Legible script and scribe: Marathi Handwriting in the Age of Print


Legible Script and Scribe: Marathi Handwriting in the Age of Print 


Dr. Prachi Deshpande

(Associate Professor in History, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata) 


Date: 11th June, 2021 (Friday) at 3.00 p.m


Recorded Video



The arrival of print and the expansion of colonial education over the 19th century triggered the standardization of many regional Indian languages. There were efforts to standardize grammars and textbooks, and to reform scripts and orthography. Print not only brought typefaces and printed books, but also prompted changes in practices of reading and writing, including handwriting. This talk examines the wider world of handwriting in the Marathi language in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through a closer look at writers and their hands and pens in offices, courts & sites of police surveillance, it explores ideas about literacy, legibility, efficiency and publicity that undergirded the emergent bureaucratic framework in western India. These ideas and practices were critical to the successful claims for linguistic statehood by the mid-twentieth century. 

About the speaker: 

Dr. Deshpande teaches History in Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata. Her areas of research interest include language and modernity; script and language; multilinguality; cultures of historiography; memory; translation; scribal cultures, Maratha states; 19th and 20th century western India; Marathi literature and culture. Dr. Deshpande has publications both in Marathi and English. She is the author of Creative Pasts: Historical Memory and Identity in Western India, 1700-1960 (2007) which explores modern history writing practices in Marathi-speaking parts of Western India and its impact on shaping Maharashtrian regional identity.  A book length project on Marathi language practices in different overlapping spaces – scribal, pedagogical, political, multilingual is in progress. Recently, she has received Infosys Prize for the Humanities (2020) awarded by the Infosys Science Foundation. She is the  Convener of Jadunath Bhavan, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.