Emotions, as they are conceived of in a South Asian context, are situated less inside than between actors. This has profound implications for the archive we are drawing from to investigate emotions: we are no longer limited to written documents, expressing individual and private emotions. If we were to deem our investigation successful only once we found the diaries in which contemporaries expressed the feelings a stroll through the royal gardens or walking down the bazaar evoked in them, results would be hard to come by – neither was the private diary a genre cultivated in Indo Persian culture, nor would the need be felt to express emotions in this way. Instead this research project proposes to develop ways in which the interface between linguistic and non-linguistic sources can be explored, ranging from architecture – streets, buildings and gardens – to miniatures and paintings, from census reports to poetry and to descriptions of spatial practices.

Akbar watching as Tansen receives a lesson from Swami Haridas. Imaginary situati
© Source: wikipedia

Historians and notably historians of emotions have long had an ambivalent relationship to non-linguistic sources, deeming them more ambiguous than written texts. Aside from the fact that written texts, too, don’t yield access to the contemporaries’ emotions without meticulous interpretation and a detailed knowledge of the rules governing the expression of feelings, the central point of entry seems to be to look at maps or miniatures not as isolated instances, but as elements of a conversation between different media, linguistic as well as visual, aural, tactile or olfactory.
This emphasis on intramediality has to be supplemented by one on intermediality. Particularly in the Indo Persian tradition, media rarely operate in isolation from each other. Poetry evokes all the senses, it cannot be understood without paying attention to the images, sounds and perfumes it draws on; public buildings, in turn, are inscribed by verses, either from the Qur’an or by poets; maps include paintings, and paintings in turn often allude to poetry, epics or famous historiographical texts. None of these media can be read and understood by itself – it is through a complex process of quotation, translation, and adaptation between the media that meaning is generated. These media both express emotions and create a framework in which they can be experienced.



  • Pernau, M., and I. Rajamani (2016). Emotional Translations: Conceptual History Beyond Language.  History & Theory 55 (1):46-65.
  • Rajamani, I. (2012). Pictures, Emotions, Conceptual Change: Anger in Popular Hindi Cinema. Contributions to the History of Concepts, 7(2), 52-77.
  • Sachdeva, S. (2008). In Search of the Tawa'if in History: Courtesans, Nautch Girls and Celebrity Entertainers in India (1720s-1920s). PhD diss, University of London, London.

Related Projects

Conference "Monsoon Feelings"

The conference  "Monsoon Feelings" took place 25-27 June 2015 at the MPIB.
Organiziers: Margrit Pernau (MPIB), Imke Rajamani (MPIB) und Katherine Butler Schofield (King's College London)

Konferezposter 2015
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