The Arab Rediscovery of India
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation is a study of how Arab writers produced an idea of India from the time of the nahda, or Arab Renaissance of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, until the period of decolonization which followed the momentous years of 1947/48. In doing so, this study rewrites the modern history of Arab thought in two ways. First, it moves beyond histories of the period that focus largely on the travel of ideas and people between Cairo, Beirut, London and Paris by showing how the histories of those cities are tied, through older networks of study and patronage and newer regimes of colonial domination and anti-colonial action, to the Indian Ocean and the world. Second, by attending to the emergence of new forms of politics and literature between the Middle East and South Asia, it narrates a connected history of the two regions based on the conditions of thought. Drawing on overlooked and unpublished sources, including travelogues to and from India, poetry, novels, journalism, histories of India, and the translation of Indic texts, as well as archival material from across the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe, this dissertation argues that new forms of knowledge were fashioned by Arab intellectuals who crucially saw India, its people, languages, and religions, in relation to the modern world while also recognizing the significance of their centuries old interconnections. In doing so, it traces how a new colonial frame, and an attendant set of anti-colonial movements, brought people together under different conditions and necessitated the translation of old texts and the exchange of new ideas for the first time. Furthermore, this dissertation offers a pre-history to the ideas and politics of non-alignment and Third Worldism. By taking the “global” in the “global” South seriously and recognizing the local and granular conditions of intellectual work, The Arab Rediscovery of India takes to task colonial regimes of geographical knowledge, mapping a global intellectual history that is not tied European institutions.
EMBARGO NOTE: Submission was originally published under a 2 year embargo. The embargo has been extended until 2025-09-06.
Intellectual History; Middle East; South Asia