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Katherine Schofield | The Place of Pleasure: Music in Mughal Thought and Society, 1593–1707

Lecture | March 10 | 12-1:30 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conference Room)


Katherine Butler Schofield, Senior Lecturer in Music, King's College London

Munis Faruqui, Associate Professor of South and Southeast Asian Studies, the University of California, Berkeley.

Institute for South Asia Studies, The Berkeley Pakistan Initiative


ISAS and Pakistan@Berkeley, a campaign to broaden and deepen Pakistan related research, teaching and programming at UC Berkeley, invite you to a talk by Katherine Butler Schofield, cultural historian and ethnomusicologist whose work focuses on South Asia.

Talk Abstract:
This paper establishes an overarching theory of the place of Hindustani music in Mughal thought and social life, roughly from the last decades of Akbar’s reign until the death of Aurangzeb ‘Alamgir. My discussion is based on a range of Mughal sources in Persian on sound, listening, and music, notably music-technical treatises from the 1660s onwards. In short: Mughal understandings of the human being, and thus of the social and political worlds, were dominated by two parallel binarisms deriving from the discourse on ethics and proper governance embodied in Persianate akhlāq literature: 1) the inner struggle between reason and the emotions anger and desire (or, in more technical terms, between the practical intellect,‘aql-i ‘amalī, and the irascible and concupiscible faculties, quwwat-i ghazabī and quwwat-i shahwī); and 2) this struggle’s outworkings in the social and political world as the need to maintain balance between the domains of duty and, in the case of desire, pleasure. For virtue to prevail, reason and duty must ultimately win over desire and pleasure. But this victory did not entail the annihilation of desire and pleasure, rather mastery over these domains. This mastery had to be displayed to the world if it were to be deemed a virtue at all.

Hindustani music was understood in Mughal writings as the sonic vehicle of the emotions joy, love, and longing, all of which belonged to the domain of desire. Musical patronage and connoisseurship therefore became a major social and political arena in which the inner struggle to place desire under rational control could be outwardly manifested. Patronage and connoisseurship of music, recited poetry, dance, youthful beauty, and other evanescent phenomena were the core practices of the domain of pleasure in the Mughal world, conducted largely within the intimate social institution of the majlis or meḥfil (assembly). While listening to music in the majlis could be dangerous to the Mughal official because of its exploration of desire, at the same time music was indispensible to Mughal courtiers because of its use value in fortifying the primary Mughal virtue of male-to-male affection, as a means to spiritual union with the Divine Beloved, and as a medicinal cure for physical and mental disease.

About the Speaker:
Katherine Butler Schofield is a historian of music and listening in the Mughal Empire and the colonial Indian Ocean. She attained her PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and after posts at Cambridge and Leeds now holds a permanent position in the Department of Music at King’s College London. Working largely with Persian sources for Hindustani music c.1570-1860, in recent research she has established music as central to Mughal technologies of sovereignty and selfhood, identified classicisation processes at work in early-modern Indian arts, explored the emotional intensifications of paint, sound, and text spun together, told tales about ill-fated courtesans and overweening ustads, and traced the lineage of the chief musicians to the Mughal emperors from Akbar to Bahadur Shah Zafar.

She has just finished a €1.2M European Research Council grant, “Musical Transitions to European Colonialism in the Eastern Indian Ocean” (2011-16), which investigates the multiple ways in which music and dance were transformed c.1750-1900 in the transition from pre-colonial to colonial regimes in India and the Malay world. Her first book, an edited volume with Francesca Orsini, Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature, and Performance in North India, has recently been published in a pioneering open-access format by Open Book Press (2015).

Some of her selected publications include:
- “The courtesan tale: female musicians and dancers in Mughal historical chronicles,” Gender & history (forthcoming).
- “Reviving the golden age again: ‘classicization’, Hindustani music, and the Mughals,” Ethnomusicology 54/3 (2010), pp. 484-517.
- “The origins and early development of khayal.” In J Bor, F Delvoye, J Harvey and E te Nijenhuis, eds. Hindustani music: thirteenth to twentieth centuries . New Delhi: Manohar (2010).
- “The social liminality of musicians: case studies from Mughal India and beyond,”twentieth-century music 3/1 (2007), pp. 13-49.
- “Did Aurangzeb ban music? Questions for the historiography of his reign,” Modern Asian studies 41/1 (2007), pp. 77-121.

For more details, please see her full research profile HERE.

This event is presented under the aegis of the Berkeley Pakistan Initiative

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PARKING INFORMATION
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isas@berkeley.edu, 510-642-3608