This roundtable discusses Emma Flatt’s The Courts of the Deccan Sultanates: Living Well in the Persian Cosmopolis, by bringing together scholars from different disciplines to address the diverse questions raised by her book. As one of very few monographs to be published in several decades on the Indo-Islamicate states of southern India in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, The Courts of the Deccan Sultanates illuminates multifaceted trans-regional networks – mercantile, kinship, friendship, and intellectual – which produced a shared courtly disposition in the sultanates of southern India. Drawing on a diverse range of treatises, chronicles, poetry and letters, Flatt challenges the idea of perpetual hostility between Islam and Hinduism in Indian history. Instead, she focuses on courtly skills such as letter-writing, perfume-making, astrological divination, performing magic, sword-fighting and wrestling that became a route to both worldly success and ethical refinement. Following a brief presentation by the author, each discussant will discuss the book’s contributions to specific intellectual fields or new questions it poses.
Richard Eaton will reflect on the book’s implications for understanding the political history of precolonial Deccan. Deborah Hutton will explore how Flatt’s discussion of a shared courtly disposition and skillsets affects how we understand the art of the Deccan sultanates. Specifically, she will show how this work enables an understanding of images and objects in court culture, moving beyond 20th-21st century connoisseurship perspective that focused on artistic style. Samira Sheikh will examine the book’s evocation of a distinct courtly ethos, drawing as much from Deccani politics as from an expansive transregional Persianate cosmopolitanism. Following this, the audience and roundtable discussants will have ample time to participate in a moderated discussion.