The Patron’s Hand: Murals from a Queen’s Temple in Jodhpur

by Nadini Thilak, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University / Linden-Museum, Stuttgart

Dear Prof. Dr. Monica Juneja,

On your 65th birth year, I want to thank you for your scholarship and generosity, which have been guiding lights leading many a graduate student (not least me) out of the thickets. Here is to celebrating your next birthday.

Nandini Thilak


In my doctoral thesis, which is centred on women patrons of architecture, I use early nineteenth-century records to trace the actors, processes, and networks that constituted architectural patronage in early modern Jodhpur. A close reading of sources from the period demonstrates that prolific female patrons of architecture from the kingdom’s royal zenana or harem were able to erect monumental architecture only with the hard-won cooperation of a large array of agents within and outside Jodhpur, among them skilled artisanal groups, suppliers, supervisors, architects, genealogists, zenana staff and so on. Evidence from Jodhpur demonstrates that agency, especially in architectural production, is better understood as a diffused or distributed phenomenon, wielded simultaneously, if not in equal measure, by multiple actors operating within dynamic networks rather than certain subject positions (such as architect or patron) that art history has historically privileged. Such an understanding owes much to a transcultural perspective on art history, especially Monica Juneja’s critique of style and style-based evolutionary classificatory regime.[i] Continue reading “The Patron’s Hand: Murals from a Queen’s Temple in Jodhpur”

Home Office-Ästhetiken: Ein Blogbeitrag

by Miriam Oesterreich, Universität der Künste Berlin, and Moritz Schwörer, Heidelberg University

Zu Beginn

Der Beginn unserer Arbeit im Worlding Public Cultures-Projekt (WPC) am Lehrstuhl von Monica Juneja fiel in eine Zeit voller Neuerungen. Nicht nur für uns – eine neue Arbeitsstelle bringt schließlich immer viel Unbekanntes mit sich –, sondern für den gesamten universitären Betrieb. Denn unsere Verträge galten ab März bzw. April 2020 und COVID-19 entwickelte sich in dieser Zeit zu einer Pandemie. Als Heidelberger WPC-Team konnten wir noch ein erstes und vorerst letztes Treffen abhalten, an dem fast alle Mitglieder teilnahmen, bevor von solchen Zusammenkünften ab dem 15. März abgeraten wurde: „Internal meetings also should be cancelled or transferred to telephone or video conferencing unless they are of utmost importance for the continuation of the regular working of the institutions.“ Unser neuer Arbeitsplatz war von nun an also das Home Office und zu unserem bevorzugten Kommunikationsweg wurde zwangsläufig die Videokonferenz.

Im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen hatten wir allerdings das Glück, dass Videokonferenzen schon einige Monate zuvor in unser Leben getreten waren: Als globales Projekt basierte WPC von Beginn an auf regelmäßigen virtuellen Treffen aller Mitglieder, an denen auch wir schon seit Dezember 2019 teilgenommen hatten. Der Schock des Neuen hatte uns somit schon etwas früher getroffen – „30 Teilnehmer*innen in einer Videokonferenz und es klappt! Wahnsinn!“ – und wir mussten nicht gänzlich unvorbereitet in die Welt von Zoom, WebEx, Teams, Skype und Co starten. Die Unsicherheit und die Aufregung, in die leblose Leere des Bildschirms aber dennoch zu einer größeren virtuellen Menschenansammlung zu sprechen, hatte sich daher für uns schon teilweise gelegt. Die Situation führte uns auch zum kollaborativen Denken und Schreiben, und wir nutzen hierfür radikale Assoziativität als Methode, um den verzweigten Spuren in unsere(n) Home Offices zu folgen. Continue reading “Home Office-Ästhetiken: Ein Blogbeitrag”

Sardul Singh’s Chatri: Multiplicity and Intertextuality of Architectural Memory

by Saumya Agarwal, India Foundation for the Arts

Before starting my PhD at Heidelberg University, I had been a literary studies scholar. For my PhD, I chose to research the wall paintings of Shekhawati in Rajasthan. Unsure of which academic discipline this research should be pursued under, I was guided by Professor Monica Juneja, who encouraged me to conduct this study under the aegis of transcultural studies, supporting me by graciously accepting a student with no prior training in art history. True to the theoretical aspects of transculturality, her guidance allowed me to create research that is not neatly contained within the analytical and methodological boundaries that define disciplines.

