Following general reflections on the relations between global media, local and oral history, this paper addresses the paradoxical constraints imposed by language specialization, which focuses Western historians on particular regions and languages at the expense of demotic and oral cultures. Taking up the idea that translation is never an ideologically innocent act, Stein addresses the ambiguous status of English in the Indian context, both as the language of British imperial power, but also as a vehicle for challenging and “writing back” against colonial discourse. To illustrate the linguistic pitfalls that accompany research on South Asian art, the paper investigates the relations between temple art, iconoclasm, and the zinc smelting industry in Jawar, Rajasthan.