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Romita Ray
Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY 13244-0001)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products][Media coverage]

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2016 – 12/31/2016

The Visual Cultures of Tea Consumption in Colonial and Modern India

Research for a book-length study on the development and visual culture of tea in India from the late 17th century to the present.

Transformed into a prized beverage and a botanical novelty, Chinese tea spawned a vibrant culture of tea drinking in Britain, while triggering revolutions and wars in two continents. It also altered the landscape of India where Britain’s vision to become a self-sufficient producer of tea eventually crystallized in the wake of the Opium Wars in China. Ushered through the Canton trade, tea united the histories of China, Britain, India, and North America, transforming swathes of land into plantations in India and Sri Lanka, and producing botanical specimens, tea utensils, and furniture. These artifacts in turn engendered scientific research, social exchange, medical debate, commercial advertising, and patriotic zeal. It is against this backdrop that I examine the visual cultures of tea consumption in India, first under the auspices of the East India Company; next, under the Victorian Raj; and finally, in the post-Independence era when tea became widely recognized as a national drink.