Sunday, February 22, 2009

Exhibit B

Manan Ahmed, a historian and blogger who understands among other things Urdu and something of the history of the Swat valley and that part of the world, has a post about the difference between recent events there as reflected in English-only, and the considerably different picture you get via the writing of an Urdu-speaking and -writing journalist who lives there.

Here is the link to his post on the group-blog he participates in; and here is the link to his own blog.

His first point is that reporting in the NYT and elsewhere seems to be leading in a dangerous direction, and (my words) part of what feeds that is ignorance of the locale, ignorance of the language, ignorance of the history and culture, ignorance of everything an intelligent person would want to know about.

Manan Ahmed also has a gift for a more nuanced use of the English language than I do, so all I can do is recommend reading that post carefully, and particularly his translation in full of an open letter written by a journalist for the local Urdu-language paper to Fazlullah, head of the local Taliban. It is number #6 in his post, don't miss it.

Without going over all of the points Manan Ahmed makes, because you can read them for yourself, I would like for my purposes to stress one point that probably he thought too obvious to mention: It is not only the English of the NYT and NPR that gives you a one-sided picture of events. Even if you read the English of Pakistani writers in the big cities (for instance the amusing piece that he quotes from Dawn), and then the Urdu of a person born and bred in the region in question, you will see switching from US English to Pakistani English doesn't really take you to the heart of the matter at all. Someone has to do the hard work of actual interpretation.

Hopefully he can be persuaded to continue along these lines. And that this will start to serve as an example to others.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

badger, the link to the group blog just takes me to blogger log in and not to a blog. can you check it?

2:44 PM  
Blogger badger said...

fixed. thanks.

3:53 PM  
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