A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows

Andrew Amstutz

2017-2019 Translation, Adaptation, Transplantation Fellow
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

Finding a Home for Urdu: Islam and Science in Modern South Asia

What does it mean to be a vernacular language of science in the twentieth century? In turn, how did Indian Islam shape the production of scientific knowledge in modern South Asia? Andrew Amstutz’s book manuscript investigates these questions by following a Muslim intellectual association from 1903 to 1961 that promoted the Urdu language as a medium of accessible scientific knowledge across contemporary India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Urdu is written in the Perso-Arabic script and historically associated with North India’s urban Muslims. His book manuscript is a hybrid history of language activism and the history of science that offers a critical reappraisal of both the trajectory of Indo-Muslim politics beyond nationalism and the boundaries of colonial science. The decline of British colonial power in India and rising sectarian tensions and economic anxieties in the first half of the twentieth century posed challenges for Muslims who constituted a religious minority in India. In response, Muslim intellectuals advanced Urdu as a unique urbane language of integrative knowledge through its colonial ties to university sciences in English, inheritance of ancient Islamic sciences (uloom) in Persian and Arabic, and local depth in India. Focusing on health, urban commerce, and type technology, these Muslim intellectuals hoped to both preserve a distinctive Indo-Muslim culture of erudition and link Muslims across different social classes and regions in South Asia. Amstutz connects an array of multilingual archives and different voices, including Muslim healers, women writers, and small-town translators, across the borders of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Andrew Amstutz earned his PhD from the Department of History at Cornell University in 2017. His research and teaching interests include South Asian Islam across the early modern and modern eras, the history of science in colonial contexts, comparative Muslim modernities, and South Asian languages. In addition to his book manuscript, he also writes about the contested history of museums in Pakistan and the use of digital humanities to better understand the cross-border lives of Persian and Urdu scholars and texts. Andrew Amstutz’s research and extensive language training were supported by the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) program, the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS), and the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS.) He has taught courses on Islam and science, India’s Partition, and undergraduate writing. He received his M.A. in South Asian History from Cornell University and his B.A. in History and Italian from Middlebury College.