Saturday 11 March 2023

Alexander Jabbari's jibber jabber

Putin justifies his invasion of Ukraine on linguistic grounds- he considers Ukrainian to be a mere dialect of Russian. However, literary scholars have zero impact in affecting the outcome of the invasion. Guns and money are what matter. Sadly, some Professors won't acknowledge this truth.

Aeon has an essay by Alexander Jabbari, an assistant professor, who has written a book titled The Making of Persianate Modernity: Language and Literary History between Iran and India which appears to be fundamentally misconceived. Iran was certainly a cultural influence on India in the Seventeenth and even into the Eighteenth Century during which time there was some emigration to the sub-continent. However, Iran began to fall behind its rival, the Ottoman Empire, which in turn fell behind 'Christendom'. But Iran's decline was steeper and sadder as the Brits emerged as the paramount power in the Gulf.

Modernity, for every country involved a Tardean mimetics of more technologically and commercially advanced polities. There were some failed attempts to 'catch up' led by charismatic religious leaders- e.g. the Ba'ab in Iran or the Taiping rebellion in China- as well as some ineffectual 'intellectual' movements which took advantage of the printing press and a widening market for professional pedagogues- but even when these crossed borders or formed alliances. the result was still ignominious defeat and abject surrender.

India, like Iran, stagnated as indigenous Hindu rulers, though increasingly able to displace immigrant Turkic and other dynasties, failed to modernize in a consistent manner. The sad truth is, Iran and India did not have cohesive clans, or even families!- let alone polities- and the quality of leadership tended to decline over time.

 India paid the British for governance and defense and did receive a small but securely burgeoning 'civil society' in return. However, India's was a 'damaged modernity' with shallow roots. The Hindus might suddenly go crazy over a maha-crackpot while the Muslims might cry out for Khilafat or cut their own throats by clamoring for a Pakistan to which they themselves would have to emigrate. Still, in the Sixties and Seventies, Iran appeared to be converging, like Turkey, to European modernity whereas India and Pakistan had turned into begging bowl shitholes. Then Iran had a revolution of the most retrograde sort. Its people continue to converge to European standards of higher education while its political leadership appears to be competing with the Taliban, if not the Caliphate, as to who can restore medieval obscurantism more quickly and thoroughly. Pakistan may follow the Iranian or Afghan example. Hindu India wants no part of this mishegoss. The cultural exchange between India and Iran in previous centuries now appears to both Indians and Iranians as a sort of closed loop of infectious stupidity, sycophancy, and intellectual stagnation. 

Jabbari's essay commences thus 

'Cultural exchange is often assumed to be progressive,

If it is based on 'Tardean mimetics'- i.e. imitation of the superior- then, it is progressive. Iran's Supreme Guide, however, thinks Iqbal- a stupid Punjabi barrister knighted by the British- is the 'marja' worthy of 'taqlid'.  This is because Iran is trying to catch up with Pakistan economically and educationally

The fact is Islamists across the region have been in lockstep, since the Eighties, on the path to perdition. But this is not 'cultural exchange'. It is merely contiguous polities suffering the ill effects of the same epidemic which remains confined within their borders by reason of their incontinent coprophagy. 

but it has neither an inherent politics nor an inevitable outcome. As nationalism rises across the globe,

It rose long ago.  

many see ‘cultural exchange’ as the antidote to nationalist xenophobia.

No. They think migration is the antidote. You stop hating those dirty foreigners if they fix your teeth and set up restaurants serving delicious, affordable, cuisine. But immigrants must do useful stuff or else they get confined to criminalized ghettos. 

Such exchange was, in fact, an integral part of the emergence of national literatures, cultures and identities in Iran and South Asia.

Migration was integral to this though most migrants assimilate. They don't seek to dominate. Cultural exchanges between backward folk tended to involve 'inferior', or Giffen, goods and services.

 If a country had genuinely reached a higher level of scientific and artistic accomplishment, then less developed countries might send their smartest people for education and training to its cities. They might deliberately seek to reproduce the material culture and intellectual climate of the more advanced country. But neither India nor Iran had attracted any such embassies for hundreds of years. Their path was downward. 

Rather than resulting in greater cosmopolitanism, Indo-Iranian exchange fostered modern nationalism.

No. Migrants from Iran did settle in India but- save for refugees like the Zoroastrians- they were greedy, not nationalistic. Iranians had always taken a dim view of the 'black crows' of India while Indians resented the stupidity, greed, and cowardice of the Persian. Turks, on the other hand, had martial qualities and their spirituality wasn't wholly ignorant, arrogant or otherwise utterly repulsive. Incidentally, the Safavis and Nadir Shah were ethnically Turkic, or of Turkic descent as were the Mughals and the Asaf Jahis as well as poets like Bedil and Ghalib. 

There was a great irony to this cosmopolitan exchange

it wasn't cosmopolitan. It so happens that Iranian languages are closely related to Indic languages. Because Persian had no Panini, Farsi was simply the easiest language to learn and to compose shitty poetry in. But, a lot of 'Persian speaking' Indians didn't speak Persian at all. They just made Persian type noises to each other.

between Iranians and Indians, however.

The Indians and Iranians are only bound together by their mutual contempt. Under the last Shah, Iranians were getting much much richer. Then they fucked up massively and the Indians laughed heartily. Trust the Persian to muck up even the spiritual excellence of Islam and turn it into a Manichaean nightmare of Paranoia! Come to think of it, the Ayatollahs- being more conversant with Arabic- are quite sensible and sane when compared to the M-e-K. As for Tudeh- they were fucking hilarious.  

The literary histories it produced helped to consolidate a nationalist logic that associated Persian language and literature almost exclusively with Iran.

There was a time when the Ottoman Caliph wrote Persian poetry while the Safavid Shah wrote in Turkic. But it was the Safavids who turned Iran into the stronghold of Shia Priest-craft. The conflict between the two leading Islamic powers was devastating for Iraq. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, England was looking for an Iranian alliance to counterbalance France's alliance with the Turk. But Iran, like India was already caught up in the death spiral of its own decadent stupidity. 

The emergence of a distinct Turkish literary canon was important for Turanian nationalism. By contrast, Iran accomplished nothing in this regard. The nationalistic impulse was merely a reflex against conquest or further impoverishment under its own squabbling despots.

Iranians, taking on a modern national identity, laid claim to Persian as their patrimony.

Nobody denied them that. 

Indian Muslims also conceived of Persian as part of their heritage, yet Iran took centre-stage even in Indian accounts of Persian literature.

Because Indians knew that lot of their relatives who claimed to speak Persian were merely mouthing gibberish. The same thing happened when English became the language of power. In every village, there was some decayed notable, or nouveau riche contractor who would utter 'git-pit' when in his cups. His sycophants would say 'even Viceroy is unable to understand such superior English! Only Queenji is knowing.' 

This is ironic, considering how India produced more Persian literature

i.e. utterly worthless poetry or euphuistic, brown nosing, prose. 

than did Iran at some points in history.

The odd thing about Iran is that its poetry most flourished under what appeared the most adverse conditions. 

Even as Urdu became a vehicle for the Persianate tradition in India,

No. Urdu displaced Persian because Indians were getting stupider and stupider- unless they turned to English. But the Whites wanted Indians to learn Sanskrit or Arabic. Writing Persianate poetry rots the brain. Sir Syed Ahmed, who was from that tradition, finally told the Hunter Commission that though instruction in Sciences could be imparted in the mother tongue, the liberal Arts must be taught only in English. Why? The use of Persianate language rots the brain.

Indian Muslims did not challenge the nationalist logic linking Persian to Iran.

This cretin doesn't get that the language of a country is linked to that country by garden variety logic. It took Iqbal's Punjabi logic to impose a language from the Deccan on Pakistan. By then Iran had a nationalist logic which turned a Cossack officer into an Achaemenid 'Light of the Aryans'.  

Instead, many embraced it, even tying Indian Muslims’ linguistic identity to Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East.

This was a fantasy which everybody recognized as a fantasy. As Akbar Illahabadi said

Payt masroof hai klerki mein

dil hai Iran aur Turki mein

('tis but the belly makes necessary the clerk's white collar

Our heart never forsakes Janissary and Ayatollah!) 

In so doing, they wound up writing themselves out of the history of Persian literature – and out of belonging to India.

The problem with belonging to India is that if you try to kill Hindus, you might yourself be killed. But killing Americans can be even more hazardous to your health. Sad.  

Iranians’ and Indian Muslims’ different relationships to European philology

explains nothing. Neither Indians nor Iranians nor Africans nor Chinese people gave a fuck about 'European philology'. Hindus described themselves as Aryans. Iranians may have done so before they converted to Islam. It must be admitted that Hindus had no fondness for Islam. They preferred the Brits who did gain legitimacy by administering Hindu law in their courts. Moreover, the British sponsorship of Indian vernacular languages benefited ecumenical Hinduism. It did no favours to Pan-Islamic sentiment. Indeed, one reason Pakistan broke apart was the language issue. The Sindhis too feel aggrieved that the Mujahirs have a head start because Urdu is their mother tongue.

explain why the two conceived of their languages in such contrary ways.

A Muslim would naturally accord higher respect to Quranic Arabic. But the Iranian clerisy were well instructed in Arabic. Indeed, the Persians have great facility in learning languages. If Iran is in a mess it isn't because its people are stupid. The reverse is the case. Once the Middle East becomes peaceful, Iran will rise- as Israel has risen- purely as a knowledge economy. But we will have to wait till China is powerful enough to impose a Pax Sinica.  

This divergence reveals the historical contingency of the two narratives. It was not inevitable that Iranian nationalism would adopt the philological model of linguistic continuity,

very true. The Iranians could have decided that they spoke Yoruba in the Fifteenth Century but switched to Norwegian in the Sixteenth Century. Then, in the Seventeenth century, Etruscan made a comeback. This was followed by a long period during which only the purest Cockney was spoken. 

which is made clear by comparison with Indian Muslims’ conception of Urdu as a mixed language.

because that is what it is. However, Indian Muslims didn't matter. The fact is, Hindus and Muslims had come to recognize that they were just as stupid as each other. They needed to separate so as to get on with the job of imitating Whitey. Sadly, the Rooskies looked plenty White. Seriously, Caucasians need to differentiate themselves by, like, painting different coloured stripes on themselves. But no black stripes coz that might attract horny zebras. 

Today, Persian is the national language of Iran.

While Urdu is the national language of Pakistan. Most Iranians have always spoken Persian. Few Sindhis and Punjabis and Baloch and Pathans spoke Urdu as their mother tongue before 1947. 

Although it has a long history there, its national status and close association with the country depend on events in the 19th century.

Nonsense! There was no other language Iran could have adopted. By contrast, it was by no means inevitable that Urdu would be Pakistan's national language. One reason East Pakistan broke away was because they preferred Bengali.  

