Recent Publications by the UW South Asia affiliated professors.
Sonal Khullar, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Washington, receives the Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize at the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies. The award was presented to her by AAS Past President Professor Mrinalini Sinha.
Professor Khullar’s book Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990 (University of California Press, 2015) was recognized by the AAS committee as an outstanding work in its field.
“Beautifully written, compellingly argued, Khullar’s book not only offers a major contribution to the study of Indian modernism, it also advances our methodological understanding of modern art at large. A vital addition to an exciting body of emerging art-historical scholarship that promises to fundamentally transform received ideas on modernism in the coming years.”—Iftikhar Dadi, Cornell University
“Provocatively argued, this book is a must-read for art students, critics, and all those who are interested in modern Indian art, as well as all concerned with global modernism.”—Partha Mitter, University of Sussex
The Bernard S. Cohn Book Prize each year honors outstanding and innovative scholarship across discipline and country of specialization for a first single-authored monograph on South Asia, published during the preceding year.
Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia
Author: Manish Chanala, and Jeffrey Hou
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Summary: Seemingly messy and chaotic, the landscapes and urban life of cities in Asia possess an order and hierarchy which often challenge understanding and appreciation. With a cross-disciplinary group of authors, Messy Urbanism: Understanding the “Other” Cities of Asia examines a range of cases in Asia to explore the social and institutional politics of urban formality and the contexts in which this “messiness” emerges or is constructed. The book brings a distinct perspective to the broader patterns of informal urban orders and processes as well as their interplay with formalized systems and mechanisms. It also raises questions about the production of cities, cityscapes, and citizenship.
About the Author
Manish Chalana is associate professor of urban design and planning at the University of Washington. His work focuses on urban design, urban history, historic preservation, and international planning and development.
Jeffrey Hou is professor and chair of landscape architecture at the University of Washington. He is the editor of Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary City.
A Cultural History of Saint Namdev in India
Author: Christian Lee Novetzke
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Summary: Namdev is a central figure in the cultural history of India, especially within the field of bhakti, a devotional practice that has created publics of memory for over eight centuries. Born in the Marathi-speaking region of the Deccan in the late thirteenth century, Namdev is remembered as a simple, low-caste Hindu tailor whose innovative performances of devotional songs spread his fame widely. He is central to many religious traditions within Hinduism, as well as to Sikhism, and he is a key early literary figure in Maharashtra, northern India, and Punjab.
In the modern period, Namdev appears throughout the public spheres of Marathi and Hindi and in India at large, where his identity fluctuates between regional associations and a quiet, pan-Indian, nationalist-secularist profile that champions the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and low caste. Christian Lee Novetzke considers the way social memory coheres around the figure of Namdev from the sixteenth century to the present, examining the practices that situate Namdev’s memory in multiple historical publics. Focusing primarily on Maharashtra and drawing on ethnographies of devotional performance, archival materials, scholarly historiography, and popular media, especially film, Novetzke vividly illustrates how religious communities in India preserve their pasts and, in turn, create their own historical narratives.
Bollywood, Brotherhood, and Nation
Author: William Elison, Christian Lee Novetzke, and Andy Rotman
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Summary: A Bollywood blockbuster when it was released in 1977, Amar Akbar Anthony has become a classic of Hindi cinema and a touchstone of Indian popular culture. Delighting audiences with its songs and madcap adventures, the film follows the heroics of three Bombay brothers separated in childhood from their parents and one another. Beyond the freewheeling comedy and camp, however, is a potent vision of social harmony, as the three protagonists, each raised in a different religion, discover they are true brothers in the end. William Elison, Christian Lee Novetzke, and Andy Rotman offer a sympathetic and layered interpretation of the film’s deeper symbolism, seeing it as a lens for understanding modern India’s experience with secular democracy.
Amar Akbar Anthony’s celebration of an India built on pluralism and religious tolerance continues to resonate with audiences today. But it also invites a critique of modernity’s mixed blessings. As the authors show, the film’s sunny exterior only partially conceals darker elements: the shadow of Partition, the crisis of Emergency Rule, and the vexed implications of the metaphor of the family for the nation. The lessons viewers draw from the film depend largely on which brother they recognize as its hero. Is it Amar, the straight-edge Hindu policeman? Is it Akbar, the romantic Muslim singer? Or is it Anthony, the Christian outlaw with a heart of gold? In this book’s innovative and multi-perspectival approach, each brother makes his case for himself (although the last word belongs to their mother).
Author: Vikrramaditya Prakash
Publisher: Altrim Publishers
Summary: Chandigarh is a unique city, besides being one of the newest city of the twentieth century that is characterized by the seal of Le Corbusier, who planned the city and was also the architect of its most emblematic buildings. In Chandigarh, you will also find the work of a large team of architects led by the partner of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret who along with the British Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew conducted the master plan and built public housing and facilities much needed in the city. As a result, Chandigarh is one of the reference cities of the Modern Movement. Also worthy of noting are Indian architects (such as MN Sharma, A. Prakash, BP Mathur and JK Choudhury) who collaborated with Le Corbusier and Jeanneret to turn Chandigarh into a reality. Although unknown to most, they have played an important part of modern and contemporary Indian architecture. With this useful guide, you will discover the city and its architecture through three types of routes, depending on how the traveler plans their trip, as well as suggestions for other places you can visit on the outskirts of the city. Each itinerary offers practical information to enjoy the architecture, and visitors will be introduced to the culture and lifestyle of the city.
