In a fascinating and innovative study, first published in 2005, Ruby Lal explores domestic life and the place of women in the Mughal court of the sixteenth century. Challenging traditional, orientalist interpretations of the haram that have portrayed a domestic world of seclusion and sexual exploitation, the author reveals a complex society where noble men and women negotiated their everyday life and public-political affairs in the 'inner' chambers as well as the 'outer' courts. Using Ottoman and Safavid histories as a counterpoint, she demonstrates the richness, ambiguity and particularity of the Mughal haram, which was pivotal in the transition to institutionalisation and imperial excellence.
Ruby Lal is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and History at the Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on issues of gender relations in Islamic societies in the pre-colonial world.
1. Introduction; 2. A genealogy of the Mughal haram; 3. The question of the archive: the challenge of a princess's memoir; 4. The making of Mughal court society; 5. Where was the haram in a peripatetic world?; 6. Settled, sacred, and all-powerful: the new regime under Akbar; 7. Settled, sacred, and 'incarcerated': the imperial haram; 8. Conclusion.