The Language of Secular Islam: Urdu Nationalism and Colonial India, by Kavita Datla, pursues an alternative account of the political disagreements between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, conflicts too often described as the product of primordial and unchanging attachments to religion. The author suggests that the political struggles of India in the 1930s, the very decade in which the demand for Pakistan began to be articulated, should not be understood as the product of an inadequate or incomplete secularism, but as the clashing of competing secular agendas. Her work explores negotiations over language, education, and religion at Osmania University, the first university in India to use a modern Indian language (Urdu) as its medium of instruction, and sheds light on questions of colonial displacement and national belonging.
“This is a brilliantly innovative book that offers provocative insights into South Asian history, the workings of colonialism, and the interface of linguistic and religious identities in India’s premier princely state of Hyderabad. The author marshals an impressive range of sources to make a significant intervention in the field of Islamicate learning, moving beyond the much-discussed madrasa mode of education to document the birth and growth of India’s first vernacular public university.” —Syed Akbar Hyder, University of Texas at Austin
January 2013 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3609-2 / $49.00 (CLOTH)