[P4958] Nationalism In and Out of "Translation": Theater, Satire, and Memoirs across the Persianate World

Created by Rustin Zarkar
Monday, 11/20/17 3:30pm


The word translation often indicates the rendering of one language to another. Embedded in this rendering are common geographical, ethnic, and political associations to the original and target languages. In a broader scope, however, translation can include the transference of ideas, aesthetics, and objects beyond geographical borders.

Do certain historical, religious, and political contexts give rise to certain non-textual translations, or are the latter borrowed and lent chiefly with the determination and active awareness of individual and group translators? Is national identity a primordial continuous sense throughout centuries, or does it translate to other, perhaps contradictory, concepts?

If we define thinkers, writers, artists, and political activists primarily as translators, how do we respond to the question of originality? How do we engage with Benjamin's concept of "an ideal receiver" being a detrimental consideration? What happens to thoughts, aesthetics, and objects, in their translational afterlives? Under what circumstances are they seen as translated?

This panel wishes to engage with the above questions by bringing together the perspectives of cultural and literary historians of the Persianate world, mainly focusing on Iran, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.

One paper analyzes the translation of a pre-modern national identity to nineteenth-century patriotism and twentieth-century nationalism through playwriting and theatre. This paper discusses how the progressive elite of late nineteenth century and the constitutionalists of early twentieth century advocated for theatre as a means to revive a historic sense of Iranian identity, and later, similar to their Caucasian and Ottoman counterparts, disseminated ideas of nationalism and nation-construction.

The next presentation traces the various translations (linguistic, spatial, and aesthetic) of Soviet socialist realism and modernity into a particular Iranian nationalism, primarily through Maxim Gorky’s Mother in Iran. It specifically examines how the novel left a lasting impression on expressions of patriotic love in literature and leftist discourse as seen through memoirs.

The final paper examines the role of satirical journals in the formation of Tajik identity during the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (1924-1929). Inspired by satirical journals in the Caucasus, journals such as the Samarkand-printed Mullo Mushfiqi utilized biting social commentary and vibrant illustrations to articulate notions of national progress as defined by Communist party ideologues.

Through theatre, memoir writing, and satire, a particular language of nationalism and nationalist progress was developed. In multiple senses, however, this language was a transmission of knowledge, ideas, and stories translated from varying political and cultural contexts.





Blake Atwood

(University of Texas at Austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Sheida Dayani

(Harvard University/NYU)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Rustin Zarkar

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Belle Cheves

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;