Early Modern Encounters with the Islamic East: Performing Cultures (Transculturalisms, 1400–1700)

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Full view. Green Library. E24 Unknown. More options. Find it at other libraries via WorldCat Limited preview. Hertel, Ralf, Bibliography Includes bibliographical references p. Players and Playgrounds: 1. Props and Costumes: 5. Encounters on Stage: 8. After Orientalism? Sir Thomas Roe, officially an ambassador of King James I to the court of Mughal emperor Jahangir at Agra in India — , but in fact employed by the East India Company to establish trade in the region, reported that the gifts he had carried, including an expensive coach, were extremely despised by those [who] have seen them Here are nothing esteemed but of the best sorts: good cloth and fine, rich pictures, they coming out of Italy over land and from Ormus; soe that they laugh at us for such as wee bring.

Subsequent references to The Journal are incorporated into the main body of the text and are indicated by page number.

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At a local level, the same individuals could be involved in journeys to different parts of the world, and ideologically and practically, trade and colonialism were not entirely discrete practices. While sixteenth-century European advocates of overseas trade invoked it, as indeed such advocates do now in our era of rampant globalization, as a relation of perfect reciprocity, neither in the sixteenth century, nor today, has global trade been established through simple mutuality.

The relationship between trade and colonialism, moreover, is crucially complicated by the vexed question of cultural attitudes and ideologies, or perhaps it is more accurate to suggest that the economic sphere is not independent of these issues. As Jean-Christophe Agnew has shown, it was during the early modern period that the notion of the market as something that stands above social and historical contexts emerged: … economists treat social exchange as a matter of buyers and sellers or their surrogates engaging in the pursuit of their self-interests, though evidence again indicates that the very concept of selves and their interests are historically conditioned ideas.

Classical and neoclassical economic theory thus takes as its starting points categories of explanations that are, in fact the end points of protracted historical struggles and debates. This difference was crucial in determining the nature and outcome of the conflict of economic interests. Several commentators have been at pains to delineate that these early years were characterized by an easy camaraderie between Europeans and natives, with the former taking to Indian clothes, manners, languages, and women. The suggestion is that during this time, social relations were simply free of the ideologies of difference that emerged in a colonial period.

Indeed they may seem to be structured by a reverse asymmetry— despite the fact that within a few generations, large parts of India would witness the ascendancy of the British, the Mughal emperor treated Roe as his inferior, and his memoirs, the Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri, chronicle Persian missions and embassies from neighboring countries but do not mention Sir Thomas Roe.

What explains this? In this essay I want to discuss the exchanges of gifts and art between the English and the Mughal court during the embassy of Sir Thomas Roe in order to draw attention to the complicated interconnections between insularity and exchange, difference and coexistence, trade and colonialism, individual actors and historical processes.

Chand, The English were well aware that in India they would have to work their way through local ways and customs. Quoted by Foster in Embassy , n. S en, Empire, 67, See also Patricia L. Alexander Rogers and Ed. Low, Marston and Co. Of Gifts, Ambassadors, and Copy-cats Fig.

Early Modern Encounters with the Islamic East Performing Cultures Transculturalisms, 1400 1700

Roe interpreted the court ritual of the Mughals in which he was required to participate as sign of debasement rather than an act of incorporation in a substantive fashion, which made him a companion of the ruler. Hence, the cloth which was the staple of their trade was seen as a utilitarian object whose value was set in a market. They never seemed to realize that certain kinds of cloth and clothes, jewels, arms, and animals had values that were not established in terms of a market-determined price, but were objects in a culturally constructed system by which authority and social relations were literally constituted and transmitted.

Emphasis added. Although the processes of commodification are closely tied in with colonialism as well as the self-definition of the European subject, this opposition oversimplifies both Mughal India and Jacobean England, in each of which clothes, pictures, and other substances, including gifts, were invested with symbolic value, although the precise meanings of the symbols were different. He was invested already, ritually and emotionally, in the English court and its European connections Enmeshing himself in the ritual web of the Mughal court would have meant, for Roe, compromising, or at the very least blunting those earlier meanings.

