Journal Article

Translation and the Study of Indian Religions

John Nemec

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 77, issue 4, pages 757-780
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online September 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Translation and the Study of Indian Religions

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In this essay, I argue that scholars of Indian religions should produce unbroken translations of heretofore lesser-known texts in order to inform the academy's understanding of Indian religions. Granting high priority to such a translation agenda is ironic, however, given the Orientalist origins of the scholarly practice in question. Doing so is nevertheless justified by observing the following: (1) the vast majority of Indian religious texts remains untranslated or uncritically rendered—and often unedited or even unpublished—including many substantial and historically significant works; (2) though incomplete in scope, Orientalist conceptions of the canon of classical Indian literature, established in large part through the translation and analysis of a relatively narrow selection of religious and other works, remain influential today; (3) finally, a number of the Orientalists' translations, guaranteed by their rigorous language training, have stood the test of time and in some instances remain authoritative today, even if the Orientalist translators often harbored reviling opinions of India and Indians.

Journal Article.  9136 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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