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For the Love of Land: Corporeal Topophilia and the Remaking of “State Space” in Colonial India

Lecture | March 4 | 5:15-7 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (CSAS Conf. Room) | Note change in date

Sugata Ray, Assistant Professor of South Asian Art, UC Berkeley

Institute for South Asia Studies, Asian Art and Visual Cultures, Townsend Center Working Group

Talk by Assistant Professor of South Asian Art at UC Berkeley, Sugata Ray.

Talk Abstract
How did Hinduisms in 19th and early 20th-century India negotiate the technological apparatuses of modernity while operating from within the space of colonial governmentality? Focusing on liturgical practices in the north Indian pilgrimage site of Braj, my talk suggests that localized ideations of spatial sovereignty repeatedly challenged both imperial and nationalist exercises in controlling space and visioning order. This ideation, I propose, was not anti-modern. Rather, moving against the epistemological duality of (western) modernity and (nationalist) tradition, such localized articulations redefined the techno-rational determinism of colonial modernity.

Professor Sugata Ray teaches courses on South Asian art, architecture, cinema, and visual culture. Although his current research interests focus on visual practices and built spaces in early modern and modern South Asia, Sugata began his Art History career with a research focus on 5th-century Buddhist sculpture. His subsequent research and publications have examined the intersections among theology, artistic practices, and strategies of space-making in constituting subjectivities and desires in post-16th-century South Asia. Simultaneously, Sugata is increasingly interested in rethinking the debates surrounding the idea of a Global Art History through the frame of postcolonial studies – a frame he believes is crucial, not only in redefining the discipline of Art History, but also in navigating a globalized visual world.

Sugata received his doctorate from the Department of Art History, University of Minnesota. Completed with support from the Social Science Research Council and the American Institute of Indian Studies, Sugata’s doctoral dissertation focused on the visual tactics through which a modern Hinduism emerged in Vrindavan, the primary pilgrimage site in north India where the god Krishna is believed to have spent his youth. Sugata also holds an M.Phil. (Research Training Programme) from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta and an M.A. in Art History from the Department of Art History & Aesthetics, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.

Before coming to UC Berkeley, Sugata taught at the Department of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and the Department of History of Art, University of Michigan as a Visiting Lecturer. His publications include essays on the intersections between cinema and popular print culture in early 20th-century India (Journal of Contemporary Thought); the development of the discipline of Art History in India (James Elkins, ed. Is Art History Global?); and the syncretic visual cultures of post-16th-century Hinduism (Shangri La Working Papers in Islamic Art, forthcoming).

Sugata is currently developing a new project on “native” museological practices in colonial India. In Summer 2013, Sugata will be a Scholar-in-Residence at the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu where his research will focus on the modes through which the visual cultures of the Mughal empire (1526-1858) were appropriated in colonial India to express an anti-colonial sentiment articulated through a politics of inheritance that resisted the colonial present.

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