Vasco da Gama Annual Lecture

Date/Time: 
April 14, 2016 - 5:30pm

Jorge Flores, Professor of Early Modern Global History, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, Florence, will give the annual Vasco da Gama lecture, "Talking Statues and Dancing Portraits: Dirty Politics in Early Modern Portuguese India."

The present lecture builds on a succession of visually disturbing political events that occurred in Goa—the capital city of the Portuguese—between late 1620s and mid-1650s. We speak namely of a series of hanged viceregal effigies (with expressive textual inscriptions) exposed at dawn in one of the busiest squares of the city, as well as of several portraits of other equally contested viceroys which were abruptly removed from the walls of the viceregal palace and the municipal council hall. These were to a large extent European phenomena—political and symbolic gestures with a strong graphic component that would not surprise people in London or Rome at the time—even if colored by significant local, native elements that we will seek to underline. The lecture engages with a grid of questions that will put one particular case among these ‘talking’ statues and ‘dancing’ portraits—that of viceroy Count of Linhares (g. 1629-35)—in dialogue with current debates on popular politics, high and low vis-à-vis the colonial social fabric, the uses of public space, verbal, written, and visual insult, political languages, and disputed authority in a imperial setting.


Jorge Flores is Professor of Early Modern Global History, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, Florence. He specializes in the history of the Portuguese Empire, namely in South Asia, and in socio-cultural interactions between Europe and Asia. Flores has recently published The Mughal Padshah. A Jesuit Treatise on Emperor Jahangir’s Court and Household (1610-11) (Brill, 2016); and Nas Margens do Hindustão. O Estado da Índia e a Expansão Mogol, 1570-1640(Coimbra University Press, 2015), recipient of the 2015 Gulbenkian prize for the best book on the History of the Portuguese Presence in the World.