Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Panel Discussion — Architectures of Devotion: The Secular In Contestation

Thursday, May 4, 2023

9:00- 11:00 am EST , 6:30- 8:00 pm IST

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Kavita Singh (School of Art and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Tamara Sears (Rutgers University)

Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Center for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata)
Saloni Mathur (UCLA)
Vazira Zamindar (Brown University)

Two leading art historians, Kavita Singh and Tamara Sears, draw on their contributions to How Secular is Art? On the Politics of Art, History and Religion in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2023) to speak to practices of temple building and conservation in the making of Indian national imaginaries and on-going contestations over the built inheritance. This event forms a part of the Art History from the South series at CSSA.


Art History from the South
Virtual Events

Kavita Singh was the Professor of Art History at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and her research focuses on the history of Indian painting and the history and politics of museums. Her books include the edited and co-edited volumes New Insights into Sikh Art (Marg, 2003), Influx: Contemporary Art in Asia (Sage, 2013), No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia (Routledge, 2014), Nauras: The Many Arts of the Deccan (National Museum, 2015), Museum Storage and Meaning: Tales from the Crypt (Routledge, 2017), and Scent Upon a Southern Breeze: Synaesthesia and the Arts of the Deccan (Marg, 2018). Her monographs include Museums, Heritage, Culture: Into the Conflict Zone (Amsterdam University of the Arts, 2015) and Real Birds in Imagined Gardens: Mughal Painting between Persia and Europe (Getty Foundation, 2016). She has also curated exhibitions at the San Diego Museum of Art, the Devi Art Foundation, and the National Museum of India.

Tamara Sears is the Associate Professor of Art History at Rutgers University, with a focus on art and architecture in South Asia. She is the author of Worldly Gurus and Spiritual Kings: Architecture and Asceticism in Medieval India (Yale University Press, 2014) and editor of Paper Trails: Modern Indian Works on Paper from the Gaur Collection (Mapin, 2022), and her essays have appeared in many volumes and journals, including The Art BulletinArs Orientalis, and Archives of Asian ArtShe is currently working on two book projects: One examines the relationship between architecture, environmental history, and travel, while the other interrogates architectural revivalism and secularism in twentieth century temple architecture.

Tapati Guha-Thakurta is Honorary Professor of History and the former Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) from 2012 to 2017. She has written extensively on the art and cultural history of modern India, and her three major books include The Making of a New 'Indian' Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 1992) and Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India (Columbia University Press/Permanent Black, 2004), and In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Kolkata (Primus Books, 2015). She was a Visiting Professor of Humanities at the Cogut Institute at Brown in the Fall of 2018, where she co-organized an international symposium with Vazira Zamindar, and the co-edited volume How Secular is Art? On the Politics of Art, History and Religion in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2023) emerges from this symposium.

Saloni Mathur is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her areas of interest include the visual cultures of modern South Asia and the South Asian diaspora, colonial studies and postcolonial criticism, and museum studies in a global frame. She is author of India by Design: Colonial History and Cultural Display (UC Press, 2007), editor of The Migrant’s Time: Rethinking Art History and Diaspora (Yale University Press/Clark Art Institute, 2011), and co-editor with Kavita Singh of No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia (Routledge India, 2015). Her most recent book, A Fragile Inheritance: Radical Stakes in Contemporary Indian Art (Duke Press, 2019), is available online as part of an Open-Access initiative: https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/22291.

Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar is Associate Professor of History at Brown University, with an interest in the histories of decolonization, displacement, war, non-violence, the visual archive and contemporary art. She is the author of The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories (Columbia University Press, 2007), and co-editor of Love, War and Other Longings: Essays on Cinema in Pakistan (Oxford University Press, 2020) and How Secular is Art? On the Politics of Art, History and Religion in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2023). She is presently working on a graphic novel with Sarnath Bannerjee on Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Gandhi.