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

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2014 – 8/31/2014

The Visual Cultures of Tea Consumption in Imperial and Modern India

Two leaves and a bud, transformed into a prized beverage and a botanical novelty, would spawn a vibrant culture of tea drinking in Britain while triggering revolutions and wars in two continents. It would also alter the landscape of India where Britain's vision to become a self-sufficient producer of tea was finally realized in the wake the Opium Wars in China. Ushered through the Canton trade, Chinese tea united the histories of China, Britain, India, and North America, transforming swathes of land into plantations, and producing botanical artifacts and material cultures that in turn engendered social exchange, scientific debate, commercial advertising, and patriotic zeal. It is against this backdrop that I examine the visual cultures of tea consumption in the Indian subcontinent, first under the auspices of the English East India Company; next, under the management of the Victorian Raj; and finally, in post-Independence India when tea crystallized into a national drink.