My research project examines the entangled nature of Indo-German intellectual history. I explore intellectual and cultural translations in the sphere of reform pedagogy or “New Education“ dominant at the turn of nineteenth-century Germany and follow their careers in late colonial and post-colonial India. I do so by tracing the intellectual networks among Indian and German educationists and intellectuals in Germany, especially in Berlin.
The main exemplars in this history are Sayyid Abid Husain (1896–1978) and Eduard Spranger (1882–1963) along with a larger enmeshed network of intellectuals, students and other actors who have left behind an archive spread over a century and across continents. Detailing the role played by the hitherto overlooked translation of German texts into Urdu by Abid Husain is of particular interest to this project in its attempt to offer a comparative study of German concepts and their Indian equivalents in Urdu language. Spranger’s psychological theory, and its relation to ethics and values, were creatively recast in Husain’s own philosophy of education and practices of pedagogy that were put into practice at Jamia Milia Islamia, as well as within his own household in Delhi.
I plan to relocate the personal history of Abid Husain and his family within the larger question of minority identity and citizenship. Thus, my project will also locate the comparative history of minorities in and through educationalist thinking and citizenship question. I do so by comparing how concepts, which were so crucial within Germany regarding the role and rights of the elite Jewish minority, were re-negotiated by intellectuals among the middle-class Muslims especially at Jamia Milia Islamia who were also involved in the national culture debates on education and citizenship in colonial and post-colonial India. The project remains committed to explore the question of class and gender politics within comparative histories of minority education and citizenship ideals. Crucially, the project does not emphasize a “derivative discourse” and its export to the colony from metropolis. Instead, it explores the transnational history of ideas and conceptual change that marks the process of translation and interpretation. In illuminating the manner in which German thought served as a palimpsest for Urdu writings, the project remains committed to examining the politics of translation of concepts and intellectual thought within larger critical social history.