Legitimising Food: Mughal Imperial Ideology and Food Practices

Legitimising Food: Mughal Imperial Ideology and Food Practices
01 Jun 2017, 17:30 to 01 Jun 2017, 19:30
IHR Wolfson Room NB02, Basement, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Neha Vermani , Royal Holloway University of London

Narratives about authority and legitimacy of the pre-colonial court societies in the Indian sub-continent rely heavily on discussions of a dynasty’s ability to garner military strength, successful amassing of agrarian revenues, and expressing grandeur through impressive architectural projects. Role of food practices and consumption as a valid category of historical analysis is missing from this historiography. In this talk I will locate the significance of this missing component in the discourses about articulating imperial ideology in the Mughal courts, which was a precursor to the British colonial rule, in the Indian subcontinent.  
The courtly food practices responded to the changing political and social beats of the empire from the 16th to the 18th century. Studying these changes, by examining the literature produced at Mughal court (in the form of autobiographies and biographies) and beyond  (accounts of travellers and embassies to the court), I seek to examine how the notions of self and others were constantly being fashioned and refashioned through consumption or disciplining consumption; how power permeated society through an engagement with food related rituals and symbols; how notions of allegiance, authority, and challenges to this authority were performed through an engagement with food and related rituals, and the particular meanings and functions these held for the participants. 
Rather than seeing the Mughal court as site of gluttony, mindless consumption and decadence and the lifestyle of people who inhabit this space as super-structural froth, I will argue that courtly ceremonies and rituals around food hold a key for better understanding of the textures of political-social life in the Mughal India.


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