See also Ed. Despite some differences, I am in agreement with Pinch that cultural differences between the Mughals and the English were often a matter of different interests rather than incompatible cultural views. That the Company subsequently operated as if there was not was clearly not a matter of cultural ignorance. Gift exchange can be a form of promoting self-interest and gain, and gifts, as much as trade, can be exchanged in the hope of profit. The idea of the purely altruistic gift is the other side of the coin from the idea of the purely interested utilitarian exchange.

For my purposes, it is significant that Sebek clinches her argument by turning to the gifts given to Eastern monarchs by trading companies: What we see in the examples of [Levant traders] … are the ways that gift exchange was used as a practical, deliberate strategy—albeit an expensive, cumbersome and unreliable one—in conducting international commercial affairs. Notably absent from the accounts of our far-flung traders is any hint of tension between noble gift-exchange and ordinary commerce A useful summary of the debates is offered by Davis, The Gift Chapter 1.

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References indicate the paragraph numbers within the article. Thus they accuse the Indians of violating the rules of the gift economy, of being greedy, and inhospitable, and of offering the wrong gifts in return. See also C. Parry and M.

Bloch, Money and the Morality of Exchange, 33— Of Gifts, Ambassadors, and Copy-cats 53 r — Binyon and T. I am especially indebted to this book throughout this essay. He frequently made jokes at the expense of Muhammad, especially at his being thrust out of doors without shoes or breeches on account of his licentiousness. All this enraged many Mussalmans [ The Portuguese demanded that Muslim pilgrims carry passports with the pictures of Mary and Jesus stamped on them. But he denied her request saying that if it were ill in the Portugals to doe so to the Alcoran, being it became not a king to requite ill with ill, for that the contempt of any religion was the contempt of God, and he would not be revenged upon an innocent book.

The three missions arrived in , , and H oyland and S. Banerjee, eds. Also Coryat in Ed. Despite the orthodox Islamic injunction against the representation of human and divine figures, Persian painting, from which Mughal art developed, as well as Mongol art, abounds in animal and human figures. The Mughals accepted the means eagerly but used them as vehicles to represent the reality and the glory of their own dynasty and rule.

Early Modern Encounters with the Islamic East: Performing Cultures

Artists demonstrated their ability both to copy closely as well as to infuse the Christian figures with a different spirit or to place them in Indian settings. The painter Basawan was intrigued by the images of women, while Kesu Das was more interested in the musculature of the body.

Such images were not entirely foreign to the Indo-Islamic tradition. Jesus and Mary, especially the Nativity, feature frequently in Islamic theology and literature, which, however, disputes that Christ died on the cross an event that Mughal painters do 35 S ee L inda Komaroff and S tefano Carboni eds. T his is suggested by Bailey, The Jesuits 36—7.

Even in this picture of a Christian knight fighting with a Saracen foot soldier, where one would expect such identification to be strained by the reference to a long history of Muslim-Christian strife, the Christian soldier on a horse is painted with Central Asian features see Figure 2.

J ardine and Brotton, Global Interests 19 Of Gifts, Ambassadors, and Copy-cats 61 decorative pictures showing comic incidents or nude figures. If any other person has put in the eye and eyebrow of a face, I can perceive whose work the original face is, and who has painted the eye and eyebrow. The figure of James I in this picture was copied from the portrait by John de Critz, Sargant Painter at the English court, who would have supplied royal portraits sent as diplomatic gifts.

Eventually, English portraits and miniatures became central to Mughal experimentation with European art. Late one night in September, , Jahangir sent for Roe, demanding a picture that he had not yet been shown, and asking that if I would not give it him, yet that hee might see yt and take coppyes for his wives I replyed that I esteemed it more than any thing I possessed, because it was the image of one that I loved dearly and could never recover He [replied] Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, Vol.

On an earlier occasion, too, Jahangir had asked his chief painter to duplicate a small miniature of a woman, painted by the famous English miniaturist Isaac Oliver. But for that at first sight I knew it not, hee was very merry and craked liked a northern man The next year, another painting became the occasion for sharper contention. I suppose he understood the morall to be scorne of Asiatiques, whom the naked satyre represented, and was of the same complexion, and not unlike; who being held by Venus, a white woman, by the nose, it seemed that she led him captive.

Or was it Roe who fabricated a narrative where the powerful Mughals become provincial and marginal to the English world? In Mughal India, I have been suggesting, European pictures, including representations of women, became the grounds for contestation and exchange between men. I am indebted to Findly in my understanding of Nur Jahan and her world.


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For Roe, as for many other European commentators, unnatural female power was signaled by the seclusion of royal women. They were indifferently white, black hayre smoothed up; but if I had had no other light, ther diamonds and pearles had sufficed to show them. When I lookd up they retyred, and were so merry that I supposed they laughed at mee.

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The English quickly realized the importance of pleasing her: William Hawkins had reported sending his broker for jewels for Nur Jahan shortly after her marriage to Jahangir; many years later, Roe also attempted to bribe her with pearls, which he asked the company to send him secretly sown in cloth so that they would escape the notice of customs officials.

In an exceedingly opulent court, perhaps English pearls were unlikely to be remarkable, but were she or other royal women attracted to the miniatures Jahangir had copied for them? In England at this time, cosmetics were largely made from imported ingredients, and moralists lamented that English fashions aped foreign practices and were in danger of corrupting English identity.

As European paintings became a staple feature of overseas trade, they also exported images of beauty and fashion: Letter to Prince Charles, 30 October, , Embassy Dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Their wares attract the curiosity as well as competitiveness of the Turkish princess Donusa, who challenges the Italians to produce anything as fair as herself.

European luxury goods, and especially European hats, were popular in the zenana, a fact that Roe was aware of. Such portraits can also be seen to influence Mughal depictions of Indian women, as in this bust of a lady holding a tamboura, wearing a lavender brocade dress with an orange mantel draped over her shoulders and head so that it resembles a hat Figure 2. European artistic techniques were appropriated to depict the veils and skirts, as well as the postures, of Indian women.

More rarely we get images of Indian women experimenting with European ways of sitting or dressing. Two European engravings colored and signed by one Nadira Banu ca. Nadira was guided by the Jesuits resident in the court and mentions Aqa Rizi as her instructor. Not Nur Jahan, but Jahangir himself is depicted in a later painting wearing a pendant like the one Roe describes. Roe describes this as sett in gould hanging at a wire gould chain, with one pendant foule pearle; which he delivered to Asaph Chan, warning him not to demand any reverence of mee B.

Cassirer, —57; Leslie P. British Library, J Mughal, — other than such as I would willingly give This guift was not worth in all 30 li; yet it was five tymes as good as any hee gives in that kynd. M ughal artist M anohar. Cecilia Conclusion Historians of India are divided between those who suggest that the English consolidated their authority by appropriating Mughal codes of gift-giving and patronage, and others who emphasize ways in which they flouted these codes.

Later, the British even imagined themselves as successors to the Mughal imperial regime. But appropriation is the necessary first step toward flouting and subverting the rules of the game. On the Mughal side, the exchange confirms both an interest in Europe, and an indifference to it. While Mughal attitudes were commensurate with their power, from the vantage point of hindsight, they were a huge blunder.

I will establish Your Majesties subjects in as good tearmes for theire trafique and residences as any strangers or the naturalls themselves enjoy, or at last by our force teach them to know Your Majestie is lord of all the seeas and can compell that by your power, which you have sought with curtesie; which this king cannot yett see for swelling. I thank Suvir Kaul for this reference.

Yet the trajectory from diplomatic ambassador to fictional Moorish king was not simple or straightforward, as this essay will demonstrate. Al-Hasan al-Wazzan, known after his capture by Christian pirates and sojourn in Italy as John Leo Africanus, served Sultan Muhammad al-Burtughali as emissary, servant, soldier, informant, and ambassador on diplomatic missions to the nearby sultanates of Morocco and Tunis, to Egypt, and to the Ottoman Sultan Selim in Istanbul.

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