As the Russian Empire swallowed up swathes of Iranian territory in the 1810s and ’20s, and the sclerotic Qajar dynasty ruling Iran proved incapable of resistance, Iranian nationalism emerged to challenge both foreign imperialism and local despotism.

Sadly, Iranian nationalism was crap. Why was this? I suppose the answer has to do with the geography of the country. 

By the end of the 19th century, Iranian intellectuals were transforming Persian from the lingua franca of a centreless Persianate world spanning much of Asia into the language of national identity in the nation-state of Iran.

This is false. Iranian intellectuals had zero power to transform shit. Moreover, Iranian Baloch aint too enthused by Farsi, though Azeris seem cool with it. The bigger question was how the Kurds and Kuzhestanis felt.  On the other hand, religious sect may be more important than language.

Nationalist modernisers made reforming the Persian language a central project, whether they were democratic revolutionaries of the Constitutional Revolution (1905-11) or the authoritarian shahs of the Pahlavi dynasty (1925-79).

Iran, like every other country had a few Professors and a Ministry of Education and so on. But they simply didn't do anything of any importance. It is only because this cretin has studied worthless shite in which nobody is interested that he is making out that great significance must be attached to the fact that Persia's national language is Persian.  

Drawing on modern literary histories of Persian written by both Iranians and Indians, they refashioned Persian into a national language,

Which it already was. There were some savants and there was some tinkering but the outcome would have been the same just through Tardean mimetic effects.  

and Persian literature into national heritage, positioning Iran as the proprietor of the Persianate tradition.

Nobody gave a fuck what the starving and stupid Persians appointed themselves the proprietors of- so long as it wasn't the oil of Abadan.  

The Persian language we know today was born out of interaction with Arabic and Islam.

and Turkish and French and English etc. So what? Languages simply don't matter to anybody except low IQ dudes who have to teach that shite.  

Consider the following sentence-

 Twentieth-century Iranian nationalists sought to distinguish the Persian language from Arabic.

The two languages sound completely different. There was no need for nationalists to distinguish them. Similarly, during Brexit, BoJo didn't have to tell working class Cockneys like me that 'Merci' was French. In the Queen's English, one expresses gratitude by saying 'Ta' very much Guv', unless of course you were born North of the Watford Gap in which case it is perfectly acceptable to snarl and bare your fangs. 

 Iranian nationalists like the great literary historian Muhammad-Taqi Bahar (1886-1951) emphasised the continuity of Persian over time, uninterrupted by Islam – and, by extension, Arabic – which they saw as belonging to a distinct civilisation.

Bahar was from a religious family. He had an excellent knowledge of Arabic. But he was also fluent in French. Was he influenced by Gobineau? Perhaps. That's the sort of question a literary scholar might take up profitably.  

Bahar’s civilisational paradigm, predicated on the notion of linguistic integrity and the association of a people with its language, came from European philology.

He was a constitutionalist. Moreover, many Iranians had foreign or partly foreign blood- Bahar's maternal ancestors were Georgian.  

His efforts to show Iranian continuity before and after the rise of Islam were a nationalist project,

No. He was a good man committed to the truth. It is a fact that, after the rise of Islam, the indigenous Zoroastrian community had suffered greatly. Yet they were patriots and known for their good character. Bahar was a constitutionalist who believed in the rule of law- which must be based on the facts of the case, not some convenient myth.  

shaped by European Orientalism, especially its new philological knowledge of ancient Iranian languages.

Japan's Nationalism could not have been associated with European philology. Iran's was no different. The same could be said for the Young Turks.  

These 19th-century European philologists,

who had learnt, often at second or third hand, from Hindu and Muslim scholars 

and Bahar and many others who learned from their work, grouped Persian with the Indo-European family of languages distinct from Semitic languages like Arabic.

This classification occurs within these language families.  

Rather than considering New Persian as a mixed language with Arabic elements,

which it wasn't. The language was clearly a simplified version of what had previously obtained which had absorbed a large Arabic vocabulary. But then Arabic had already absorbed much from Persian.  

they built a narrative that emphasised the independence and continuity of Persian over the course of centuries. In doing so, they followed a paradigm established by

Persian poets and intellectuals- including Firdausi.  

19th-century Germanic linguists whose scholarship classified ‘Old English’ (what had been known as the Anglo-Saxon language) and ‘Middle English’ as precursors to modern English.

This is misleading. In fifteenth Century London, more particularly at the Inns of Court, there was already an awareness of the manner in which the language was evolving. By the Seventeenth Century- more particularly after Franciscus Junius 20 year sojourn in England- etymological research had placed philology on a broader, more scientific footing. The Dutch, quite naturally, played a leading role in the early Eighteenth century and it was only in the Nineteenth century that German heavy industry annexed this field. 

Bahar and other 19th-century Iranian nationalists were not the only ones interested in the history of the Persian language and literature. Indian Muslims were also concerned with the Persianate literary heritage.

Because the Brits had created a few jobs for Munshis and there was a small but growing book and magazine publishing industry. However, Islam was declining relative to Hinduism and this meant that Sanskrit gained prestige while Persian- being very easy- was for people who just wanted to pass an exam and get their salary increment. 

Persian had been a language of power and learning in South Asia since the 11th century –

but language did not matter when it came to the wielding of power. The superior fighting ability and cohesiveness of warriors from the Eurasian steppes enabled an ignorant type of power to extract rents in South Asia. What philology taught the rising generation of men of letters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was that Iran was part of a Eurasian oikumene. The Arabic speaking lands were no longer important. Like the Turks, the Iranians needed to look West. South Asia however had already benefited from British administration. It could either emulate Japan and do export led growth or turn into a Gandhian shithole.  

and they had as much of a claim to it as did Iranians.

But nobody wanted that shite. They wanted to get rich and strong through science and technology and buying cheap and selling dear.  

The relationship between Persian and a local language of South Asia that would later be called Urdu

Urdu was a language of the military camp or court. It wasn't a local language. The Urdu speaker, like the speaker of 'Chancery English' had an additional dialect characteristic of his region. Hyderabadi Urdu can be unintelligible to the Lucknawi in the same way that a rich Geordie dialect might be unintelligible to a Cockney. Yet, most educated people can 'code switch'.  

mirrored the earlier relationship between Arabic and Persian.

Urdu is a 'fusion language' or dialect. Though one may not like to say it, in practice it is the Muslim version of Hindi. Arabic and Persian are ancient and have classical status. 

The elements that would constitute Urdu’s identity as a language

a Muslim dialect

were largely borrowed from Persian. Chief among them is the Perso-Arabic script in which Urdu is written, as opposed to the Devanagari script that would come to be associated with Hindi. Urdu also has tens of thousands of Persian loanwords, like dost (friend) and dil (heart), including Persian words of Arabic origin, like zarūrat (necessity). Moreover, Urdu’s linguistic identity was connected to literature in Perso-Arabic forms like the ghazal, an amorous form of lyric poetry.

You can write ghazals in Gujarati or Bengali or Punjabi. Indeed, there are now plenty of ghazals in English.  

South Asian Muslim literary historians constructed a very different kind of history of Urdu than the Iranians had of Persian.

But- like Dr. S.A Latif of Hyderabad- they soon saw that they were slitting their own throats. If Urdu had a history separate from Hindi, then it had no place in either India or Pakistan. An Islamized version of a Muslim majority vernacular would be better for Pakistan. There could be a gradual transition to Arabic. 

Contrary to the Iranian story of continuity before and after the coming of Islam, South Asians emphasised rupture and hybridity as key to Urdu’s origins.

The problem with Urdu was that Muslims were the minority where it was spoken. Fortunately, Muslim Punjabis so despised their own mother tongue that they took to Urdu. Or perhaps Urdu has a magic of its own. Why should the Hindus remain enchanted with the Bollywood ghazal which in fact have been getting more Urduized? My theory, for what it is worth, is that the great Urdu poets were part and parcel of a literary culture concerned with translating and popularizing Islamic scripture. Though using a 'malamati' idiom, the poets were expressing the glories of the Faith in an urbane, yet chastened, manner. Thus, the attraction of Urdu- at least to the non-Muslim- is that it is Islamic to its core and thus has no interest in politics or bullshitting about hegemony or neoliberalism or the paradox that though the Orient was invented by White folk, nevertheless even when brown savants shove their own heads up their rectums still nice Revolution is not occurring. 

Claiming that Urdu was a mix that included Turkish allowed Indian Muslims to claim a genealogy that connected them, in a way, to the Ottoman Empire at a time when many Muslims longed for a powerful caliphate to counter the weakness they felt living under British rule.

But Akbar Allahabadi voiced the common sense view that the whole thing was a fantasy.  

For modern Indian Muslims, treating ‘Arabic’ as a separate contributor to Urdu from ‘Persian’ was another important part of giving Urdu a proper Muslim pedigree, a connection to ‘Muslim lands’ like the Arab world.

Actually, this is sensible. It is noticeable that an Arabic pronunciation is replacing the 'elite' diction. Furthermore, as the gerontocratic Left dies off, Religion will come into its own in poetry and literature.  

In fact, Urdu’s many Arabic loanwords were borrowed through Persian,

but Arabic words- Allah for Khuda- are increasingly replacing Persian words. Many Muhajirs are now based in the Gulf. Arabic is bound to influence the way they speak and write. 

and they still bore the traces of Persian pronunciation and spelling. Thus, words like zarūrat (necessity) – ultimately from Arabic ḍarūra, but borrowed into Urdu from Persian zarūrat – came to be conceived of as constituting the ‘Arabic element’ in Urdu.

Why bother with such silliness?  

To make another comparison with English, this is a little like insisting that the English word ‘ramen’ (from Japanese rāmen) should be considered a Chinese rather than Japanese loanword into English, since the Japanese word ultimately derives from the Mandarin lāmiàn.

We don't greatly care if the thing is Japanese or Chinese or South Korean.  

Just as Indian Muslims

the ones who were stupid and who didn't matter 

were claiming Turkish, Arabic and Persian as the Islamic progenitors of Urdu in the 19th and early 20th centuries, these same languages were being adopted as vehicles for secular nationalist projects in the countries where they were spoken.

But then, because Britain decided to get out of the Empire business, those fucking vehicles were shat upon. English triumphed. Rajiv Gandhi was the first member of his family to be unable to read any script save Roman. Akbar Ahmed described the typical Karachi Grammar School alumni of the Seventies as being unable to read Iqbal and only learning a line or two of his poetry from tapes of the Sabri brothers.  

So these two historical narratives – Persian discreteness and Urdu hybridity –

all natural, living, languages are both discrete and hybrid. But Urdu is a dialect though no doubt it may soon sufficiently diverge from Hindi as to cease to be mutually intelligible. 

took place at the same time and are contradictory,

No. There were plenty of people who said Persian is a language, Urdu is a dialect. Still if Muslims become a majority, then it may prevail as the national language. 

reflecting different relationships to Orientalist forms of knowledge about language.

