Previous stay at IIAS: January - June 2010

Over the past two decades, modern and contemporary art from India has been increasingly exhibited around the world. Historically speaking, art has always travelled out of the Indian subcontinent and since India’s Independence in 1947 modern artists have featured in many international exhibitions. However, the globalization of the art world occurred since the 1990s has allowed for art’s wider geographical circulation due to both the multiplication of art institutions such as biennales and art fairs and the deployment of digital technology. Not only has this process generated particular representation, legibility and display conditions for art produced in India – and in the global South as a whole - but the symbolic and financial value of such art greatly rests on its circulation outside national boundaries. At the same time, ‘India’ and ‘South Asia’ are deployed as key cultural references in art-making while art often acts as a powerful commentary on history, society, and politics in the region and beyond. Where art’s circulation out of India largely occurs under the national and regional exhibition rubrics, similarly these rubrics inform art market taxonomies.

This research project is part of the ‘Framing the Global’ initiative housed at Indiana University Bloomington. This is the first large-scale project spanning across three continents and addressing the outcome of art’s circulation out of India. The analysis offered rests on the centrality of the co-constitution of art-related actors, discourse production and business occurring both in India and outside national boundaries. A number of exhibitions of modern and contemporary art held at biennales, museums and private galleries in Asia, Europe and the USA make up for the empirical stages for the project. The selected exhibitions are as follows: ‘The Empire strikes back: Indian art today’ (London, 2010), the India Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2011), the Mumbai pavilion at the Shanghai Biennale (2012), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2012-13 and 2014-15) and ‘After midnight: Indian modern and contemporary art 1947-1997’ (New York, 2015).

Book monographs

Forthcoming. Political agency and gender in India. London, New York: Routledge (under contract)

2010. Retro-modern India. Forging the low-caste self. New Delhi, London: Routledge

Edited books            

Forthcoming. Femininities and masculinities in India. New Delhi: Women Unlimited

Articles in journals

2013. ‘It’s not all about caste’, The Newsletter, n. 66, Winter, 55

2012. ‘Resurrecting seva (social service): Dalit and low-caste women party activists as producers and consumers of political culture and practice in urban north India’, The Journal of Asian Studies 71: 1, 149-170

2012. ‘Post-colonial renaissance: ‘Indianness’, contemporary art and the market in the age of neoliberal capital’ Third World Quarterly 33: 4, 633-651

2011. ‘After subversion: Intimate encounters, the agency in and of representation, and the unfinished project of gender without sexuality in India’, Cultural Dynamics, 23: 2, 107-126

2011. ‘Remaking traditional sociality, ephemeral friendships and enduring political alliances: ‘State-made’ Dalit youth in rural northern Indian society’, Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology, 59: 19-32

2010. ‘‘The bourgeois woman and the half-naked one’: Or the Indian nation's contradictions personified’, Modern Asian Studies 4: 785–815

2010. ‘Futurity in words: Low-caste women politicians’ self-representation and post-Dalit scenarios in north India’ Contemporary South Asia, 18, 1: 43–56

2009. ‘The conditions of politics: Low-caste women and political agency in a northern Indian city’, Feminist Review, 91: 113-134

2007. ‘Ethnohistories behind local and global bazaars: Chronicle of a Chamar weaving community and its disappearance in the Banaras region’, Contributions to Indian Sociology (n.s.) 41, 3: 319–52

2006. ‘At the margins of feminist politics? Everyday lives of women activists in northern India’, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 15 (4) 437-452

2006. ‘In the past we were a bit ‘Chamar’”: Education as a self- and community engineering process in northern India’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 12, 899-916

Contributions to edited works:

Forthcoming. ‘India and the biennale phenomenon. The newly-independent nation in Venice in 1954 and beyond’ In P. Mitter et. Al. (eds.) Twentieth-century Indian art. New York: Skira

Forthcoming. ‘Introduction: Away from the iconic, the normative, and into the unlikely subjects of politics’ In M. Ciotti (ed.) Femininities and masculinities in India. New Delhi: Women Unlimited

Forthcoming. ‘‘I will see the world’: The production of political subjectivities among Dalit women activists in an Indian capital city’ In M. Ciotti (ed.) Femininities and masculinities in India. New Delhi: Women Unlimited

2014. ‘Art institutions as global forms in India and beyond: Cultural production, temporality and place’ In H. Kahn (ed.) Framing the global. Entry points for research. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 51-66

2014. ‘Agency in words, self-representation in action: Connecting and disconnecting Dalit women with India’s history of gender and politics’ In R. Jeffery, C. Jeffrey and J. Lerche (eds.) Development Failure and Identity Politics in Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: Sage, 104-127

2014. ‘Dalit women between social and analytical alterity. Rethinking the ‘quintessentially marginal’’ In L. Fernandes (ed.) Handbook of gender in South Asia. London, New York: Routledge, 305-317

2014. ‘Post-colonial renaissance: ‘Indianness’, contemporary art and the market in the age of neoliberal capital’ in R. Kaur and A. Wahlberg (eds.) Identity, Inequity and Inequality in India and China: Governing difference. London, New York: Routledge

2013. ‘Uttar Pradesh: Untouchability and politics’ In P. Berger & F. Heidemann (eds.) The modern anthropology of India. Ethnography, themes and theory. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 286-308

2013. ‘Thinking art in India: A semi-virtual lab’, co-authored with Gigi Scaria, In Raqs Media Collective and S. Sarda (eds.) SARAI Reader 09:‘Projections’, pp. 267-273

2008. ‘Islam: What is in a name?’ In M. Banerjee (ed.) Muslim portraits. Everyday lives in India. New Delhi: Yoda Press/Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, pp. 1-10

Previous stay at IIAS

Period of stay: 1 January 2010 - 30 June 2010
Research Project: Political agency and gender in India. Writing women, dalits and subalterns into political modernity

In this project I address the crucial question of what it means to do politics as a low-caste woman in contemporary north India. The project draws on eighteen months ethnographic fieldwork I carried out in the male-dominated political landscape of the large state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) with women from historically marginalised strata of the society (in particular from Dalit or former Untouchable background). These women’s spaces for political participation opened up since the 1990s following the explosion of low-caste identity politics in north India and the introduction of women’s reserved quotas in local governance bodies.

During fieldwork I interacted with women party activists of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) (or ‘the majority of the people’ party, a protagonist of low-caste identity politics), women activists in other political parties, women Members of the UP Legislative Assembly (MLAs), former women Members of Parliament (MPs), women elected in urban and rural local government bodies by virtue of reserved quotas, and women in informal village politics. This project focuses on BSP women activists while the data collected with other groups of women provides an essential comparative angle.

Drawing upon this data, I analyse the forms of political participation the BSP has engendered amongst its low-caste women activists. While there is a paucity of accounts on low-caste women in party politics in Indian political history - and no other comprehensive account is available of women activists in the BSP – this project raises new questions on the nexus between low-caste identity, agency and gender, and in the field of gender and politics. By individuating the deeper structures and features of low-caste women’s political participation, I explore the ways in which these features dis/connect low-caste women diachronically and synchronically to women and men in Indian politics. Building on the identification of these structures, my broader question consists of how given gender regimes - in the case analysed those in place in north India - yield certain kinds of women leaders and politicians. Finally, these findings are interrogated vis-à-vis the constitution of the ‘non-western woman political subject’ and this subject’s comparative potential is explored.