Prof. Vinay Lal, Department of History, UCLA
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 Knowledge: Culture and Plurality in the Global Economy (Pluto Press, 2002); The History of History: Politics and Scholarship in Modern India (Oxford, 2003); Of Cricket, Guinness and Gandhi: Essays on Indian History and Culture (Penguin, 2005); (co-edited with Ashis Nandy) The Future of Knowledge and Culture: A Dictionary for the 21st Century (Viking Penguin, 2006); (edited) Political Hinduism: The Religious Imagination in Public Spheres (Oxford, 2009); The Other Indians: A 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).
Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia
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