Forms of knowledge about language have zero power. Edward Said pretended otherwise because he was just a Prof of Literature, not a fucking Atomic Scientist who could help the PLO gain weapons of mass destruction. 

Putin may claim the portions of Ukraine where Russian speakers predominate but 'forms of knowledge about language' won't help him achieve his goal. He needs Iranian drones, not narratives of a philological kind.

Iranian nationalists aligned themselves with the new Indo-European philology, reading national history through linguistics.

No. There were religiously motivated Iranian nationalists. Mossadegh proved to be utterly shit. The Shah was actually more religious. He should have nipped the 'Aryanism' in the bud. Also, the 'White Revolution' was a mistake. But then stuff suggested by the Americans tends to be fucking calamitous.  

So, like the European linguists who established an evolutionary approach to language, the Iranians emphasised continuity, in this case with the pre-Islamic period and a linear development from Old to Middle to New Persian.

Not quite. It was obvious that the North East had played a big part. 

British colonialism and Hindu nationalism made a narrative of enduring linguistic history unavailable to Indian Muslims.

Fuck off! If the Indian Muslims could claim, and get, their own theocratic state where they could ethnically cleanse kaffirs to their hearts content, then they could also make up any fucking linguistic history they liked.  What Hindu nationalism prevented was Hinduism going the way of Zoroastrianism. But this was done by killing Muslims if they started killing Hindus. Congress, under Nehru, it must be said, was very good at ethnic cleansing.  

The British identified Sanskrit as the classical heritage of the Hindus,

Because Hindu religious texts tend to be in Sanskrit 

whereas they associated Muslims with Arabic and Persian textual heritage that came to the subcontinent from the Middle East and Central Asia.

Because this was in fact the case.  

As such, they situated Hindi, and the Hindus, as the inheritors of Sanskrit, heirs to an enduring and indigenous ‘Aryan’ civilisation,

or Dravidian. The Brits knew a lot about Tamil, Telugu etc. 

and positioned Urdu-speaking Muslims as foreigners, outsiders to India.

Nope. They were positioned as Indians unless they didn't want to be and were in the majority and voted for the Muslim League in 1946. 

As early as the 1850s, scholars proposed that the ancestors of the first Sanskrit speakers had come to India from elsewhere.

So what? Nobody cared. What got Hindu juices flowing was the notion that all the nice languages originated in India.  

More recently, genetic evidence has helped establish a scholarly consensus around the migration of this community from Central Asia to India.

Which is fine coz it means all those areas were originally Indian. Who built the Pyramids? It was my Aunty. What about Stonehenge? It was the same Aunty except she'd taken to drink.  

Nonetheless, the idea of ‘indigenous’ Hindus and ‘foreign’ Muslims proved much more difficult to dislodge.

Because the Muslim League created their own state and killed Hindus. A country you go to war with is 'foreign'.  

The notion of irreconcilable difference between these Hindus and Muslims

which was what the Muslim League claimed 

contributed to the 1947 partition of British India into the independent nations of India and Pakistan:

because Muslims in 1946 voted overwhelmingly for the League 

the greatest mass migration in human history, leaving a million or more dead and 15 million displaced.

Pakistan continued to do ethnic cleansing though, to be fair, its Army also killed Bengali Muslims in its genocidal exercises.  

The Iranian nationalists’ narrative of Persian indigeneity was similarly ethnocentric.

No. Some Iranian nationalists had Georgian and other non-Iranian ancestors. 

It became the cornerstone of the 20th-century Pahlavi dynasty’s ideology, which marginalised Iran’s minorities such as the Arabs.

Because they and their oil revenue had an understanding with the Brits. 

Identification with ‘Aryanism’ remains common to this day in Iran.

Nothing wrong with that. The Republic of Eire uses a Celtic word with the same meaning as Indo-Iranian 'Aryan' for their country.  

All of this is to show that modern nationalist narratives about language departed radically from how Iranians and Indians had for centuries before conceived of language, of themselves, and of their relationship to Persian.

This is nonsense. Iranians and Indians in past centuries were more, not less, aware of their ancestry and ethnicity.  

From about 900 to 1900, Persian had been a cosmopolitan lingua franca, a common idiom of learning and statecraft across much of the eastern Islamic world, from the Balkans to China.

But it was relatively shit. Nobody cared when it faded away. Sanskrit and Arabic and Hebrew matter because they are the languages in which Divine Scripture was received. Had Zoroastrians not been a persecuted minority in their homeland, Persian might not now be a provincial language of no intrinsic interest on a par with Estonian or Hungarian. 

Rigid hierarchies, among them age, gender, social status and class, stratified Persianate societies. They were cosmopolitan, however, in the sense that ethnicity and language did not form the basis of hierarchies; there were no special privileges reserved for native Persian speakers.

Nor for native Arabic speakers in Iraq or Egypt. So what?  The truth is Iran wasn't cosmopolitan. It was a boring, despotic, shithole which was getting poorer and stupider. 

Indeed, before the 19th century, no such concept of ‘native speaker’ or ‘mother tongue’ existed,

nor does it now. You can be a Professor of English even if your mother tongue was Bengali.  

and having a Persian education was much more significant than speaking Persian at home.

Not quite. The Indians were uneasily aware that it was better to learn Persian from 'the old women of the house' rather than the example of Anwari or Zuhuri. Faiz's Farsi was better than Iqbal's for this reason.  

There had been no geographic core or centre to the Persianate world. If anything, it could be argued that its heart lay in India,

only if you add that the heart of English lies in India because there are more English speakers there- many of whom, like me, incessantly publish worthless books- than anywhere else.  

where various dynasties like the Mughals patronised the language, outpacing even Iran in Persian literary production.

