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“fooker Daruces ve tehaungeshta hastam”: English engagement with Sufi ideas of famine and dearth in early modern India

Thursday 4 February 2021, 5.15PM

Speaker(s): Ayesha Mukherjee (University of Exeter)

This paper argues that the discourse of dearth was a fundamental part of Sufi doctrines of embodiment and community in early modern India. It was not an abstruse but an active philosophy, historically grounded in the lived experiences of contemporary Sufis and their activities in times of famine. English and European travellers, who witnessed famine and food shortage in their own national contexts and in India, engaged with these ideas, and a cross-culturally informed understanding of moral response to dearth thus emerged. The paper aims to chart some of the complex ways in which ideas of dearth travelled, through Sufi tazkirahs (hagiographies) and malfuzat (dialogues), through interregional networks of Sufis, dervishes, and fakirs, and, not least, through the movements and writings of early English travellers and chaplains in India. 
Ayesha Mukherjee is Associate Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture in the Department of English, University of Exeter. She is the author of Penury into Plenty: Dearth and the Making of Knowledge in Early Modern England (2015), and editor and contributor to A Cultural History of Famine: Food Security and the Environment in India and Britain (2019). She is currently working on a monograph, provisionally titled Placing Famine: Cultural and Medical Geographies of Dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1700, which builds on her research as Principal Investigator for the AHRC-funded projects Famine and Dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1800 (2014-16) and Famine Tales from India and Britain (ongoing).  

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Image: Portrait of a Sufi, first

Location: Zoom