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Journal > Volumes > 47 (2016) / 2 (Summer)
“They Say …”: Indian Talk Back as Indiaspeak in Ralph Fitch’s Account of India in 1583
Imtiaz Habib
Old Dominion University

The account of a visit to India in 1583 by the Elizabethan leather seller, Ralph Fitch, is justly famous for the view it contains of India in the sixteenth century. Yet, the account has not been seen for the traces it has of Indians talking to Fitch in India, in the repeated intrusions of the phrase “They say.” This essay argues that snippets of street level Indian back talk make for a kind of Indiaspeak; these phrases are valuable for the reverse view they offer of the first English probing of India that led to the English colonization of the subcontinent over the next two centuries. In the absence of official Indian responses to the initial English contacts, the phrases allow us to see the protocolonial English observer observed, and through the character of their contents foretell the nature of the subsequent Indian struggle against English dominion.

Pages: 305 - 325