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date: 22 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Indian historiography commonly treated Iberian imperial presence in South Asia in the early modern period as a precocious and unsuccessful effort before that of the British Empire. The Portuguese (and Spanish) Estado da Índia had indeed been an exemplary “borderlands” empire. However, its territorial marginality and the ultimate failure to expand did not hamper it from acquiring a prodigious “empire of knowledge.” By centering on three categories of knowledge—medico-botanical, linguistic, and historical—this article addresses the ways of knowing, collecting, and crafting information in transcultural dialogue with local communities. It focuses on mapping the major sites and intersections through which the knowledge circulated in the Portuguese imperial global networks. In addition, this article argues that these devalued, “borderlands” epistemologies inspired in important ways both British Empire and the major disciplinary fields (linguistics, area studies, history, Orientalism) engaged in reflecting on South Asia.

Keywords: South Asia, Estado da Índia, Goa, materia medica, Portuguese, accommodation, Jesuits, mission

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