Reading Iqbal’s Ilm ul-Iqteṣād: Economic Value, Translation in the Early 20th-Century and Urdu as a Language of Secular Islam


Marshall 490
845 N Park Ave
85721 Tucson , AZ


Fri, 03/24/2017 - 3:00pm


Part of the 2017 MENAS Colloquium Series 

Faisal Chaudhry, Visisting Assistant Professor, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

My paper considers the relationship between linguistic translation, vernacular expression and the scientization of economics in late colonial India. To do so it focuses on efforts by North Indian litterateurs in the years after 1840 to render Western political economy texts into Urdu as well as the role of the city of Lahore in this process. Concentrating on one particular work by Muhammad Iqbal, the paper puts by the famed poet and Islamic modernist’s efforts at fashioning an Urdu economics into dialogue with larger changes that were afoot in economic theory more generally in the last decades of the nineteenth-century. Completed in the first years after the turn of the century, the paper argues that Iqbal’s Ilm-ul-Iqtesad (“The Science of Economics”) represented an important attempt at both translating Western economic theory into the Urdu vernacular and also at translating between two competing languages of economic science. To bring this point to light my reading of the Ilm-ul-Iqtesad zeroes in on its way of reckoning with a concept of economic value that was shifting markedly in the years after 1870, as the classical tradition of political economy in the Western world, with its labor theory of value, began giving way in the face of the ‘marginalist’ revolution and its version of a utility-based theory.


I am an historian and legal scholar who focuses on the history of legal and economic ideas and their relationship to political economy and political culture across the early modern-modern divide. Geographically, my interests are in South Asia, including its connections  to the larger Islamicate and trans-colonial worlds. My forthcoming first book is called Globalizing Classical Legal Thought: India in the Age of Colonialism, 1757-c.1914. Besides legal writing projects on questions in law and development, I am also doing research for two new book projects on the history of vernacular economics in 19th century India and a history of Persianate legal culture under the Mughal empire.