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THE ACADEMIC LOWDOWN ON MEDIEVAL HINDUS AND MUSLIMS


Finbarr B. Flood

OBJECTS OF TRANSLATION

Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter





Congratulations to Finbarr B. Flood: his book, published for South Asia by Permanent Black alongside Princeton University Press, has just won the 2011 Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies, South Asia Council.

Objects of Translation has been praised as “[A] brilliant, far-ranging study [...] This book is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the medieval ‘Hindu-Muslim’ encounter.” –John E. Cort, Religious Studies Review


The prize is awarded to the best English-language work in South Asian Studies, with a preference for “broad scholarly works with innovative approaches that promise to define or redefine understanding of whole subject areas.”

According to the Selection Committee Citation: “Finbarr Flood’s Objects of Translation is a magisterial study of material culture and community identity in South Asia from the eighth to the early thirteenth century … Objects of Translation is a timely contribution to medieval Indian historical studies, a major addition to translation theory and historical-cultural studies, and a field-changing work of art history. It is a landmark.”


Objects of Translation offers a nuanced approach to the entanglements of medieval elites in the regions that today comprise Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North India. The book—which ranges in time from the early eighth to the early thirteenth centuries—challenges existing narratives that cast the period as one of enduring hostility between monolithic “Hindu” and “Muslim” cultures. These narratives of conflict have generally depended upon premodern texts for their understanding of the past. By contrast, this book considers the role of material culture and highlights how objects such as coins, dress, monuments, paintings, and sculptures mediated diverse modes of encounter during a critical but neglected period in South Asian history.

The book explores modes of circulation—among them looting, gifting, and trade—through which artisans and artifacts travelled, remapping cultural boundaries usually imagined as stable and static. It analyzes the relationship between mobility and practices of cultural translation, and the role of both in the emergence of complex transcultural identities.

Among the subjects discussed are the rendering of Arabic sacred texts in Sanskrit on Indian coins, the adoption of Turko-Persian dress by Buddhist rulers, the work of Indian stone masons in Afghanistan, and the incorporation of carvings from Hindu and Jain temples in early Indian mosques. Objects of Translation draws upon contemporary theories of cosmopolitanism and globalization to argue for radically new approaches to the cultural geography of premodern South Asia and the Islamic world.

FINBARR B. FLOOD is associate professor in the Department of Art History and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. He is the author of The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Making of an Umayyad Visual Culture.

“Complete, intelligent, and original, Objects of Translation is a remarkable achievement. This book is of such importance for the histories of India and the Islamic world, as well as for theories of culture and language, that it will be essential to all those who want to understand how different cultures interact with one another.”—Oleg Grabar, professor emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study

“With nuance and subtlety, Objects of Translation joins other recent books in challenging the validity of projecting present-day conflicts onto the earliest encounters between Indians and Persianized Turks. The author cites from an enormous range of materials and evidence, and he brings them all together in an intelligent synthesis.”—Richard M. Eaton, University of Arizona

Objects of Translation demonstrates the complex variability of cultural interaction between Muslims and Hindus in medieval India. It is Flood's willingness to tell the whole story--rightly stressing the creativity, but not ignoring the conflicts--that makes the book such a compelling and important work of historical scholarship.”—Phillip B. Wagoner, Wesleyan University

“This smart and engaging book will be invaluable to readers who seek an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of art and culture, especially in border zones where the most exciting artistic breakthroughs often occur. Comprehensive, creative, and lively, it will be read by scholars of Indian and Islamic art, and educate our next generation of undergraduate and graduate students in a more holistic context.”—Eva R. Hoffman, Tufts University

Hardback / 384PP IN LARGE FORMAT WITH 175 B/W PIX / ISBN 81-7824-273-7 / Rs 1695.00 / Winter 2009
South Asia rights only / Copublished with Princeton University Press

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