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Gandhi and the Politics of Visual Representation

Prof. Vinay Lal, Department of History, UCLA

Monday, May 06, 2013
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall


Jatin Das, "Postcards for Gandhi", SAHMAT (Delhi, 1995). 

Abstract: There is but no question that Mohandas Gandhi remains, more than six decades after his assassination, the most iconic figure of modern India.  Indeed, he is the only ‘secular’ figure around whom a distinct and complex iconography began to develop in his own lifetime.  Gandhi has been a blessing to cartoonists; and most major Indian artists over the course of the last half-century, from M. F. Husain and Ramkinkar Baij to Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh and Atul Dodiya, have engaged with Gandhi.  In this talk, I shall examine the life and work of Gandhi in the light of various forms of visual representation, from cartoons and public statues to paintings and nationalist prints, and suggest what kind of insights we might be able to derive from a study of these images.  We can speak, for example, of ‘the martyred Gandhi’, ‘the walking Gandhi’, ‘the seated Gandhi’, the framed Gandhi’, and so on.  After an overview, in the second half of the talk I shall dwell on ‘the sartorial Gandhi’.  What might the images of Gandhi in various states of dress and undress, to take one example, tell us about Gandhi’s ambition to reduce his life to zero? Locating Gandhi within multiple and varied histories, this talk will offer both some general cues on how to interpret images of Gandhi as well as more detailed readings of a few images.  

Bio: Vinay Lal teaches in the Departments of History and Asian American Studies at UCLA.  He served as Director of the UC Education Abroad Program in India, 2007-09, and was the inaugural holder of the Manohar Shyam Joshi Chair in Journalism and Media Studies at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, January 2013.  He writes widely on, among other subjects, Indian history, Gandhi, Indian cinema and public culture, American politics, the Indian diaspora, and the politics of knowledge systems. His dozen books include Empire of KnowledgeCulture and Plurality in the Global Economy (Pluto Press, 2002); The History of HistoryPolitics and Scholarship in Modern India (Oxford, 2003); Of Cricket, Guinness and GandhiEssays on Indian History and Culture (Penguin, 2005); (co-edited with Ashis Nandy) The Future of Knowledge and CultureA Dictionary for the 21st Century (Viking Penguin, 2006); (edited) Political Hinduism: The Religious Imagination in Public Spheres (Oxford, 2009); The Other IndiansA Political and Cultural History of South Asians in America (UCLA and HarperCollins, 2008); Deewaar:  The Footpath, the City, and the Angry Young Man (HarperCollins, 2010); and the two-volume Oxford Anthology of the Modern Indian City (Oxford, June 2013).   


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Free and Open to the Public! !!1!
Light refreshment will be served.  
Parking: Daily parking in Lot 3: $11
Pay by space parking available in Lot 3 North 





Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

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