But that production was as shite as the book this guy is going to publish.  

They shared space in shrines and seminaries, and worked and socialised in the same circles

No they didn't. There was plenty of sectarian hatred. Circles of socialization were narrow and, to be frank, as boring as shit. 

Like Russian imperialism in Iran, British colonial rule in India precipitated deep social and political change.

Of a positive sort, though only on rather small a scale. 

Before the 19th century, no one thought of Persian or Urdu as exclusively associated with any particular religious group.

Hindus did. They often said so. Still, there were some 'clerical' castes amongst them. However, their wives made up for it by being ultra-orthodox. Look at the Nehru family. The men might learn Persian but the women concentrated on devotional piety in the vernacular.  

But British colonial rule brought with it the association between a people and a language and helped establish Urdu as the language of Muslim patrimony in northern India.

No. This was a choice made by elite Muslims who were being displaced by Hindus in the British administration. But East Bengalis wanted nothing to do with Urdu.  

Initially, the British East India Company had continued the centuries-long practice of patronising Persian,

and Sanskrit 

but in the 1830s the logic of modern nationalism increasingly tied Persian to Iran, disqualifying it as a ‘local’ language for northern India.

Even the Emperor was writing poems in Urdu.  

After the failed anticolonial revolt of 1857, the British feared they had lost touch with ‘ordinary’ Indians. This reinforced the shift away from British rule through the written Persian tradition, coming to favour instead languages they deemed ‘vernacular’, grounded in everyday life in India, such as Urdu.

Nope. The Brits chose Hindi for UP and Bihar because that is what the majority wanted. Punjab chose Urdu perhaps because the Khattris were fluent in it. Still, they would later declare Hindi their language even if they actually spoke Punjabi. 

Such staggering losses of power and territory to European empires in the 19th century provoked much soul-searching among Muslim intellectuals in Iran and India.

None was required. It was bleeding obvious that Europe was just better at everything.  

A few embraced partial or total Westernisation, seeing the Persianate tradition as dead weight preventing them from surviving the onslaught of European power. The Iranian Sayyid Hasan Taqizadah (1878-1970), for example, called for abandoning Persian’s Arabic-based script in favour of the Latin alphabet.

Which is what the Turks did. That worked out well. Literacy shot up. 

Other modernisers, like the Indian Muslim scholar Shibli Nuʿmani (1857-1914),

Who wasn't modern.  

took a more nuanced position. They believed that tradition had to be reformed in order to survive the conditions of modernity, but that they could also draw on that heritage as a resource in the process of modernisation. This kind of middle-ground approach prevailed in Iran and India, where intellectuals sought to develop modern, national cultures.

They failed. One reason why everybody was a Socialist fifty years ago was so as not to have to read Nomani's turgid shite. Maulana Azad could be said to continue Nomani's tradition of muddle-headed uselessness. We fondly believe he spent his last years drunk off his head. 

Importantly, Iranian and Indian reformers shared both a Persianate literary tradition and the condition of colonial subjugation.

Iran wasn't a colony. It was a despotic shithole. India, under the Brits, had a burgeoning Civil Society and the Rule of Law. Even anti-religious, Marxist, propaganda was permitted provided it wasn't too scurrilous though, in the case of Islam, there was always the danger that critics would be killed. Obviously, Indians condemned the freedoms they received from the Brits as being part and parcel of 'divide and rule' or 'Orientalism' or some such shite. 

Together, this modern experience of colonialism and a literary heritage in common provided the basis for a shared Indo-Iranian project of modernisation.

Fuck off! Iran lionized Tagore who was against chauvinistic nationalism much to Iqbal's chagrin. On the other hand, Iqbal totes lost his shit over Mussolini even though the latter was busy slaughtering Libyan Muslims. 

Muslim intellectuals – and their work and ideas – circulated between Iran and India in the first half of the 20th century,

but were regarded as shit by both sides. Oddly, Nehru's books did have some currency amongst young Iranians. Come to think of it, Mossadegh- a Swiss trained lawyer- did go on hunger strike like the Mahacrackpot. Sadly, Mossadegh put on weight because, as he said, his wife kept sending him really tasty dishes. 

building on enduring cosmopolitan networks of Persianate exchange.

They collapsed or had zero salience.  

Urdu-speaking intellectuals in northern India were typically literate in Persian and were attuned to developments in Iran.

There were no developments in Iran which weren't or aren't shite. 

Key works were translated from Urdu to Persian and vice versa.

Which is why both sides knew the other was shite. 

The transmission of knowledge between the two languages was not only literary. Iranians and Indians travelled between the two countries, aided by new technologies like the steamship, and physical infrastructure like drivable roads connecting the countries. They shared space in shrines and seminaries, and worked and socialised in the same circles.

But Shias preferred to go to Iraq. Still, Mashad did get plenty of Indian pilgrims. But the Shah did not look on them with favor.  

Multilingual travellers acted as vernacular translators, spreading ideas learned during these international encounters to other interlocutors.

What fucking ideas? Iran simply didn't have any good ones while Indian Muslims- like Indian Hindus- were getting stupider and stupider because Whitey be debil.  

Composing literary history was a key project for reconciling modernity with tradition,

Nope. Once you have a publishing industry, there will be some money available for literary history and comic book history and the history of porn and the history of stamp collecting.  

a way to manage the contradictions between the old works of literature and culture which they revered as national heritage and the new values held by modernisers.

