The Double Mistaken Identity of Colonial Literature

The Cases of Aesop’s Fables in Japan (1593) and India (1803)

In: Journal of World Literature
Carlos Diego Arenas Pacheco University of Notre Dame Medieval Institute USA Notre Dame, IN

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Although postcolonial approaches in world literature and translation studies have produced much necessary scholarship, they have in general disregarded the historical ‘native’ author and translator working in colonial or semicolonial settings. Studies on Urdu literature in the 19th century, for instance, focus mostly on the role of British Orientalists. Drawing upon Allen’s trans-indigenous project, I propose to read the historical ‘native’ text approaching it with a concept drawn from Amerindian ethnohistory: ‘double mistaken identity’ (DMI). While ‘native’ intellectuals might have unwittingly contributed to furthering the cause of Western colonialists, DMI allows for two perspectives to coexist in the ‘native’ text, one of which is a ‘native’, non-hybrid perspective. I take the failed colonial project in 16th-century Japan as a model, focusing on a translation that both Urdu and Japanese intellectuals undertook: that of Aesop’s Fables. There is a case for considering ‘native’ literature fully colonial, fully ‘native’, and fully global.

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