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”

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”