Why reconcile them? Do we really need to reinterpret Hamlet in the context of Brexit? 

Amorous poetry posed one such contradiction. Homoerotic and sometimes bawdy poetry made up much of the classical Persian canon. Beloved poetic masters like Rumi and Saʿdi wrote ghazals and other poems celebrating, in frank, unabashed lyrical form the love of young men. But Indian Muslim reformers, influenced by a kind of ersatz Victorianism exported by the British to India, valued chastity and disparaged homoeroticism.

The same thing might be said about ancient Greek literature. The solution was the same. 'Platonic Love' 

In his Urdu-language history of Persian poetry, Nuʿmani pathologised homoerotic practices, discussing them as a disease to be diagnosed and treated.

Islam forbids such practices. 

This new literary prudery was shared by Iranians as well. Bahar, for example, knew no Urdu, but learned of developments in South Asian Muslim thought (like the work of Nuʿmani) through conversations with friends like Daʿi al-Islam Isfahani (an Iranian who knew Urdu) and ʿAbd al-Hamid ʿIrfani (an Indian-cum-Pakistani who knew Persian).

He once bumped into a camel and thus gained a profound understanding of camel metaphysics.

In his literary history, Bahar gave a very similar, pathologising account of the origins of homoeroticism to Nuʿmani’s.

Because Islam condemns it.  

Overall, when dealing with lascivious poetry, Iranian and Indian literary historians shared consistently puritan conventions.

Just like the Brits. The Turks, however, had legalized sodomy.

At the end of the 19th century and the first several decades of the 20th, Persian literary history emerged out of scholarly exchange between Iranians (Bahar, for example) and Indian Muslims (Nuʿmani, for example) writing in Persian and Urdu.

There was no exchange. Some random dude telling some other random dude about a third random dude isn't a 'scholarly exchange'. 

Intellectuals in both countries drew on the same Persian literary tradition – and on each other – in seeking local models for modern writing. For example, they took up an 11th-century Persian epic poem, Abu al-Qasim Firdawsi’s Shahnamah or ‘Book of Kings’, as a source for a modern historical method.

method of what? Some writers had eschewed Arabic origin words in certain texts- e.g. Ghalib's record of the Mutiny.

Considering the Shahnamah to be history was nothing new, but what they meant by ‘history’ was novel. Indian and Iranian modernisers

Indians don't give a shit about the Shahnamah. The thing is unreadable. 

praised the Shahnamah for its historical accuracy and precision –

they'd totally lose their shit if they read a Spiderman comic 

new historiographic values that differed from premodern historians’ emphasis on rhetoric and style. The historians of Firdawsi’s time were less concerned with the facts of history themselves than with the moral meaning to be made of that information.

Fuck off! The historians of those times wanted money in return for flattery. 

Literary historians saw their task as narrating the story of a people, the history of a nation, through the history of its literature, which they understood as the recorded history of the language.

as opposed to what? 

As such, writing literary history was a nationalist endeavour.

a useless one 

Modern literary historians made use of other medieval sources towards this end, reworking traditional biographical anthologies of poets into linear narratives of the development of Persian poetry.

How naughty of them! They should be strenuously sodomizing each other in the streets while shouting slogans against Neoliberalism.

The anthologies (tazkirah) treated each poet separately through independently bounded entries. But modernisers sought to offer a story of national progress through the history of language and literature. While the tazkirahs remained their major sources of information, they structured their modern literary histories with a new sense of linear, progressive time. This made it possible to treat all of Persian literature – including material in pre-Islamic languages like Middle Persian – as a single, continuous whole. This, too, was a collaborative endeavour. Nuʿmani’s Urdu-language Poetry of the Persians was one of the first texts to pioneer a model of literary history by introducing Orientalist philology,

Nomani had no exposure to Western philology. Easterners understand the arrow of time just as well as Westerners. The plain fact is Nomani started publishing his histories after E.G Browne who had actually spent time in Persia. 

a linear sense of time, and modern historiographic methodology to the traditional tazkirah format. It would go on to influence Iranian litterateurs such as Bahar, as well as European Orientalists like E G Browne.

who was a disciple of an Iranian Sufi. The fact is the various sects kept a strictly linear record of their leaders and their teachings. This same method could be extended to secular literature. 

There was a great irony to this cosmopolitan exchange between Iranians and Indians, however.

There was no exchange. Iran was a worse shithole than India at that time.

The literary histories it produced helped to consolidate a nationalist logic that associated Persian language and literature almost exclusively with Iran.

Nobody gave a shit about that language. Only losers spoke it. 

Iranians, taking on a modern national identity, laid claim to Persian as their patrimony.

their welcome to that species of intellectual poverty 

Indian Muslims also conceived of Persian as part of their heritage, yet Iran took centre-stage even in Indian accounts of Persian literature. This is ironic, considering how India produced more Persian literature than did Iran at some points in history.

It was ironic that Queen Victoria was not dark skinned because the vast majority of her subjects were in South Asia and Africa. 

Even as Urdu became a vehicle for the Persianate tradition in India, Indian Muslims did not challenge the nationalist logic linking Persian to Iran. Instead, many embraced it, even tying Indian Muslims’ linguistic identity to Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East. In so doing, they wound up writing themselves out of the history of Persian literature – and out of belonging to India.

Nonsense. If you write well in a language, you find a place in the history of its literature. If you want to stop belonging to India you actually have to pack your bags and move elsewhere. 

Iranians’ and Indian Muslims’ different relationships to European philology explain why the two conceived of their languages in such contrary ways.

