Dr. des. Razak Khan


From Berlin to Delhi: Education, Intellectual Exchange and Politics of Translation in the life and writings of Sayyid Abid Husain (1896–1978)


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.