Nimra Rizvi: Cultural Transactions Through Object Circulation: Awadh and the World, 1750–1857
Traditionally, the history of Awadh has been subsumed under meta-narratives of decline of the Mughal Empire, decentralized control, and establishment of colonial authority. This is due to the nature of the colonial archive as well as the academic gaze that has been trained by this archive of political correspondences, secret reports and agricultural surveys. I argue for a need to negotiate with the material culture of this period by examining lists, inventories, travelogues, paintings, letters and journals of the Nawab, Company officials and other Europeans in Awadh to challenge existing narratives centering political and economic decay, decline and supremacy of British authority. I argue that objects in circulation became instruments of educating, enquiring, subjugating, impersonating, imperializing and dominating a wide range people and institutions. The paper will explore the material collections of collectors like Claude Martin, Jean Baptiste Gentil and Antoine Polier; the process and method of collecting as well as debates around the person of the collector. The second part of this paper will explore how objects from these collections became sites of knowledge production in Awadh and about Awadh in Europe, thus pointing at a cultural efflorescence that set the tone for interactions across individuals, cultures, spaces and borders.
Nimra Rizvi is a doctoral student at the Centre for Historical Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her thesis is titled Articulating Power and Culture through Objects of Value: Awadh and the World 1740–1857. She is particularly interested in exploring production and circulation of objects in Awadh and aims to open that her work on material culture will open new avenues into studying the vibrantly disruptive socio cultural histories of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century in India. Nimra heads a project on oral history documentation of Awadh with a Lucknow based organization, Sanatkada. As a part of this project, she has co-edited four volumes titled, Feminists of Awadh Par Salaam: Kuch Qisse Yaadien aur Baatien (2014), Filmi Duniya Mein Awadh (2015), Lucknow Ki Rachi Basi Tehzeeb (2016), Lucknow ki Reha’ish: At Home in Lucknow (2017). Nimra is also the Co-Director of Mahindra Sanatkada Lucknow Festival, an annual festival of history, music, literature, cuisine, craft and weaves that is held in Lucknow. As a part of this festival, Nimra has curated three exhibitions, Dar o Deewar (2017), Francisi Awadhi Ta’alluqaat (2018) and Husn e Karigari e Awadh (2019).