Love at the End of Empire: A Cultural History of the Late Maratha Confederacy in India


ACLS Fellowship Program


Jackson School of International Studies


A fascinating culture arose in the Maratha Empire/Confederacy in India around the turn of the eighteenth century involving the public performance of a poetic-performative genre of love song called lawani. This poetic performance often expresses anxiety and erotic yearning for one's departed lover, commonly a man who has gone off to war. Like many empires, the Maratha one produced some of its most brilliant cultural creations just before its downfall, a beautiful swan-song delivered in apparent ignorance of the dominion's imminent fate. This project studies lawani and its public contexts as resources for reading this moment of imperial anxiety, engaging contestations over gender, class, caste, and religion in a time of fading Empire.