Second Cities in the Circuits of Empire: Calcutta and Glasgow

Between the 8-9th February 2016, the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences and the Presidency University hosted the second international workshop for the Second Cities in the Circuits of Empire, Glasgow/Calcutta and the Nineteenth-Century Legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment; a project funded by the University of Glasgow, British Academy and supported by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada and the Australian Research Council.

Building on proceedings from the 2015 workshop held at the University of Glasgow, the international network of scholars from India, Canada, Europe and Australia met to explore the links between these colonial cities and how they featured in broader imperial circuits.

On the opening day at Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Sujaan Mukherjee and Cleo Roberts were invited to present papers. The panel, chaired by Professor Rosinka Chaudhuri (CSSSC) and including a paper from Christopher Kelleher (University of Toronto) focused on literary, medical and artistic interactions between Calcutta and Scotland.

Drawing on their research for the ETIC project, Mukherjee presented, ‘Edinburgh, Calcutta, Cannabis: Medical Exchanges’ and Roberts delivered ‘Glaswegian Artist in Calcutta: William Simpson’s Documentation of the Ganges’. Along with Kellehers’ paper, ‘Henry Derozio’s Don Juanics and the Call to Conversion in Nineteenth-Century Calcutta’, the panel demonstrated how knowledge was filtered and mitigated across these regions.

Indebted to Professor Dan White (University of Toronto) work and his paper exploring visual encounter through city panoramas, Roberts presented another dimension of Calcutta’s visual culture. Using a rare book made by William Simpson, a Glaswegian artist, she argued that the Ganges threaded the work together, reflecting its broader visual currency. Her paper showed how this river was reflected as ‘the country’s essential mechanism, oiling its social, religious and economic character.’

Williamsimpsoninturbanindianclothing1891

William Simpson (1891)  pictured following his time in Calcutta

Mukherjee’s work focused on Calcutta’s pivotal role in international and local medical networks. Through a series of rarely acknowledged papers on Indian hemp (gunja) given by William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an alumni of the University of Edinburgh’s medical school, the paper traced how colonial medicine encountered local knowledge. Using these lectures given at Calcutta Medical College in 1839 to provide a nuanced perspective, Mukherjee expanded on how medical rhetoric legitimized his experiments and in part compromised folk knowledge.

2ndCitiesOpeningPanel

Professor Swapan Chakravorty opens proceedings at Presidency University

This perpetual fascination with Indian products and plants drew parallels with presentations by Dr Kate Teltscher (University of Roehampton) and Dr John Mathew (ISER, Pune). These papers, given at Presidency University, detailed a common drive to catalogue ecological components of the empire. Adopting a micro-perspective, Mathew examined ‘Buchanan’s Barrackpore Menageries and Faunal Studies under Company Raj’ whilst Teltscher’s paper, ‘Cataloguing the Resources of the Empire: George Watt’s Dictionary’ analysed commercial descriptions. Rather than rest on the taxonomical ordering, Teltscher explored the text’s narrative arguing that India was constructed as both ‘retrospective and prospective…serving as a defence and vindication of colonial rule’.

The programme including speakers Professor Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow), Professor Mary Ellis (University of Glasgow) and Professor Tapati Guha Thakurta (CSSSC) concluded with valedictory address from Professor Swapan Chakravorty (Presidency University). The workshop created an important forum which gave rise to animated discussions and debate. These will be certain to continue at next year’s event.

Second Cities in the Circuits of Empire: Calcutta / Glasgow and the Legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment Conference Programme

8 February 2016 9 February 2016
Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta

R1 Baishnabghata Patuli Township, 700 094

Presidency University

86/1 College Street, 700 073

Arts Building, Ground Floor, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Auditorium

10.30 am – 10:45 am: Tea

10.45 am – 11:00 am: Welcome address

First Session: 11 am – 1 pm

Chair: Swapan Chakravorty (Presidency University)

11:00 am – 11.45 am: Daniel White (University of Toronto)

Title: Painted Cities of Empire

11:45 am – 12:30 pm: Sambudha Sen (Shiv Nadar University)

Title: Re -visioning the Colonial City: Calcutta, London and the Aesthetics of Hybridity

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm: Discussion

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Lunch

Second Session: 2:00 pm to 3-30 pm

Chair: Rosinka Chaudhuri (CSSSC)

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Christopher Kelleher (University of Toronto)

Title: Henry Derozio’s Don Juanics and the Call to Conversion in Nineteenth-Century Calcutta

2:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Sujaan Mukherjee (Jadavpur University)

Title: Edinburgh, Calcutta, Cannabis: Medical Exchanges

3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Cleo Roberts (University of Liverpool)

Title: Glaswegian Artist in Calcutta: William Simpson’s Documentation of the Ganges

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Discussion

4:00 pm – 4.15 pm: Tea

Third Session: 4:15 pm – 5:45 pm

Chair: Lakshmi Subramaniam (CSSSC)

4:15 pm – 4:45 pm: Mary Ellis Gibson (University of Glasgow)

Title: John Leyden’s Travels in Mysore

4:45 pm – 5-15 pm: Tapati Guha Thakurta (CSSSC)

Title: The Object Flows of Empire: Cross-Cultural Collecting in Early Colonial Calcutta

5-15 pm – 5-45 pm: Discussion

First Session: 11 am – 1 pm

Chair: Bashabi Fraser (Edinburgh Napier University)

11:00 am – 11.45 am: Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow)

Title: Frances Buchanan’s Survey of South East Bengal (1798)

11:45 am – 12:30 pm: John Mathew (ISER, Pune)

Title: Buchanan’s Barrackpore Menagerie and Faunal Studies under Company Raj

12:30 pm – 1:00 pm: Discussion

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Lunch

Second Session: 2:00 pm to 3-30 pm

Chair: Mary Ellis Gibson (University of Glasgow)

2:00 pm – 2:30: Parimala Rao (Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies)

Title: Seven Scotsmen of the Bombay Presidency

2:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Kate Teltscher (University of Roehampton)

Title: Cataloguing the Resources of the Empire: George Watt’s Dictionary

3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Discussion

3:30 pm – 3:45 pm: Tea

Third Session: 3:45 pm – 5:45 pm

Chair: Nigel Leask (University of Glasgow)

3:45 pm – 4:30 pm: Souvik Mukherjee (Presidency University) and Sarbajit Mitra (Jadavpur University)

Title:Of Swimming Doctors, Native Catechists and Scotch Dissenters: Exploring the Digital Archives of the Scottish Cemetery in Calcutta

4:30 pm – 5:15 pm: Shrimoy Roy Chaudhury (Shiv Nadar University)

Title: An Expatriate at Work: The Fragmented Worlds of Surgeon Thomas Alexander Wise (1825-1884)

5:15 pm – 5:45 pm: Discussion

5.45 pm – 6.00 pm: Swapan Chakravorty (Presidency University)

Valedictory Address

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