Oriental dressings, imperial inhalations: The Indian hookah in British colonial culture

Chatterjee, Arup K. (2022) Oriental dressings, imperial inhalations: The Indian hookah in British colonial culture. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 65 (1-2). pp. 279-324. ISSN 00224995

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Over the course of its Anglo-Indian career, the hookah began as an archetype of colonial hybridity in eighteenth-century Bengal, before entering nineteenth-century London and its consumer sensorium as a seductive Oriental artefact, through travelogues, hookah clubs, Indian-styled diwans and a massive cataloguing of Eastern artefacts culminating in the Crystal Palace Exhibition (1851) and the Colonial and Indian Exhibition (1886). Hookahs appeared simultaneously as smoking instruments, decorative artefacts and visual signs of surplus colonial enjoyment in memoirs, travelogues and paintings from the long nineteenth century. The hookah’s decline in nineteenth-century colonial culture was camouflaged by general alarm over its degenerative effects on moral and sexual codes, well after its imperiality ran its course. In its long colonial career, the hookah symbolized colonial hybridity and surplus imperial enjoyment that surpassed its materiality. Whether in Britain or India, colonial hybridity, as symbolized by the hookah, was virtualized in nonlocal and anachronistic Anglo-Indian spaces, thus marking a remarkable digression from histories of coercive militarist, economic and political control that are so closely intertwined with the East India Company and Empire.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Hookah | Calcutta | Colonial gastronomy | Victorian London | Nabobs; Sake Deen Mahomet
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Arts and Humanities > History
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Mr. Syed Anas
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2022 13:11
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2022 13:11
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1163/15685209-12341568
URI: https://pure.jgu.edu.in/id/eprint/1562


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