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James McHugh
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA 90089-0012)
Alcohol in Indian History and Religion

Alcohol has always been an ambiguous substance in India. Medieval texts often present intoxicating drinks as forbidden, addictive, and ritually impure. Yet, other sources describe alcohol as nourishing, delicious, and sexually arousing. I would use the period of this fellowship to complete the first draft of a book manuscript on the history of alcohol in early and medieval India. There are very few studies of alcohol in pre-modern India, and no monograph on the topic. Moreover, much previous scholarship focuses on prohibitions, ignoring the flourishing and complex drinking culture of early South Asia. Based on textual sources, my study will highlight the existence of this drinking culture; document the array of beverages and drinking practices; analyze indigenous theories of the religious, legal, medical, and aesthetic aspects of drinking, and discuss these South Asian materials from a comparative and theoretical perspective, together with studies of the global history of alcohol.

Project fields:
History of Religion; South Asian History

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2015 – 7/31/2016