No. Iranians knew Persian was a language. Indians knew Urdu was a dialect- that of the military camp. Persian, in India, was a dead language- like Latin in France. It was a mother tongue for most Iranians. 

This divergence reveals the historical contingency of the two narratives. It was not inevitable that Iranian nationalism would adopt the philological model of linguistic continuity,

It was inevitable because it was true. Suppose some Professor said 'Persian is descended from Quranic Arabic', he would have been laughed at. He'd lose his job and become a beggar.  

which is made clear by comparison with Indian Muslims’ conception of Urdu as a mixed language.

It is a dialect though, by fiat, it has been made the national language of Pakistan. 

This history leads to several conclusions.

First, what appears today as national culture – unique and discretely bounded – is the product of exchange with others from beyond the borders of the nation-state.

Nope. What appears as trans-national culture has that quality. National culture is the stuff unaffected by exchanges with foreigners. Thus, what is English about an English breakfast is bacon and eggs, not the fact that the meal is served on a plate and a fork and knife are provided.  

This is certainly true of modern Iran.

Only if it was true of pre-modern Iran.  

Nationalism, and what I call ‘Persianate modernity’, is the veneer that hides the very conditions of cosmopolitan cooperation and exchange that generated national culture in the first place.

No! Professor Gobi Manchurian has conclusively proved that Nationalism was off sick the day that Persianate modernity got together with Canadian medievalism to apply a veneer to some shite so as to hide some other shite. Check the fucking CCTV footage if you don't believe me. BTW you'll never guess whose Secret Santa Canadian medievalism was at the office Christmas party.

This suggests something about culture: it has no inherent politics, no predetermined trajectory.

Only in the sense that nothing does. 

Culture is an empty vessel that can be attached to all kinds of political projects.

Only in the sense that emptiness is a vessel from the point of view of culture. However, attaching bullshit of this sort to a 'political project' will cause people to tell you to fuck off because you are a useless tosser who probably teaches crap to cretins.  

Cross-cultural exchange similarly can serve reactionary ends just as well as progressive ones.

But only because this is true of every type of exchange- including progressive exchanges which tend to cause a reaction of boredom and hostility and everybody quietly voting for Donald Trump. 

At the turn of the 20th century, exchange between Iranians and Indians served to

confirm both in their very low opinion of each other. A guy named Amba Prasad Sufi turned up in Persia during the Great War. So did a guy named Brigadier Dyer. Guess which one prevailed? Iran suffered a great famine during this period.  

alienate Indians from the history of Persian literature.

Indians didn't give a shit about the history of Persian literature. E.G Browne's books were well liked but the very strong impression they conveyed was that Iran's history was shitty. Seriously, everything had gone downhill since the time of Cyrus. On the other hand, the biscuits at the Irani bakery were fucking amazeballs. 

More recently, the idea of Indian Muslims’ cosmopolitan origins

no. The Muslim League, which monopolized the Muslim vote in 1946, demanded a separate Nation for Indian Muslim on the grounds that they were a separate nation which could not cohabit peacefully with kaffirs 

has marked them as outsiders to India

Parsis have cosmopolitan origins. Everybody is cool with them- especially Smriti Irani. 

– a narrative adopted by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi

fuck off! Muslims have been second class citizens since 1947- unless they prefer to be first class citizens by doing useful things 

and other Hindu nationalists to help marginalise and disenfranchise millions of Indian Muslims.

Nehru disenfranchised Muslim refugees who had crossed the border in panic back in 1948. The Supreme Court took suo moto action against Bangladeshi undocumented immigrants in Assam which is what forced Modi to pass a law reiterating India's long standing position that non-Muslims from its Muslim neighbors gain asylum because they have a well-founded fear of persecution.  

Why is this cretin lying about this? How come he doesn't mention Pakistani ethnic cleansing of Kaffirs? Iran, of course, is a wonderful country for infidels and apostates of all types. 

Nor is ‘indigeneity’ inherently progressive, a fact also illustrated by India’s Hindu nationalists.

This cretin teaches in America which was so inherently progressive it wiped out almost all of the country's indigenous population. Yet, the cunt needs to go all the way to India to find an illustration of nationalism. Fuck does he think happened to 1.3 million Muslims during America's War on Terror? Were they killed or were they given free ice-cream?

They now describe themselves as an indigenous population besieged by Muslim allochthones, ie foreign intruders.

No. They either describe themselves as refugees- if they came from a Muslim majority area- or else they retaliate quickly and asymmetrically- which, speaking generally, is enough to put an end to the underlying problem. This is not to say that India might not do ethnic cleansing again as parts of it did in 1947. It's just that no fucking 'narratives' will be involved. Killing occurs if killing is rewarded or makes killers safer.  

Indeed, we find the language of indigeneity

which is the language this cretin is talking in a country whose indigenous people were slaughtered and almost wholly replaced

taken up by ethno-nationalists elsewhere in the contemporary world – from the European Right,

like the Ukrainians who don't want to be ruled by Putin 

claiming to defend its indigenous culture against foreign refugees, to Jewish supremacists in Israel, who insist on their own indigenous roots in the land.

But, according to this nutters theory, they have as much title to it as anybody else.  

The solutions to the ills of nationalism, therefore, cannot be found in abstractions like culture or distinctions like ‘indigenous’ vs ‘settler’.

Which is why this cretin's book is worthless even by his own lights 

Rather than forging connections based on a shared past, we must imagine together a shared future.

That shared future must involve defunding worthless University departments like the one where this bigot teaches.  

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