that took place in the subcontinent from the 13th century onwards with other processes of translations operating primarily from and to non-Muslim languages (e.g. Greek, Syriac, Pehlevi, Sanskrit into Arabic, etc.; Arabic into Latin; Greek into Ottoman Turkish, etc.) and, secondarily, between different languages of Muslim societies (e. g. Arabic into Persian, Turkish, Malay, Sub-Saharan languages, etc.; Persian into Urdu, Turkish, Malay etc.). We therefore invite contributions bearing on such movements of translation in different regions of the Muslim world between the 7th and 19th centuries, and highlighting the ways in which each specific translation process articulated the relation between source, “bridge” and target languages.
- Purpose(s) of translation: if every translation is as such a scholarly effort and may be said to partake in the long run in a general epistemic endeavor, the projects and processes of knowledge building in which many of them were framed need careful examination in order to uncover the function(s) assigned to the texts once they were translated and, by the same token, to understand the idiosyncrasies of each translation. In other words: why was a particular text selected for translation in a particular time and place and what was/were the (political, religious, social, scientific) role(s) assigned to the translated text by the translator and/or his patron? While the purposes of translations in the Muslim world were of course multiple, particular attention will be paid here to the ones that were commissioned as part of state- or empire-building and to those that were conceived in a missionary perspective of conversion/in a spirit of proselytism and even of conversion.
- Process and tool(s) of translation: unveiling the purpose(s) of translation is crucial in order to understand its process and the multiple transformations it entailed at the levels of literary form and genre, language and signification. Bringing the why into light will certainly help us better explain and circumscribe the how and ultimately allow us to lay out a number of correspondences between the purpose assigned to a translation and the methods used for its realization or the type of translation produced as a result. Closely connected to the question of process is the issue of the linguistic and philological instruments and resources available in the society in which the translator was active: what were the dictionaries, glossaries, grammars, etc. at hand when the translator started his work? Did he know of their existence? If so, did he use some of them and how?
- Audience, reception and circulation of translation: how was the translation received by its targeted audience, especially by its patron in the case of commissioned works? How widely did it circulate in contemporary Muslim societies and beyond, and through which specific networks? Did it become a “source” for later translations in other languages, especially in other languages of Islam and in European languages? Studying the afterlife of such translations in both the Muslim world and Europe is crucial to put in perspective and in dialogue the Orientalist traditions they respectively built. In this respect, a particular important question is the appropriation by Western scholarship of translations composed in an Islamicate context: how were these translations understood by European intellectuals and colonial administrators and what was the role (and visibility) of such translations in the latter’s knowledge-building on the society to which the “Ur-text” belonged or on the language in which it was originally written?