A Science of Society: The Rise of Urdu Economic Thought in Colonial India
Siddiqui, Osama Rehan
This dissertation examines the translation and reception of classical political economy in colonial India in the nineteenth century. Drawing on a largely unexplored archive of Urdu-language translations of political economists such as James Mill, John Stuart Mill, Alfred Marshall, and others, the dissertation traces how the works of these thinkers circulated in India in a vernacular idiom. While classical political economy has frequently been seen as inextricably entangled with imperial ideology or as an instrument of colonial governmentality, this dissertation argues instead that it was actively claimed and refashioned by Indians to develop a language of social science and ethical critique. In doing so, the dissertation offers a new case study of how British economic ideas circulated globally in the nineteenth century and how they were transformed in different contexts. The dissertation shows that, far from treating political economy as a hegemonic colonial discourse, Indian intellectuals engaged critically with it and re-made it in their own terms. One of the key ways in which they did so was by interpreting it through existing Indian ideas about wealth and society. In particular, to make sense of one of the central claims of political economy – namely the notion that society was a network of abstract interdependence mediated by relations of production – Indian translators turned to earlier theoretical models of social and civic interdependence. These included early modern Indo-Persian concepts of the household as a sphere of production; the city as a space of civic cooperation and ethical obligation; and alchemy as a science of wealth and improvement. By recasting these early modern concepts and mapping them on to classical political economy, Indian translators sought to inject a language of ethics and enchantment into modern economic thought. In this way, a modern language of economics in India came to be suffused with early modern idioms, which ultimately enabled the development of a robust critique of modern commercial society.
History; European history; South Asian studies; Urdu; Translation; Colonial India; British Empire; political economy; economic thought
Weil, Rachel Judith; Travers, Thomas Robert
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis