The Emperor and His Attendants: Proximity, Intimacy and Politics in Royal Mughal Households

TAPSA: Emma Kalb, University of Chicago Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations

Although most often analyzed in terms of their role in relation to the harem, both in secondary literature and the comparative context, this talk focuses on eunuchs’ less-studied function in relation to the inner male spaces of the palace or camp. Both in text and image, eunuchs appear as figures both marking and controlling the perimeters of such spaces, in the process playing an important part in how access, intimacy and hierarchical relations were spatialized. As we will see, this situation not only gave eunuchs an important role in mediating elite social interactions, but furthermore entangled them in at-times-dangerous political conflicts. In this way, exploring how eunuchs inhabited this precarious position serves to illuminate the uneasy intimacies that could exist within elite Mughal households.

Dates: 
Thursday, May 30, 2019 - 5:00pm
Foster 103