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Join History of Art for the next in the Research Seminar Series chaired by Yashaswini Chandra.

This lecture will be hybrid. Please book your ticket for attendance in person or online. Further details on how to access the lecture will be sent to you following booking.

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the Higgitt Gallery.

A Woman’s Space: Architecture of the Mughal Harem


The place of elite women in Mughal-era social, political, and artistic spheres has recently begun to garner attention from scholars, but the same cannot be said of the physical space that they occupied, namely, the zenana. This area within a palace or royal encampment was one of the most inaccessible, closed-off to outsiders through both physical means, be it walls or tented enclosures, and by scanty written descriptions of such quarters. And yet, surviving material culture allows for a greater understanding of these female residential spaces. By consulting contemporary references to and descriptions of the zenana in Mughal and European sources, and through the examination of extant Mughal palace complexes and the beautifully rendered images of these spaces on the painted page, it is possible to delve into the boundaries of the zenana and achieve a greater understanding of its creation, planning, and use.

About Merheen

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi is an Art Historian with expertise in the art, architecture, and material culture of Mughal South Asia. Her research areas include the intersection of art and politics; questions surrounding female patronage; and the physical and cultural spaces occupied by women. Her work has centred on the artistic production of the emperor Jahangir’s reign, who ruled from 1605-27. She is currently writing several chapters for inclusion in edited volumes on Mughal art, culture, and gardens, and has published extensively on aspects of Mughal and Persianate art and architecture.

In addition to her own research and writing, Mehreen is the In-House Editor for the Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, is an Associate Editor for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture, and regularly teaches courses and lectures on Islamic and Indo-Islamic art at universities and museums in London and Oxford. She has shared her academic expertise with wider audiences through her participation in and consultation for documentaries, including on the Taj Mahal; programming on BBC World Service Radio, BBC2 and BBC4; podcasts; participation in the Lahore, Jaipur and Heidelberg Literary Festivals; and as an expert lecturer on cultural tours.


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Event details

4 Apr '24
Hunter Building, Hunter Lecture Theatre (017), 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9DF
Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi

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