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Molly Emma Aitken-Zaidi
Unaffiliated Independent Scholar
The Connoisseurship of Longing and India's Mughal Emperors during the 16th and 17th Centuries

I propose to devote two-months of research to my book project, "The Connoisseurship of Longing." The book probes the intellectual and social dimensions of the opulent visual culture for which India's Mughal emperors were famed. I examine the complex ways that Mughal-era men and women lived with their possessions from the perspectives of 16th- to 17th-century connoisseurs, especially the Hindu kings called Rajputs who served in the Mughal administration and army. A fundamental premise of my book is that objects were never satiating ends in themselves. I argue that Mughal-era entanglements with objects drew them into what I call a connoisseurship of longing, by which men and women explored the exciting and confusing friction between physical and metaphysical yearning to attain deeper experiences of the human heart and its relationship to the divine. The book enriches the historiography of connoisseurship, and its Hindu perspective adds significantly to studies of transculturation.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Cultural History; History, Criticism, and Theory of the Arts; South Asian Studies

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2014 – 8/31/2014