Her own scholarship has been instrumental in familiarizing me not only with art historical analytical frameworks but the possibility of analysing the visual with and beyond these frames.

In this article, I would like to discuss an idea that Professor Juneja has engaged with previously—the layered multiplicity of architectural memory.[i] For this purpose, I will briefly analyse the mural programme decorating a mid-eighteenth century chatri (cenotaph), from North East Rajasthan, and its intertextuality with the performed tradition involving painted scrolls known as pars. Continue reading “Sardul Singh’s Chatri: Multiplicity and Intertextuality of Architectural Memory”

The India International Centre: Building for Communication

by Margrit Pernau, Max Planck Institute for Human Development Berlin

Buildings are more than mere stone and concrete; their design shapes the encounters taking place within and around them, while they, in turn, become infused with the memories of these encounters.  The India International Centre is one such space, and as so many other South Asia academics, Monica Juneja and I have spent many hours there, sipping tea in the lounge or sitting outside, exchanging the latest news, or planning new activities. Our conversations were always punctuated by friends and acquaintances passing by nodding their greetings or joining us, the rule limiting the number of chairs you are allowed to pull to your table gently enforced by the staff. We have shared many meals in the dining hall and the buffets that accompanied conferences and seminars there, and, of course, participated in the formal and informal discussions of these academic events.

The front entrance and driveway to the main building of the India International Centre in New Delhi. Author: Death Star Central, 2020. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading “The India International Centre: Building for Communication”

Seeing with the Third Eye – For Monica on her 65th Birthday

by Claire Farago, University of Colorado Boulder

I am not sure when I started to think that something was fundamentally awry in U.S. mainstream politics, but it was the impetus for my current book project. The following remarks adapted from that work in progress are my tribute to Professor Monica Juneja whose leadership on pivoting the focus of art history from a national culture model to one that stresses transcultural processes has been effective institutionally and inspirational to many students and colleagues, myself included.[i]

Monica Juneja, 2016.

One watershed event that stands out for me is the horrifying moment when the ‘Pussy Tapes’ appeared and the Republican Party maintained its support of Trump’s candidacy for President anyway. This betrayal of all women is etched in my consciousness because that day I had to meet my undergraduate seminar, consisting mostly of women about to graduate, and I could not wrap my head around the fact that a major political party in the United States was supporting such a gross display of sexism and misogyny. Nor could I stay silent. I am now writing post-retirement from my tenured university position with new-found freedom as an independent scholar. The sorry history of racial violence and injustice in the United States is front and center today, on the first-year commemoration of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and exactly one century after the long-suppressed Tulsa, Oklahoma, Race Massacre in 1921. At the same time, in Brazil, in Monica’s India, Covid-19 is raging out of control. The uneven playing field and the historical and political causes of social oppression around the globe are also on full view. Yet the success of efforts to enact social justice reforms, such as ensuring the basic right to vote and protecting people of color from police violence, is far from assured even and especially in the United States, the “land of liberty.” Continue reading “Seeing with the Third Eye – For Monica on her 65th Birthday”

Hundreds of Facets: Reconfiguring Sight and Vision in Norman Sicily

by Jennifer Bürk, Heidelberg Centre of Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University

Exploring New Worlds

When I first met Monica Juneja, on an October afternoon in 2009, to start working as her new student assistant, little did I know how crucial this work relationship would become for my further education and how formative this work would be for developing my own research interests and nurturing my critical thinking. At the time, I was about to complete my bachelor’s degree in art history, and in retrospect, my naïve knowledge of art (history) was mostly limited to the clear-cut bounds of European western art with only some basic awareness of East Asian art, let alone the art of the Islamicate or any other regions of the world.

