This Subject Includes

  • Course No: HS 140
  • Course: B.Tech
  • Semester: V
  • Title: Visual Culture in Colonial South Asia
  • Stream: History
  • Preamble: The course will begin by reflecting on the “visual turn” in humanistic studies generally and specifically in South Asian studies; it will look into the ways in which the “visual turn” sought to rethink the dominance of written sources in constructing historical narratives on South Asia. It will highlight some of the major themes, including the relationship between the Empire and social construction of vision, contribution of mass circulated printed images in giving expression to popular nationalism, and colonial anxiety over popular images, that underpin the many historical experiences in colonial SouthAsia. Finally the course will enquire the possibility of “ways of seeing” that may be specific to the geographical region.

    Course contents: The visual turn and South Asian studies: Importance of studying visuals, an alternative history of South Asia; The objects of Visual Culture: Approaches of studying cultural objects, popular arts, fine arts; Ontologies of visual imagery: The idea of representation, object hood of images; Vision and visuality: Social construction of vision, cultural practices of looking; Empire and visuality: Maps, coins, painting, sketches, popular prints, anthropological photographs, propaganda cinema; Institutional practices and visual orientations: Museums, visual surveys, art schools; Connected histories of visuals: Idea of the picturesque, German-made lithographs of Indian deities, Indian-made advertisements of British products; Sociallives of images: Social histories of production, circulation, and reception of images; Visualizing the land and its people: Governmentality, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism; Images and identity formations: Class, caste, religion, and language based identities; Nationalism and artistic discourses: Intellectual history of art, nativist claims and nationalism, Rabanindranath Tagore’s Bharat Mata; Intermediality: Interactions between media including lithography, painting, photography, printing, and moving images; Visuality in the age of mass publics: Newspapers, magazines, billboards.


    1.J. Berger, Ways of Seeing, British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, London, 1986.

    2.K. Jain, Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art, Duke University Press, Durham, 2007.

    3.W. J. T. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005.

    4.C. Pinney, Photos of the Gods: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India,Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2004.

    5.C. Pinney, Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian Photographs,Reaktion Books, London, 1997.