Review of Finbarr B. Flood, Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval ‘Hindu– Muslim’ Encounter

Ahmed Asif, Manan

Finbarr Flood’s Objects of Translation is then a breathtakingly refreshing work of synthesis and analysis. Flood offers us a ‘highly contoured landscape’ of pre-modern (his focus is roughly 800–1250 CE) central-south regions of Asia (from the river Amū Daryā to the Indus valley, from the Iranian region of Khurasan to the Ganges River). In his introduction, Flood makes two central points on the historiography—that the contemporary scholarly accounts of eighth to fourteenth century India are bifurcated, reductive and obscurest, treating this period as little more than background material for the Mughal ecumene; and that contemporary understandings of religious ideations are anachronistically projected onto earlier pasts. To reframe this discourse, Flood focuses on the framework of translation and transculturation where distinct modes of living and knowing are formed as a result of contact with prior forms and are reshaped to create newly intelligible ones. Methodologically, Flood re-opens vistas that modern South Asian studies has diligently avoided: the study of texts as objects, objects as texts and the environments within which both are placed and displaced.

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The Indian Economic and Social History Review

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March 21, 2013