Lecture | China Seminar
Framing Margins: Mao and Visuality in Twentieth-century India
- Wednesday 17 April 2019
- China Seminar
2311 VL Leiden
The talk will discuss how Mao Zedong and Maoism have appeared time and again in the cultural imaginaries in India through the mid-twentieth century, continuing into the fraught domains of Maoist resistance in contemporary India. Rather than following reflections of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism as a consistent and/or defined idiom in visual art, it will pursue the plural and often contradictory historical currents within which such resonances appear, and how they activate an aesthetics of margins and marginality. Exploring multiple imageries and cultural rhetoric that have invoked Mao – in image, polemic, text and political method – the discussion will put in dialogue the question of twentieth-century Maoist aesthetics with one of the most persisting and nuanced drives in Indian aesthetics during the long decolonization – the idea of taking art to the people. Such dialogue can be seen to develop in three particular vectors, both in explicit and implicit manners: first, the formations of a left-wing cultural movement in India in the 1940s and its mutations in the 1950s; second, a visceral political milieu that marked postcolonial Calcutta in the 1960s and 1970s where Maoist resistance in the Naxalite class war inscribed urban space and its visualities; and third, artistic interfaces with grassroots Maoist resistance through the 1970s and 1980s, where art sought to interact with various forms of counter-hegemonic cultural imagination.
The talk is based on a larger article that is appearing in a volume on Maoism and Global Aesthetics.