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Travellers and Translators: The Returning Indian Turban as East India Compa...

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Paul Mellon Centre

16 Bedford Square

London

WC1B 3JA

United Kingdom

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Research Lunch by Beth Richards

Travellers and Translators: The Returning Indian Turban as East India Company Uniform, c.1760-1810

Persistently perceived within the parameters of imperialism and post-colonialism, the impact of The East India Company upon its servants - manipulating choices of dress and subsequently portraiture - has not been fully explored. This paper will argue for the Indian turban to be examined as a symbolic metaphor for the Company - that extends beyond the stereotypical perception of the Nabob - to operate as uniform. Principally, it will scrutinise how the portrait of Major William Davy, Bengal Army, Persian Secretary to the Governor-General, in Persian Dress, c.1780, attributed to Tilly Kettle, was received and understood on its arrival in England from the East Indies. Accordingly, it will consider whether the translators’ position directly affected their involvement with Indian dress; communicating a cultural engagement that demonstrated a respect for Mughal culture through outward bodily display and as such countering the negative interpretation of translation as emphasised by Lawrence Venuti in The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference (1998).

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Beth Richards is a CHASE AHRC-funded PhD Candidate at Sussex University. Her thesis is entitled, The East India Company's engagement with Indian dress in England, 1740-1830. This research deconstructs the impact of the Company upon its servants - manipulating choices of dress and subsequently portraiture - considering both textiles and jewellery. Additionally, she is working part-time as a Curatorial intern at the National Portrait Gallery, London on an upcoming exhibition on the art of Abolition.

Image: Hugh Seton, James Wales (c.1747-1795), British Library

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Paul Mellon Centre

16 Bedford Square

London

WC1B 3JA

United Kingdom

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