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Muraqqa Project by Sumathi Ramaswamy

Oct 23, 2014

"Going Global in Mughal India" is the title of a digital muraqqa (album) project by Prof. Sumathi Ramaswamy, member of the Cluster's Advisory Board. The project documents cartographic practices in the Indian subcontinent, using the tools of digital humanities to explore the possibilities of online scholarship and curatorial work.

Literally meaning “patchwork” in Arabic, or “album” in Persian, an imperial muraqqa is a collection of Islamic paintings, drawings and calligraphic works assembled by a patron, usually the emperor himself. It is a book in form and a picture gallery in function. In the age of virtual technologies, a muraqqa also becomes a highly mobile, portable, if virtual, picture gallery.

The digital muraqqa presented by Sumathi Ramaswamy tracks the itineraries of the terrestrial globe, an artefact that arrived in India at a time when the Mughal emperors were expanding their dominion across the subcontinent. It pays homage to the important and intriguing art of the book by mimicking some aspects of its form, even while adapting and updating it for a scholarly project of the twenty-first century. Her muraqqa, focusing on the display of the terrestrial globe, is an eclectic array of paintings, prints, and photographs of objects spanning genres and historical time periods.

Supported by the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University, Sumathi Ramaswamy has undertaken this project in order to document cartographic practices in the Indian subcontinent. It attempts to digitally conjure up the spirit of the Mughal album by assembling and curating an artefact in which images are in dialogue with other images in a manner that demands contemplation and immersion, but also discussion and debate. The paintings brought together in the album are complex entities and may be variously analyzed, but the primary concern is with “the calculated display” of the globe of the earth within the frame of each work. By using new tools of digital humanities, the project is a work of public scholarship, with a keen interest in bringing these fine images and the superb interpretations on many of them to the attention of a wider audience outside academia.

Sumathi Ramaswamy is Professor of History and International Comparative Studies at Duke University. She is a cultural historian of South Asia and the British Empire and her research over the last few years has been largely in the areas of visual studies, the history of cartography, and gender. In addition, she is member of the Advisory Board of the Cluster, where she coordinated the research projects B4 "Transcultural Visuality” and HRA2 “Global Heroes”.

Visit the website of the project "Going Global in Mughal India"


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  • Key Visual of the Project (Original: Trustees of the Chester Beatty Librarym Dublin, CBL In 07A,5)