I am a historian of 20th-century aesthetics, working at the interfaces of visual art, left-wing thought, and historical transition. My research focuses in particular on the entanglements between (left-wing) aesthetics and 20th-century decolonization in South Asia and across transnational formations in the Global South.
I studied History in my BA (Presidency College, Kolkata, India), MA and MPhil (both at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India), before doing my PhD in Art History (Department of History of Art, University College University London, United Kingdom). My primary specialization is in South Asia (India and East Pakistan/Bangladesh after 1971), and I work with transregional scales of Afro-Asian decolonization and Third World liberation movements in the 20th century.
In my first monograph, Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization (Stanford University Press, 2020) (https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=29337) I argued for a conceptual apparatus that can accommodate the contradictions that shape entanglements of modern art and (anti-colonial) left-wing political movements. Using a catastrophic famine in the frontiers of British colonial empire in Bengal in 1943, I foregrounded the dialectical relationships between modernism and realism that marked the aesthetics of late-colonial and early postcolonial transition in India. Partisan Aesthetics won the Best Art Publication Accolade at the 2021 ICAS Book Prize, sponsored by the International Convention of Asia Scholars. Read excerpts here: https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=29337
I discussed Partisan Aesthetics in my interview on the New Books Network podcast: https://newbooksnetwork.com/partisan-aesthetics
Partisan Aesthetics was reviewed, among others, in
My co-edited book (with Lotte Hoek, University of Edinburgh), Forms of the Left: Aesthetics, Networks and Connected Histories (Bloomsbury, 2021) (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/forms-of-the-left-in-postcolonial-south-asia-9781350179172/) studied the trajectories of left-wing artistic activisms and networks after the high point of the cultural movement in late-colonial India and the partition that splintered territories, affiliations and cultural projects. Foregrounding the aesthetic forms of the political left across the borders of post-colonial, post-partition South Asia (spanning India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh), the contributors study art, film, literature, poetry and cultural discourse to illuminate the ways in which political commitment has been given aesthetic form and artistic value by artists and by cultural and political activists in postcolonial South Asia. We asked in this volume: Does the political left in South Asia have a recognizable aesthetic form? And if so, what political effects do left-wing artistic movements and aesthetic artefacts have in shaping movements against inequality and injustice?
Read excerpts here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/forms-of-the-left-in-postcolonial-south-asia-9781350179196/
I have been developing the theme of Aesthetics of Decolonization (from the scales of South Asia in https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/618692, 2013-2017; and more recently in https://oxfordre.com/asianhistory/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277727-e-421, 2022). My recent research has branched into using sites from 20th-century transregional aesthetic practice to conceptualize a comparative theorization of art and decolonization. My publications on this theme span intersections between modern art, socialist thought, and 20th-century decolonization (see publications, for book chapters and journal articles). I am taking forward these questions in a second monograph on potential transnational conceptualizations of an aesthetics of liberation across 20th-century decolonization, thinking from the locational scales of South Asia.
I am part of transnational collectives like Entangled Utopias (https://www.huizingainstituut.nl/working-group/utopia-and-social-dreaming-in-connected-and-entangled-perspective/), and Decolonial South/East: Theories from the South and the East in Literature and Culture (https://www.oslit.nl/theories-from-the-south-and-the-east-in-literature-and-culture/). I am Chair of the Academic Committee at the International Institute of Asian Studies (https://www.iias.asia/) at Leiden, the Netherlands, and a member of the Editorial Committee of the journal, ARTMargins (https://direct.mit.edu/artm/pages/editorial-info). I sit on the Advisory Boards of transnational publication initiatives like the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s Primary Documents publication series (https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/international-program/research) on South Asian Modernisms, 2020-2025; and the textbook project Intersectional Modernisms (with international experts in the field coordinated by Cornell University; Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong (https://aaa.org.hk/en); Africa Institute, Sharjah (https://theafricainstitute.org/); Carleton University, Canada; and Fulbright University, Hanoi).
Before joining the University of Amsterdam (UvA), I taught for more than 8 years at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies at the University of Leiden. At the University of Amsterdam, I teach and supervise across BA and MA programmes, covering in particular themes of global modernisms, aesthetics of decolonization, art historical methods and art historiography (especially, postcolonial and social history of art), and trans-disciplinary cultural theory. I am interested in thesis supervision in these broad themes, as well as in topics that have any particular specializations in South Asia, aesthetic thought from the Global South, transnational left-wing aesthetics, postcolonial/decolonial/critical theory, among others.
At UvA, I am affiliated with the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (https://asca.uva.nl/). I am also a co-coordinating member of the research group Global Trajectories of Thought and Memory (https://ahm.uva.nl/content/research-groups/global-trajectories/global-trajectories.html), affiliated with the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory, and Material Culture (https://ahm.uva.nl/)
Please see attached Academic CV for academic memberships, grants etc.
Organized international conferences
2021: (co-organizer, with Dr. Ksenia Robbe, University of Groningen and Dr. Hanneke Stuit, University of Amsterdam,) International conference: After the ‘End of History’: Postcolonial/Post-socialist Dynamics of Time and Memory in Literature and Art Since 1990s, Universities of Amsterdam and Groningen, October 2021 (hybrid format) (https://www.oslit.nl/eternal-presents-and-resurfacing-futures-postcolonial-postsocialist-dynamics-of-time-and-memory-in-literature-and-art/)
2018: (co-organizer, with Dr. Erik de Maaker, Leiden University) International conference: Modalities of Displacement in South Asia, Leiden University, 14-15 June 2018 (https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/events/2018/06/modalities-of-displacement-in-south-asia)
2016: (co-organizer, with Dr. Lotte Hoek, University of Edinburgh) Book workshop: Forms of the Left: Activist Art and Left-wing Aesthetics in Postcolonial South Asia, University of Edinburgh, 26-28 June 2016 (https://formsoftheleft.wordpress.com/)
2013: (co-organizer, with Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe and Dr. Carolien Stolte, Leiden University) International conference: South Asia and the Long 1930s: Appropriations and Afterlives, Leiden University, 6-7 December 2013 (https://www.iias.asia/event/south-asia-and-long-1930s-appropriations-and-afterlives-0)
For, invited talks etc, see Academic CV