This talk explores late 19th and early 20th century missionary medical discourses of alcohol, in primarily Telugu and secondarily, English print spheres of alcohol and temperance-related writings in the UK, US and South India (especially the Madras Presidency and Hyderabad state). I am interested especially in teasing out the translations and mistranslations of medical narratives surrounding diet, digestion and toxicity of toddy and arrack production and consumption in three Telugu missionary journals, Vivekavathi, Telugu Baptist and United Church Herald. The talk engages with the distinctive and hybrid tropes of medical knowledge production such as clinical trials, lab experiments, and scientifically laced hymns, catechisms, allegories, parables of temperance. It is however particularly invested in setting up a cross-cultural and transnational dialogue where experiments and catechisms rendered in these Telugu missionary journals spoke directly to British medical tracts and American temperance hymns. I argue that the Telugu (mis)translations and re-clothing of these spiritual-medical narratives around alcohol had much to do with caste anxieties around especially toddy and arrack. I pay specific attention to the recurrence of ‘enslavement’ as a motif of addiction within counter-caste as well as less radical medical expositions of temperance in these Telugu journals in the period between 1870 and 1940.
Tarangini Sriraman is a Wellcome Trust-funded Early Career Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. This talk is part of a monograph she is writing on how caste binds medical discourses across the transnational and connected British, American and Telugu print spheres alcohol and temperance. She has in the past worked on themes of Covid-related migration, the history of identification documents, citizenship, welfare bureaucracies in postcolonial India and bubonic plague in the late 19th century. Her work has been published in international and national journals, and her book, In Pursuit of Proof: A History of Identification Documents in India was published by OUP, New Delhi in 2018.
All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.