Shankar Nair’s new book Translating Wisdom: Hindu-Muslim Intellectual Interactions in Early Modern South Asia
(University of California Press, 2020) is an intellectually daring and dazzlingly imaginative study of scholarly interactions, made visible through translation, between Sanskrit and Arabo-Persian philosophical traditions in premodern South Asia. Centered on the 16th-century Persian translation Jūg Bāsisht
of the major and multifaceted 10th century Sanskrit text Yoga Vāsiṣṭha
, Nair details and explicates the philological, philosophical, and theological mechanisms and operations that go into an interreligious translation enterprise of this sort. Shifting seamlessly between Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian, Nair demonstrates that a close reading of the premodern archive can simultaneously disrupt nationalist historiographies while also refusing to secularize that archive in the process. He also convincingly makes a case for approaching and benefiting from the theological discourses and imagination of premodern actors such as the scholars involved in or connected to this translation project as not only data to be theorized but properly theoretical in their own right. Translating Wisdom
is among those rare books that combine the textual finesse of meticulous philology with razor sharp theoretical awareness and nuance.
SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity
(University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize
. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listener feedback is most welcome.