My tasks were mainly administrative in nature but being part of Monica’s seminars and lectures and initially, only loosely following the contents of the sessions opened up many facets of the world (or worlds) for me. These facets included the vibrant Mughal miniatures and other visual objects and collection practices across the globe, alongside challenging questions as to what the term ‘Islamic’ means in conjunction with the notion of art. Gradually, this led to realizing a keen interest in all those art objects, places, and histories that fell strangely ‘out of place’ within the master narrative of European art history. In these objects, places, and histories the complexities and negotiation processes of cultural encounters felt more tangible (and often more visible), while at the same time providing a deeper understanding of art history as a discipline constituted to not only include, but also deliberately to exclude large parts of artistic production. Consequently, I decided to write my master’s thesis about the garden manors of the Norman king, William II of Sicily. Mary Louise Pratt’s term “contact zones”[i] seemd especially fitting for Norman Sicily as it was often dealt as both exotically fascinating because of the sheer richness of multicultural artistic creations and also impossible to grasp given its history as a site of conquest and power struggle.[ii] I believed that there was more to this story that required unraveling. Thus, I raised and addressed the question of how the Normans dealt with the artistic abundance. My answer, at the time, was that the Norman kings, specifically William II, were engaged in a deliberate and selective process of reconfiguration, irrespective of issues such as ‘origin’. Of utmost importance was that the artistic outcome would be able to address a multiplicity of societal and cultural strata while at the same time artistically linking kings and princes across the Mediterranean. While not being a supervisor to this thesis, I am grateful for Monica’s enthusiasm about this topic which also allowed me to give a guest lecture on Norman Sicily in her course “Europe and the Arts of Islam” (summer term 2013) and to participate in the workshop “Art Histories and Terminologies I” held in Berlin in 2013. Continue reading “Hundreds of Facets: Reconfiguring Sight and Vision in Norman Sicily”

Georgia On My Mind – Monica In My Heart

by Bettina Hofmann, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Monica Junejas internationale Vernetzung und transnationale Aktivitäten, die ihre Forschungen erfordern, die aber vor allem ihren vielfältigen Interessen entsprechen, sind bekannt. In meinem Beitrag knüpfe ich an ihren Forschungsaufenthalt an der Emory University 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia an. Wie bei Ray Charles’ Song „Georgia On My Mind“ schwingt Nostalgie mit, wenn ich mich an die Woche im Februar vor dreizehn Jahren erinnere, als ich sie in Atlanta besuchte. Als Amerikanistin und Literaturwissenschaftlerin war ich besonders an den Spuren der afroamerikanischen Bürgerrechtsbewegung interessiert. Im Folgenden, so hoffe ich, werden die Schnittpunkte mit Monicas Interessen deutlich: dass Kunstwerke immer in Kontexten entstehen und eine gesellschaftspolitische Dimension beinhalten.

Monica Juneja in Atlanta, 2008. © Mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Bettina Hofmann.

Ausgehend von unserem gemeinsamen Bezugspunkt Atlanta möchte ich im folgenden Blogbeitrag untersuchen, wie Afroamerikaner*innen auf das Versprechen des amerikanischen Traums von der Kolonialzeit bis heute reagiert haben. Zugegebenermaßen kann das nur in einem sehr gerafften Überblick erfolgen. Continue reading “Georgia On My Mind – Monica In My Heart”

Witz – Ironie – Camouflage: Erfahrungsräume und Erwartungshorizonte gebildeter Frauen zwischen 1770 und 1820

by Frank Konersmann, Bielefeld University


Hintergrund und Ausgangspunkt der folgenden Betrachtungen bilden Erfahrungen sowohl mit Selbstzeugnissen der anhaltinischen Prinzessin und späteren lippischen Fürstin Pauline (1769-1820) als auch mit solchen ihrer Zeitzeugen, die mit ihr in Kontakt standen und sich schriftlich über sie äußerten. Anlässlich ihres 200. Todestages am 29. Dezember 2020 hat der Verfasser dieser Zeilen einen biographischen Essay über diese Vertreterin des deutschen Hochadels veröffentlicht.[i] Herangezogen wurden Briefe, Gedichte, Vorträge und veröffentlichte Traktate, die sie von ihrem 15. Lebensjahr an als Prinzessin seit 1784 verfasste, sowie Stellungnahmen, Kommentare und Entscheidungen, die sie als Fürstin seit 1796 und dann als vormundschaftliche Regentin des Fürstentums Lippe seit 1802 niederschrieb und veranlasste.

