Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Telling Time: The Exact Sciences, Everyday Culture & Empire in Mughal India 1530-1743

My dissertation project—Telling Time—examines the untold story of science and empire in early modern South Asia by analyzing the social practice of time-telling in Mughal India (1526-1743), especially focusing on activities, objects, institutions, and communities that drew on the exact sciences of astronomy and mathematics. Curiously, Mughal India (1556-1719) remains classified as an unscientific society in the historiography of South Asia and global science, even though the Mughal state was one of the largest early modern empires in the world. The Mughal state was noteworthy for its cultural production, bureaucratic order, and economic prosperity. My study uses time-telling as a portal into the socio-cultural world of Mughal scientific practices and wrests the term 'science' from the epistemic shadow of Enlightenment reason. Telling Time traces the genealogy, development, and legacy of Mughal time-telling—a social practice that used the exact sciences of astronomy and mathematics to generate calendars and horoscopes crucial in ordering everyday life and culture in the empire. The study is especially attentive to the communities of practice—astronomers, mathematicians, astrologers, and time-tellers—who debated and engaged Mongol, Indic and Islamic cosmologies for inventing Mughal time-telling. The project applies the methods of Science & Technology Studies and cultural history to the study of a vast, untapped collection of Mughal scientific treatises, commentaries, calendars, almanacs, and encyclopedias in European and South Asian archives. Telling Time integrates early modern India into the history of global science by interrogating: What was the cultural authority and material utility of science in Mughal India and how did communities of scientific practice transform the rhythms of empire by developing a distinct Mughal practice of time-telling from 1526-1743?