Art and Emergency: Modernism in Twentieth - Century India 9781350985391, 9781786732705

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Art and Emergency: Modernism in Twentieth - Century India
 9781350985391, 9781786732705

Table of contents :
Cover
Author Bio
Endorsement
Title Page
Copyright Information
Dedication
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Acknowledgements
Introduction
Chapter Plan
1 Fugitive Lines of Desire: Nasreen Mohamedi 1947–77
Prelude: Satori!
Introduction
The Studio
Emerging Interventionism: A Wretched Abstraction
Abstract with Memories
The Allusive Neutral
Labyrinths of Solitude
Reflections on the Post-Colonial Absurd
Desert Roaming: Through the Eyes of a Stranger
Calligraphic Abstraction?
Abstracting Lines: A New Instrument of Vision
Reclaiming the Beloved
Conclusion
2 Beyond or in Emergency? The Emergence of Photography during the 1943 Bengal Famine: Sunil Janah
Introduction
Phantasmagoric Aesthetics
Memento Mori: The Famine Photographs of Willoughby Wallace Hooper and A. T. W. Penn
Gandhi’s Superbody and the Performance of Political Somatics
Agitating and Organising: The CPI and the Role of Photography
Necropolitics and Necropower in Bengal
Cecil Beaton’s Famine Chic and Fashion Victims
In Search of Famine? Sunil Janah and the Bengal Famine 1943–4
With a Brush and a Little Ink
Immortal Famine?
Conclusion
3 Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi: Gaganendranath Tagore 1905–21
Introduction
Laughter!
(Mis)translation: Bergson and Laughter (1911)
Mechanicalcutta: Town and Country have Become Twins
Sly Allegories
Wry Thunderbolt
Inside/Outside: Absurd Heterotopias
Neither Goddess nor Whore: Machine Wives
Beyond Laughter
Emergency and the Law’s Violence
Reform Screams
The Babu’s Grin
Conclusion
Conclusion
Notes
Introduction: Tearing Apart the Storm of Progress
Chapter 1 Fugitive Lines of Desire: Nasreen Mohamedi 1947– 77
Chapter 2 Beyond or in Emergency? The Emergence of Photography during the 1943 Bengal Famine: Sunil Janah
Chapter 3 Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi: Gaganendranath Tagore 1905–21
Conclusion
Bibliography
Books
Exhibition Catalogues
Essays, Chapters, Short Works in Books and Edited Volumes
Journal Articles
Unpublished Articles, Conference Papers, Reports, Blogs
Newspaper Articles
Diary Entries, Letters, Documents from Personal Archives
Interviews
Index

Citation preview

i

Emilia Terracciano is the Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford (2015–​18). Her research interest lies in contemporary photographic art practices with a focus on the visual cultures of the global south. She has taught in various institutions including University College London, Courtauld Institute of Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art and the Photographer’s Gallery. Terracciano’s work has appeared in Art Journal and Art Bulletin, as well as in the art press, including Frieze, Modern Painters, Caravan and Burlington Magazine. From 2008–​13 she worked with the curatorial staff of the V&A Asian Department to catalogue the South Asia modern and contemporary collection, and acted as a consultant for the British Museum acquisition team.

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‘This is a passionately argued book. It has a decisive theoretical frame and it offers an ideological reading of modernism through three diverse practitioners in t­ wentieth-century India. The author’s critique of existing interpretive positions will spark debate. For this precise reason, as for its complex scholarly discourse, the book is important and unique.’ Geeta Kapur, independent critic and curator, Delhi ‘Emilia Terracciano returns to the twentieth century, not to present the genealogies of modern Indian art as a celebratory parable of the post-colonial nation but to probe the fissures that emerge at the level of representation under conditions of national emergency. Art and Emergency straddles the late colonial and the postcolonial decades to analyse artistic production at pivotal moments of violence, violation, and conflict. Terracciano’s questions are as new as they are original. As the book unfolds – moving backwards in time instead of forward – astonishing conjunctures emerge. The book analyses the relationship between aesthetics and politics with great intellectual agility and, ultimately, demands that we reconsider the questions that have thus far been asked of twentieth-century Indian art.’ Atreyee Gupta, Assistant Professor, Global Modern Art; Modern and Contemporary South and Southeast Asian Art, University of California, Berkeley ‘Art and Emergency is an original and challenging work sustained by a deep reading of a remarkable array of literary and historical sources. A substantial contribution to the history of Indian modernism in the colonial and postcolonial eras that combines political history with aesthetics, the book unravels art in periods of emergency when the rule of law and human rights are suspended. Arguing for these periods as discontinuities, it deploys an anti-chronological narrative that interweaves past and present in a compelling indictment of state power. The artists removed in time and concerns but held together by their protest against oppression – Nasreen Mohamedi’s abstract drawings, Sunil Janah’s famine photographs, and Gaganendranath Tagore’s lithographic cartoons – force us to rethink our views on Indian modernity. The work will be indispensable to students of Indian and colonial history and art history, as well as making a persuasive contribution to global modernism.’ Partha Mitter, Emeritus Professor of History of Art, University of Sussex

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 ‘In this provocative study, Emilia Terracciano subjects three substantive artistic projects during the twentieth century to a thorough examination. She shows them to be uncanny in their own right, and when placed together in a constellation, what emerges is nothing less than a profound reassessment of the role of art in addressing the extraordinary conditions of its making in India. Not only do the artworks recover a sense of the contingency and urgency in which they were likely created, our broader conception of colonial and post-colonial history itself is productively challenged. Art and Emergency persuasively argues that our present and recent past cannot be simply marked by normalized conceptions of linear progress, but rather as a shattered ensemble of catastrophes to which art serves as a privileged witness. A powerful and groundbreaking work’. Iftikhar Dadi, Associate Professor, History of Art, Cornell University

