Visual Cultures of South Asia
South Asia brings to mind conflicting images of the glamour of Bollywood and abject poverty. Yet, this vast geographic terrain has a long history of complex political cultures, multivalent religious ideals, and diverse creative expressions. Our engagement with the visual cultures of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka from ca. 2500 BCE to the colonial times will allow us to unpack the complexities that constitute South Asia. Proceeding in a chronological order, we will engage with key moments of artistic production. We will locate visual practices within the larger world of political economies, religion and philosophy, gender and sexuality, urbanity, and state formations. Tracing intrepid exchanges between Rome and South Asia in the early common era, early modern collaborations between South Asia, Iran, and Turkey, and encounters with Europe fueled by colonialism, we will also attend to the capacious cultural ambits of global art. Simultaneously, visits to museums and Hindu temples in Berkeley will allow us to understand South Asian visual culture in the Bay Area. Our aim will be to generate the depth and context required for understanding contemporary South Asia through a historical frame while developing a critical methodology to engage with vision and visuality in an expanded global field. No previous knowledge of South Asian history or art history is required.