Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia Sanjay Subrahmanyam (UCLA)

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Distinguished Professor of History and Navin and Pratima Doshi Endowed Chair in Pre-Modern Indian History, University of Californa, Los Angeles
About the Book
Cross-cultural encounters in Europe and Asia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries brought the potential for bafflement, hostility, and admiration. The court was the crucial site where expanding Eurasian states and empires met and were forced to make sense of one another. By looking at these interactions, Courtly Encounters provides a fresh cross-cultural perspective on the worlds of early modern Islam, Counter-Reformation Catholicism, Protestantism, and a newly emergent Hindu sphere. Both individual agents and objects such as texts and paintings helped mediate encounters between courts, which possessed rules and conventions that required decipherment and translation, whether in words or in pictures. Sanjay Subrahmanyam gives special attention to the depiction of South Asian empires in European visual representations, finding a complex history of cultural exchange: the Mughal paintings that influenced Rembrandt and other seventeenth-century Dutch painters had themselves been earlier influenced by Dutch naturalism. Courtly Encounters provides a rich array of images from Europe, the Islamic world, India, and Southeast Asia as aids for understanding the reciprocal nature of cross-cultural exchanges. It also looks closely at how insults and strategic use of martyrdom figured in courtly encounters. As he sifts through the historical record, Subrahmanyam finds little evidence for the cultural incommensurability many ethnohistorians have insisted on. Most often, he discovers negotiated ways of understanding one another that led to mutual improvisation, borrowing, and eventually change.

About the Author
Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Professor and Doshi Chair of Indian History, joined UCLA in 2004. Educated at the University of Delhi and the Delhi School of Economics, the first decade of his career was spent (with brief interruptions) teaching economic history and comparative economic development at the Delhi School of Economics, where he was named Professor of Economic History (1993-95). Thereafter, Subrahmanyam taught at Paris from 1995 to 2002 as Directeur d’études in the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, holding a position on the economic and social history of early modern India and the Indian Ocean world.

In 2002, Subrahmanyam was appointed as the first holder of the newly created Chair in Indian History and Culture at the University of Oxford, a position he held for two years before moving to his present chair. From July 2005 to June 2011, he served as founding Director of UCLA's Center for India and South Asia.

In UCLA, Sanjay Subrahmanyam teaches courses on medieval and early modern South Asian and Indian Ocean history; the history of European expansion, the comparative history of early modern empires, and world history. He advises graduate students on Indian history, the history of the Iberian empires, and more generally on forms of "connected histories." He is also Joint Managing Editor of the Indian Economic and Social History Review, besides serving on the boards of a number of other journals in the US, UK, France, Portugal, and elsewhere. He is currently on the editorial board of the multi-volume Cambridge History of the World, and will edit Volume VI (in 2 parts).

In 2013, Sanjay Subrahmanyam was elected to a Chair in Early Modern Global History at the Collège de France in Paris, to begin lectures in late November 2013.

Friday, February 7, 2014 - 12:00pm
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