May 2024

6 PM - 7:30 PM IST

Online Via Zoom


From Golkonda to Siam: Secret Letters, Envelopes, and Diplomatic Crisis in the Mughal Port-city

Indian Ocean and Beyond: Outward Bound from Gujarat
Subah Dayal

Subah Dayal

Assistant Professor
New York University

By examining the reuse, circulation, and materiality of copied Persian documents from the archives of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), this presentation reconstructs a moment of diplomatic crisis in the Mughal port-city of Masulipatnam on the northern Coromandel coast (southeastern India). It first excavates ‘stray’ objects - envelopes, seals, and registration notes - connected to secret letters that were exchanged amidst a showdown between the ambassador of the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya, Mughal port-city officials, and merchants from the VOC factory ca. 1690. It concludes with a reflection on the stakes for reconstructing the unspoken relationships between objects and texts and the possibilities for writing a materially-informed social history of trans-imperial archives and intra-Asian diplomacy.

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Subah Dayal

Subah Dayal is Assistant Professor of Pre-Modern Indian Ocean Studies at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her first book, Between Household and State: The Mughal Frontier and the Politics of Circulation in Peninsular India, is forthcoming (2024) with the University of California Press. Her second project is a comparative study of the scribal cultures of Safavid and Mughal port cities, with a focus on Bandar 'Abbas, Surat, and Masulipatnam.