South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Pineapples, Marigolds, and Marvels of Peru: South Asian Literary and Artistic Responses to Exotic Flora, 1600-1800

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Virginia Suite C, Lobby Level

From the sixteenth century onward, a veritable flood of hitherto unknown plant species from the Americas, East Asia, and elsewhere poured into the Indian Subcontinent as part of the Columbian Exchange and the growth of colonial trade. Some of the new arrivals remained mere curiosities to their South Asian observers; others would fundamentally alter environment and culture by becoming integral elements of local farming and horticulture, dietary habits, and social and religious practice. Historiographic scholarship has so far paid little attention to these developments and even less to the indigenous responses to them. Yet the engagements of early-modern South Asian intellectuals and artists with novel flora are illuminating in both their emphases and their omissions. They shed light not only on local delight in novelty, beauty, and utility but also on aesthetic and cultural concerns linked to larger efforts to define individual and communal values and identities amidst the shifting social landscape of the Mughal Empire and its successor states. Drawing on Indo-Persian, Urdu, and Braj Bhasha textual sources from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well as Mughal and Rajput paintings from the same period, this paper will explore how South Asians chose to acknowledge, celebrate, incorporate, or ignore the exotic plants then newly available to them in their literary and artistic endeavors. This analysis, in turn, will allow for a better understanding of the creation and circulation of knowledge in late-Mughal India on the one hand and the making of modern South Asian material culture on the other.

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1 - Pineapples, Marigolds, and Marvels of Peru: South Asian Literary and Artistic Responses to Exotic Flora, 1600-1800



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Send Email for Pineapples, Marigolds, and Marvels of Peru: South Asian Literary and Artistic Responses to Exotic Flora, 1600-1800