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Sexual or Social Maladies? Translating sexual medicine in Early Modern North India

id: a5zwi

Presenter:

· Sonia Wigh University of Exeter (Exeter, United Kingdom)

Panel:

Kāmaśāstras/Kokaśāstras: an interdisciplinary corpus

Abstract

This paper looks at how sexual medical knowledge is translated from Indic to Persian sources and how that effects the transformation of societal norms through a detailed analysis of ‘medico- erotological’ texts composed between sixteenth and eighteenth century. Texts such as Laẕẕat al-nisā’ (The pleasures of women) have sections on masculine health that are linked to the production, retention, and internalised flow of semen, while the chapter on feminine health focuses on receiving the semen and utilizing its full potential by conceiving a child, especially one which would bring merit to the family’s name. Irrespective of the origin and provenance of the text, most Islamic texts recognized that intercourse was a legitimate activity and acknowledged the need for ‘sexual fulfillment’. The sections dealing with the classification of men and women are followed by the ideal pairing and their outcomes in terms of producing offspring’s. We have to acknowledge that in this period, the concept of childbirth and the complications attached to it were still shrouded with some level of mystery. Thus, these medical manuals had a wider reach and relevance to the lives of those who commissioned, collected, and read these texts. Can it can be argued that although these texts were primarily written for the medical practitioner, the secondary audience was the elite nobility? The paper also looks at how these texts fit into the imperial edifice of the state and the institutions that underpin the system of governance- the nobility, and the lynchpin- the king.