Call for panellists: Domesticating 'India' in 17th-Century England (deadline: 29 February 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
Susan Anderson

Panel proposal for "Renaissance Old Worlds: English Encounters from the Levant to the Far East", The British Library, 29 June-1 July 2012.

Proposals are invited for 20 minute papers for the following panel:

Spices, consumption, and the aesthetics of sense: domesticating 'India' in 17th Century England.

In the first two decades of its existence, the staple import of the English East India Company was pepper, supplemented with other spices such as cloves. Foods and flavourings thus form an important point of contact between cultures of trade, identity and consumption. They are a commodity which is part of a literal exchange between cultures, but one which also symbolically becomes part of the way 'India' is represented within colonial discourse.

This panel will seek to interrogate the importance of the spice trade for 17th-century English responses to and constructions of India, and, more broadly, the material cultures of food and consumption as a way of domesticating the 'foreign'.

Jonathan Gil Harris has suggested that English encounters with foreignness in the period are both pathologised and become a new kind of pathology, whereby anxieties about invasion and contagion challenge pre-existing epistemologies of the body and aetiology, as well as of the nature of trade and commerce. This panel seeks to interrogate this formulation, and to explore ways in which the trade in foodstuffs might complicate or extend it. In particular, the panel will explore the possibility of de-pathologising English encounters with the foreign through the domestic incorporation of tastes and textures within consumption.

This panel will ask whether spices become representative of contact between discrete national identities, or whether they can also represent possibilities of mixture and hybridity. Further, it will explore the extent to which such constructions and possibilities are welcomed or resisted. Concentrating on the representation of spice and the senses will illuminate the extent to which they might constitute new ways of thinking about old worlds, as well as exploring the importance metaphors of sensory experience have in structures of knowledge and cross-cultural encounters.

Short proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of this topic should be emailed to Susan Anderson ( by 29 February 2012.

For further information about the conference, see the full cfp at or the conference website at