Bei dieser aus dem alten Adelsgeschlecht der Askanier stammenden Frau handelt sich um eine herausragende Figur der westfälischen und insbesondere der lippischen Erinnerungskultur. So nehmen unterschiedliche Gruppierungen und Institutionen dieser ostwestfälischen Region bis in die unmittelbare Gegenwart hinein auf sie Bezug,[ii] zumal sie dem lippischen Fürstenstaat zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts durch ihr außenpolitisches Engagement und diplomatisches Geschick wiederholt die politische Unabhängigkeit sicherte. Darüber hinaus ist ihr in der Diakoniegeschichte[iii] und in der jüngeren Frauen- und Gendergeschichte[iv] wiederholt gedacht worden. Denn als lippische Fürstin und Regentin trat sie ungewöhnlich durchdacht und auch entschieden mit juristischen und staatsrechtlichen sowie pädagogischen und wohlfahrtstaatlichen Initiativen und Maßnahmen hervor. Continue reading “Witz – Ironie – Camouflage: Erfahrungsräume und Erwartungshorizonte gebildeter Frauen zwischen 1770 und 1820”

Sensing History: The Memorial “The Muse Has Had It”

by Jo Ziebritzki, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University[i]

Meeting the muse

It’s early April 2017. The last couple of hours I was immersed in a typescript on ancient Buddhist temples in the library of the University of Vienna. As I now descend the grand staircase leading into the inner courtyard, my consciousness slowly emerges from the ancient past returning to the present. Outside, behind the arcades, the bright pavement reflects the spring sun. What a beautiful moment to stumble upon after a long morning in the library. Looking around, I suddenly notice an odd shape on the ground, like a shadow, but huge, and made of dark grey stone. I walk onto it, trying to decipher its contours. It is much longer in proportion to its width. I follow its length and realize that it resembles a human figure. When I reach the figure’s feet, I involuntarily smile: the shadow is wearing high heels. That was unexpected. I guess I had associated the human shape with the chalk figures at crime scenes – placeholders of evidence for someone hurt, escaped, or dead – sketched to decipher a cruelty. My eyes travel upwards along the leg of the figure, taking in the steady standing position, following the shape of the upper body, where one hand rests on the hip while the other one is raised with a clenched fist. The head of the figure is slightly tilted and framed by a bob haircut that seems to vibrate with vigorous movement. “Dear revolutionary shadow figure, would you tell me your story?”

Iris Andraschek, Der Muse Reicht’s (The Muse Has Had It), detail of shadow figure and one pedestal, 2009. Inner courtyard of the University of Vienna. Photographer: Hertha Hurnaus. © Courtesy of Hertha Hurnaus,

Continue reading “Sensing History: The Memorial “The Muse Has Had It””

What’s in a Bindi and a Hand? Or: The Way Monica Juneja Enabled Me to World Myself by Sharing Her Worlds

by Franziska Koch, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University

Getting to know and working closely with a scholar and a personality such as Monica Juneja has been an absolute treat. It has been a process of becoming for me, an ongoing process of becoming aware of the cultural and ethical perceptions that govern my scholarly and general views. It has entailed puzzling over something she said and re-shaping my views in ways that find me a bit more flexible, and often, reevaluating the limits of my understanding. Sometimes, I slightly ache from the revelation of an unwelcome truth and struggle with an impulse to disagree but fail to formulate it quite as articulately as her. Normally, I am more sensitive and open to embrace new knowledge and always curious about what she is going to share next.

It is precisely the skillful and generous ways in which she shares: in her research, teaching, writing, and communication that make me think of her as a second mother. One who taught me the ropes of academic professionalism and has encouraged me (and many other emerging scholars) to believe in a scholarly world that is ultimately not separate from our social lives.

Working as an assistant professor for her newly founded Chair of Global Art History since July 2009, her 65th anniversary now provides me with an auspicious occasion to look back at the truly transformative work that she has achieved at the Heidelberg University’s Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context – Changing Asymmetries in Cultural Flows,” now known as the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS).[i] I thought, why not bring both these perspectives together; my personal and professional experience of working with the distinguished Geburtstagskind and share in turn how I grew beyond my initial self while participating in the transformation she enabled. Continue reading “What’s in a Bindi and a Hand? Or: The Way Monica Juneja Enabled Me to World Myself by Sharing Her Worlds”

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