Pragmatism and Steel: For Monica

by Karin Zitzewitz, Michigan State University

I “met” Monica, first, as the author of “Reclaiming the Public Sphere: Husain’s Portrayals of Saraswati and Draupadi,” a compact and astute art historical commentary on the accusations of obscenity that were lodged by Hindu nationalist agitators against Indian artist M. F. Husain, beginning in 1996.[i] A graduate student in anthropology, I was interested in visual culture as public culture—as a site of debate and contestation, and of complex and layered signs—and in Hindu nationalism. By the time I got to them around 3-4 years later, the attacks on Husain were a kind of classic of the Hindutva genre. They had been preceded by several similar, if less spectacular campaigns and followed by a constant stream of what we can anachronistically recognize as culture-war clickbait. Husain was a nearly perfect target: he was wealthy but approachable, a prominent supporter of the Congress party, and among the most famous Muslim public figures outside of Bollywood. Whether the nature of his artistic work was one of the attractions for the Hindutvavadis—followers of the ideology that underpins Hindu nationalism—was cause for significant debate. And it was that conversation in which Monica’s piece intervened. Continue reading “Pragmatism and Steel: For Monica”

Fellow Travelers

by Simone Wille, University of Innsbruck

On the occasion of Monica’s symbolic birthday I would like to reflect on how I met Monica in Salzburg in 2011 and how, since then, she has become an invaluable person to me, encouraging me to write my first monograph and consequently undertake and pursue my long-term research on South Asia and Central Europe.

In 2011, I had just completed my PhD on modern art in Pakistan at the University of Vienna under the supervision of Ebba Koch when I was invited to partake in an initiative that was spearheaded by Sabine B. Vogel and Hildegund Amanshauser. This was the Global Art conference at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts. The project was later reorganized and renamed the Global Academy and then the Planetary Academy. Monica was invited to open this international conference as a speaker together with Hans Belting. Her paper reflected on traditional art-historical methodology and its insufficiency in resolving geographical hierarchies and conditions of visibilities. Her proposal for a transcultural art history that offers an analytical framework on many levels rather than simply opposing the global and the local has led me to engage with these methodological inquiries and possibilities more closely. Continue reading “Fellow Travelers”