UC Berkeley History of Art Department

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Art History in India and Its Discontents in Global Times

Parul Dave-Mukherji


"What becomes of art history when the world shrinks into a planet? Globalization has posed a challenge as much to Eurocentric art histories in the west as to nationalist art histories in India. How does one evolve a narrative for Indian art when the logic of the narrative itself is at stake? Drawing from current debates about the impact of globalization on art history and art writing, I will assess their relevance for Indian art history and art practice. I will examine how cultural studies turn that helped widen the constituency of art objects via an anthropological understanding of art and how this paved the way for New art history in India and finally for visual studies in its wake.

This paper will also explore the relationship between contemporary art practice and the critical tools of art history via the political and argue for a closer sync between the two as contemporary art with its experiments with temporality and spatiality, more in tune with globalized times, has much to offer to art history and visual studies. The anthropological turn has also made us relook at art historiography and its two axis of mapping art practice through time and space. Is there a shift from the “when” to the “where” of art in contemporary art historiography and what does it say about the state of art history in India?"

Parul Dave-Mukherji is a Professor and former Dean (2006-2013) at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She holds a PhD in Indology from Oxford University where she worked on a critical edition of The Citrasutra of the Visnudharmottara Purana (Motital Banarsidass, New Delhi, 2002). Earlier, she taught at the Department of Art History and Aesthetics, Faculty of Fine Arts, M S University in Baroda. From 2002, she became the co-convener of the Forum on Contemporary Theory and co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary Thought. As a recipient of the British Academy Award in 2011, she was affiliated with Goldsmiths College, London to conduct research on globalization and art theory.