Degree: Ph.D., Anthropology, Columbia University
Position: Assistant Professor, South Asian Art, Art History, and Visual Culture
Campus Address: 34 Kresge Art Center
Phone: (517) 884-6647
My research seeks to describe the forms of social life associated with Indian visual culture. For the modernist art that I study, the most important of these has been secularism, for in India, modernist art objects have distinguished themselves from traditional or classical ones by being the products of a secular imagination. My book project that emerged from my dissertation tracks the changes wrought by the rise of Hindu nationalism in the 1980s on the fundamentally secular practices of modernist artists. I focus particularly on the politicization of Hindu and nationalist iconography and attacks on the autonomy of art world spaces. My work describes both the uneasy relationship between citizenship and artistic subjectivity and the changing character of the Indian public sphere in which art circulates. My research directly contributes to the rapidly growing literature on global modernism and the international art world. Taking an anthropological approach, however, my writing also engages scholarship concerning the development of modern political subjectivity, the relationship between secularism and religion, understandings of urban space, and gender and sexuality. Profoundly interdisciplinary, my scholarship combines methodologies and written genres associated with the social sciences and the humanities.
My next project will concern the global market in Indian contemporary art, which expanded rapidly over the past decade and collapsed with the recent global recession. Public fascination has not abated, however, as stories of spiking auction values and extravagant gallery exhibitions have given way to the spectacle of market failure. Having been engaged in research in the Indian art world before, during, and after the boom, I have witnessed the transformation of the art object from national treasure to personal investment. My new research will track these changes in the relationship between aesthetic and market value. The art market is driven as much by the wealth of Indian communities abroad as by the growth of collecting in India, so this project also addresses a meaningful site of cultural engagement for the Indian diasporic community, whether in London, New York, and Dubai, or Bombay and Delhi. If my present writing views art within the context of national political structures, this new project finds in art a site to explore globalization.