Dr Neha Vermani
Department of History
Newton International Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Full contact details
Department of History
1 Upper Hanover Street
I am a cultural historian of Early-modern South Asia with particular interests in consumption practices, body, and affect. I joined the Department of History at the University of Sheffield in April 2022 to begin a two-year British Academy funded Newton International Postdoctoral Research fellowship, ‘Curating Nature: Domestic Gardens and Masculinity in Mughal South Asia ’. This project is an organic extension of my previous postdoctoral project, “Before Farm to Table” at Folger Shakespeare Library (2020-21) and doctoral research on food practices in Early-modern South Asia at Royal Holloway University of London (2014-2019). Spanning the period from 16th to 19th century, these projects addressed the themes of history of food consumption and preparation including culinary knowledge production in Persian, English and Vernacular languages in South Asia.
My current project focuses on the mansions of the Mughal elite and the domestic gardens situated within them as sites of novel botanical produce that found its ways into kitchens, apothecaries, and perfume-making workshops. Understanding how men established and realised relationships with their immediate natural and built environments, this interdisciplinary project draws on philosophical, scientific, medical, technical, and prescriptive literature, material artifacts, visual sources and archaeological data. Drawing these research experiences and expertise, I am currently also working on my first book.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, “Before ‘ Farm to Table’: Early Modern Food ways and Cultures”, Andrew W. Mellon Collaborative Project, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C.
PhD, Department of History, Royal Holloway University of London.
M.Phil., Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
M.A., Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
- Research interests
My research repertoire spans history of Mughal and Early-Colonial South Asian history from the 16th to 19th century, with interest in Timurid Central Asia, and Safavid and Ottoman Empires. I focus on furnishing decolonised perspectives on practices and technologies of consumption, medicine, botany and horticulture. Thematically, I am invested in histories of self-fashioning, senses and emotions, and related knowledge and material productions. Methodology of comparative and connected history that cognizance of the rhythms of early modern and colonial global networks informs my research.
- The perfumed palate: Olfactory practices of food consumption at the Mughal court. Global Food History.
- From the cauldrons of history : labour services at Mughal dining and kitchen spaces. South Asian History and Culture, 1-21. View this article in WRRO
- Research group
Mind and Body Hub
Sheffield Centre for Early modern Studies
Transmission of Ideas
White Rose South Asia Network
British Academy Newton International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2022-2024).
Andrew. W Mellon Foundation and Folger Institute, Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2020-2021
- Teaching interests
Early-modern and Colonial South Asia, Histories of food, medicine, and body.
- Teaching activities
In May 2021, I was invited as a guest lecturer to devise a module for the “Cooking with Shakespeare” undergraduate course, offered by Emory College of Arts and Science. My teaching module, ‘Reading Early-modern Cookbooks’, delineated the ways in which culinary manuals can analysed for understanding the history of domestic spaces, gender, labour, material objects, technology, and colonialism. In January 2021, I collaborated with the co-directors and fellow postdoctoral researchers on Folger’s Before Farm to Table project to design and conduct an interdisciplinary undergraduate course, “Before Farm to Table: An Investigation of Foodways with the Folger Shakespeare Library”, at Amherst College. I also taught the ‘Global Foodways in the Early-modern Period’ and ‘Authenticity and Food’ modules of the course. The first module engaged with the movement of vegetables, animals, people, and culinary and pharmacological knowledge across the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean worlds, and the history of exploitative colonial onslaught that followed. The second module focused on analysing and problematising the notion authenticity, particularly in the context of non-western cuisines, by moving the needle away from the search for a rigid and fixed grammar of ‘traditional’ cuisines. From September to November 2019, I delivered guest seminars on the themes of early-modern consumption practices at the History Departments of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, and Shiv Nadar University in India.
- Public engagement
I have been invited as guest speaker at the public seminars organised by the Institute of Historical Research in London, the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, and the British Library’s South Asia series. As a part of my commitment towards public engagement, I have designed digital pedagogical tools devoted to early-modern spice trade and sugar plantations. These are hosted on the “Before ‘Farm to Table’” project’s website here.
I also have written accessible yet scholarly articles, aimed at both academic and wider audience, on early-modern foodways that emphasise on the need to suspend the Euro-centric frameworks of imagining world history . These articles are hosted on “Shakespeare and Beyond” component of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s website, and one of them was listed as essential reading for the University of Wisconsin's 'Readings in Colonial North America' course (2021). I have occasionally written and consulted for reputed Indian media outlets like the Business Standard and Scroll.