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Empire, Nation and Art- Histories from the Visual Image

This course explores global social formations from the fifteenth century of Common Era to our present times through the prism of visual images. We specifically focus on the centrality of visual archives in mapping histories of European colonialism under Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British empires. The course will address a range of colonial formations and diverse articulations of nationalist thought and consciousness in different parts of the world through different visual forms across a range of media, sites, and objects. Beginning from naturalist paintings and drawings of unknown landscapes and oceans, descriptions of plants and animals, of unknown humans and exotic objects, the course moves on to explore diverse media and technologies of visual (re)productions like water colour, oil painting, lithographs, oleographs, chromolithographs, aquatints, photographs and the moving image, and maps different sites of visual simulations like cabinet de curiosities, ‘freak shows’, world exhibitions, metropolitan, colonial, and postcolonial public museums, art galleries, institutes of fine arts, crafts and design pedagogy. The course argues that global histories of colonialism, nationalism, and decolonization can be partially explored as histories of encounters, violent conflicts, tortuous negotiations, and often uneasy accommodations played out at the register of the visual image. The course urges us to rethink that notions of metropolis and colony, empire and nation, colonizer and colonized, alien and indigenous, as they are configured and reconfigured in the archives of the visual image, are historically relative, fluid categories, having only situational relevance. Moving away from a purely Euro-centric discussion of the beginnings of Art and Art History, this course moves towards a global history of art.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka