Accepted paper:

Gifts, alms and conflicts: the East India Congregation of the Portuguese Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine in Iran at the beginning of the 17th century


Margareth Gonçalves (UFRRJ)

Paper short abstract:

Dr Margareth de Almeida Gonçalves (Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro) Focusing on the East India Congregation of the order of the Hermits of St. Augustine, this paper explores the complexity of gift economy in seventeenth century Safavid Iran.

Paper long abstract:

The extensive lexicon of "giving" in zones of cultural flow exposes mechanisms of civilazational translations which intensify encounters crossed by tensions and conflicts. In the Modern Age, the Christian religious orders occupied spaces as active actors in the diplomatic game and the missionary activity in the East. We highlight that the physical and imaginary topography of Iran, during the Safavid empire, in the reign of Shah Abbas I, in the first decade of the 17th century, formed a privileged locus of interconnections between Eastern eminent Islamic empires and the Western Papacy, Catholic monarchies and Christian religious orders. In this paper, the approach of the complexity of the forms of "giving" is stressed in this context, through the presence of the East India Congregation of the order of the Hermits of St Augustine in the relations with Sha Abbas court and the Armenian church. The focus will be on the practices of "giving" in the context of the Augustinian activity in the diplomatic scenario in Persia (1602-1615). The careful investigation of the multiple meanings of "giving" refers to the diversity of classificatory grids which shapes the meaning of material exchanges of objects. In a varied set of documentations about the augustinians from Portugal, there is a diversity of terms for the act of "giving: "sagoate", "presente", "esmola", "favores", "dinheiro". Objects as gifts, objects as commodities, what do they transmit, what kind of knowledge do they refer to? The materiality of exchange objects displays forms of imagination that pervade the cultural displacements.

panel P12
Global gifts: material culture and diplomatic exchange in the Early Modern world