At a time when artistic, intellectual, and critical discourses in the South Asian public sphere stand besieged by aggressive nationalist conservative forces, this dissertation returns to the troubling question of the intersections between art, aesthetics, and politics. Focusing on four discrete but deeply interrelated sites - art exhibitions, the museum, the urban public sphere, and the space of domesticity - "The Promise of the Modern: State, Culture, and Avant-gardism in India (ca. 1930-1960)" suggests that aesthetics as a system of sense perception was, and still is, central in formulating the political field. Mapping the interrelations among vision, aesthetics, and the political in early post-Independence India, I suggest that artistic practices fundamentally altered and reframed the experience of seeing and inhabiting a modern India. Locating modern art and its aesthetic discourses within an expansive visual field constituted through museology, art history, and the popular media, I foreground an Indian avant-gardism that was deeply invested in imagining a different life praxis in/for early post-Independence India. This, I suggest, was the promise of the modern.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2011. Major: Art History. Advisor: Frederick M. Asher. 1 computer file (PDF); xviii, 320 pages.
The promise of the modern: state, culture, and Avant-gardism in India (ca. 1930-1960).
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