Regional Political Economies of Development
Author: Sunila Kale
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Summary: Throughout the 20th century, electricity was considered to be the primary vehicle of modernity, as well as its quintessential symbol. In India, electrification was central to how early nationalists and planners conceptualized Indian development, and huge sums were spent on the project from then until now. Yet despite all this, sixty-five years after independence nearly 400 million Indians have no access to electricity. Electrifying India explores the political and historical puzzle of uneven development in India’s vital electricity sector.
In some states, nearly all citizens have access to electricity, while in others fewer than half of households have reliable electricity. To help explain this variation, this book offers both a regional and a historical perspective on the politics of electrification of India as it unfolded in New Delhi and three Indian states: Maharashtra, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh. In those parts of the countryside that were successfully electrified in the decades after independence, the gains were due to neither nationalist idealism nor merely technocratic plans, but rather to the rising political influence and pressure of rural constituencies. In looking at variation in how public utilities expanded over a long period of time, this book argues that the earlier period of an advancing state apparatus from the 1950s to the 1980s conditioned in important ways the manner of the state’s retreat during market reforms from the 1990s onward.
Author: Sudhir Mahadevan
Publisher: State University of New York Press
Summary: In A Very Old Machine, Sudhir Mahadevan shows how Indian cinema’s many origins in the technologies and practices of the nineteenth century continue to play a vital and broad function in its twenty-first-century present. He proposes that there has never been a singular cinema in India; rather, Indian cinema has been a multifaceted phenomenon that was (and is) understood, experienced, and present in everyday life in myriad ways. Employing methods of media archaeology, close textual analysis, archival research, and cultural theory, Mahadevan digs into the history of photography, print media, practices of piracy and showmanship, and contemporary everyday imaginations of the cinema to offer an understanding of how the cinema came to be such a dominant force of culture in India. The result is an open-ended and innovative account of Indian cinema’s “many origins.”
“Sudhir Mahadevan’s A Very Old Machine is a work of great theoretical sophistication and rigorous historical scholarship. A revisionist and definitive treatment of early Indian film, the book shows how prevailing attitudes toward technology, photography, empire, commodity, and mass culture made the cinema a socially and culturally distinct form in India. Drawing on a wealth of primary research, A Very Old Machine fills many gaps. Anyone who wants to know how Indian cinema became Indian will need to consult this book.” — James Morrison, editor of Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s
Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990
Author: Sonal Khullar
Publisher: University of California Press
Summary: The purpose of art, the Paris-trained artist Amrita Sher-Gil wrote in 1936, is to “create the forms of the future” by “draw its inspiration from the present.” Through art, new worlds can be imagined into existence as artists cultivate forms of belonging and networks of association that oppose colonialist and nationalist norms. Drawing on Edward Said’s notion of “affiliation” as a critical and cultural imperative against empire and nation-state, Worldly Affiliations traces the emergence of a national art world in twentieth-century India and emphasizes its cosmopolitan ambitions and orientations. Sonal Khullar focuses on four major Indian artists—Sher-Gil, Maqbool Fida Husain, K. G. Subramanyan, and Bhupen Khakhar—situating their careers within national and global histories of modernism and modernity. Through a close analysis of original artwork, archival materials, artists’ writing, and period criticism, Khullar provides a vivid historical account of the state and stakes of artistic practice in India from the late colonial through postcolonial periods. She discusses the shifting terms of Indian artists’ engagement with the West—an urgent yet fraught project in the wake of British colonialism—and to a lesser extent with African and Latin American cultural movements such as Négritude and Mexican muralism. Written in a lucid and engaging style, this book links artistic developments in India to newly emerging histories of modern art in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Drawing on original research in the twenty-first-century art world, Khullar shows the persistence of modernism in contemporary art from India and compares its function to Walter Benjamin’s ruin. In the work of contemporary artists from India, modernism is the ground from which to imagine futures. This richly illustrated study […]
Refugee Families and the Making of Kashmiri Jihadists
Author: Cabeiri Robinson
Publisher: University of California Press
Summary: This book provides a fascinating look at the creation of contemporary Muslim jihadists. Basing the book on her long-term fieldwork in the disputed borderlands between Pakistan and India, Cabeiri deBergh Robinson tells the stories of people whose lives and families have been shaped by a long history of political conflict. Interweaving historical and ethnographic evidence, Robinson explains how refuge-seeking has become a socially and politically debased practice in the Kashmir region and why this devaluation has turned refugee men into potential militants. She reveals the fraught social processes by which individuals and families produce and maintain a modern jihad, and she shows how Muslim refugees have forged an Islamic notion of rights—a hybrid of global political ideals that adopts the language of human rights and humanitarianism as a means to rethink refugees’ positions in transnational communities. Jihad is no longer seen as a collective fight for the sovereignty of the Islamic polity, but instead as a personal struggle to establish the security of Muslim bodies against political violence, torture, and rape. Robinson describes how this new understanding has contributed to the popularization of jihad in the Kashmir region, decentered religious institutions as regulators of jihad in practice, and turned the families of refugee youths into the ultimate mediators of entrance into militant organizations. This provocative book challenges the idea that extremism in modern Muslim societies is the natural by-product of a clash of civilizations, of a universal Islamist ideology, or of fundamentalist conversion.