AESTHETICS OF DECOLONISATION will study artists, ideologies, and cultural imaginaries across the split political contexts of India and Pakistan. It will cover the climactic decades of decolonisation, from the exit of British rule and the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 to a second partition and the War of Liberation in 1971 that splintered East Pakistan from West, forming the current Bangladesh. Retreating from this theatre of border conflict, war, displacement, and genocide, this project will instead foreground cultural governance, and artistic dialogues and negotiations, from the early post-colonial decades. It will focus on the new categories of ‘artist-bureaucrats’ and ‘artist-pedagogues’ from India, East and West Pakistan, and follow their trajectories through postwar global collaborative forums like the UNESCO, the Commonwealth, and post-Bandung Afro-Asian solidarities, and the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, as well as the art worlds of the Eastern Bloc. It will ask new questions, disclose new archival material, and forge new analytical tools to connect ‘national’ and ‘vernacular’ artistic imaginaries to trans-national debates on universal and partisan art habitually steeped in Cold War rhetoric.
Developing interdisciplinary tools to read, merge, and juxtapose political and cultural modernities during decolonisation, AESTHETICS OF DECOLONISATION will raise the following questions: How can we conceptualise post-colonial art from South Asia as a ‘region’ beyond tense national frontiers? How can the national-vernacular-global triad be activated as a conceptual frame to map alternative geographies of twentieth-century artistic modernisms? How can new ‘non-Western’ art histories historicise the contemporary in Asian Cultural Studies? And finally, how can we develop cross-national analytical models that will connect the distinctly national narratives of post-colonial art from the Global South?
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