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Art and Emergency Modernism in Twentieth–​Century India BY EMILIA TERRACCIANO

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Published in 2018 by I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd London • New York www.ibtauris.com Copyright © 2018 Emilia Terracciano The right of Emilia Terracciano to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by the author in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Every attempt has been made to gain permission for the use of the images in this book. Any omissions will be rectified in future editions. References to websites were correct at the time of writing. International Library of Modern and Contemporary Art 25 ISBN: 978 1 78453 109 6 eISBN: 978 1 78672 270 6 ePDF: 978 1 78673 270 5 A full CIP record for this book is available from the British Library A full CIP record is available from the Library of Congress Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: available Typeset by Newgen Knowledge Works Pvt Ltd Printed and bound in Great Britain by T.J. International, Padstow, Cornwall This publication has been made possible by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and grants from the John Fell Oxford University Press (OUP) Research Fund and the Scouloudi Foundation in association with the Institute of Historical Research, London.

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For Shelagh, Ciro and Brian, without whom, nothing

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Contents List of Figures Acknowledgements

xi xvii

Introduction: Tearing Apart the Storm of Progress Chapter Plan

1 12



1 Fugitive Lines of Desire: Nasreen Mohamedi 1947–​77

15



2 Beyond or in Emergency? The Emergence of Photography during the 1943 Bengal Famine: Sunil Janah

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Prelude: Satori! Introduction The Studio Emerging Interventionism: A Wretched Abstraction Abstract with Memories The Allusive Neutral Labyrinths of Solitude Reflections on the Post-​Colonial Absurd Desert Roaming: Through the Eyes of a Stranger Calligraphic Abstraction? Abstracting Lines: A New Instrument of Vision Reclaiming the Beloved Conclusion

Introduction Phantasmagoric Aesthetics Memento Mori: The Famine Photographs of Willoughby Wallace Hooper and A. T. W. Penn Gandhi’s Superbody and the Performance of Political Somatics Agitating and Organising: The CPI and the Role of Photography Necropolitics and Necropower in Bengal Cecil Beaton’s Famine Chic and Fashion Victims In Search of Famine? Sunil Janah and the Bengal Famine 1943–​4 With a Brush and a Little Ink Immortal Famine? Conclusion

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16 16 21 25 30 35 40 42 47 53 58 63 67

69 76

81 91 95 100 102 104 111 116 123

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Contents

3 Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi: Gaganendranath Tagore 1905–​21 Introduction Laughter! (Mis)translation: Bergson and Laughter (1911) Mechanicalcutta: Town and Country have Become Twins Sly Allegories Wry Thunderbolt Inside/​Outside: Absurd Heterotopias Neither Goddess nor Whore: Machine Wives Beyond Laughter Emergency and the Law’s Violence Reform Screams The Babu’s Grin Conclusion

Conclusion

125

125 130 133 137 143 145 152 157 160 164 168 176 182

184

Notes Bibliography Index

189 251 273

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List of Figures I.1

Paul Klee, Angelus Novus, copper etching plate, intaglio printing with acidic watercolour on drypoint, 1921. Courtesy: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

1

I.2

Vivan Sundaram, Memorial, mixed media, 1993. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram.

3

I.3

Sukumar Ray, untitled photograph, c.1915. Courtesy: Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives and Ray Estate.

9

1.1

Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, ink and graphite on paper, c.1975. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

15

1.2

Jyoti Bhatt, Nasreen’s Studio, photograph, c.1995. Courtesy: Jyoti Bhatt and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

21

1.3

Jagdish Swaminathan, Lily by My Window, oil on canvas, c.1968–72. Courtesy: Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016.

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1.4

V. S. Gaitonde, untitled, oil on canvas, 1960. Courtesy: Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016.

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1.5

Tyeb Mehta, untitled, pen and ink on paper, 1984. Courtesy: Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016.

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1.6

Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, graphite, gouache and ink on paper, c.1975. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.7

Vivan Sundaram, Gang on Tank, graphite on paper, 1975. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram.

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1.8

Vivan Sundaram, Smash Dynastic Ambitions, ink on paper, 1979. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram.

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1.9

Vivan Sundaram, Smash Dynastic Ambitions, ink on paper, 1979. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram. 40

1.10 Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Speechless City, oil on canvas, 1975. Courtesy: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

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1.11 Bhupen Khakhar, Janata Watch Repairing, oil on canvas, 1972. Courtesy: Chemould Prescott Road Archive and The Bhupen Khakhar Estate.

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List of Figures 1.12 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, ink and graphite on paper, c.1980. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.13 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1970. Courtesy: Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.14 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1960. Courtesy: Sikander and Hydari Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.15 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, oil on canvas, c.1960. Courtesy: Sikander and Hydari Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.16 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, oil on canvas, c.1960. Courtesy:  Suhail Rahim Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.17 Calligraphic exercises in shikasta, by ‘Abd al-​Majid, (died 1771), mounted in a muraqqa’, album. Courtesy: Nasser Khalili Family Trust, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art. © Nour Foundation, 1996. Mss 391, (folios 1a and 2a).

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1.18 Jeram Patel, Hospital Series 3, pen and ink on paper, 1966. Courtesy: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

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1.19 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1970. Courtesy: Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.20 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1965. Courtesy: Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.21 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1970. Courtesy: Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.22 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1972. Courtesy:  Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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1.23 Nasreen Mohamedi, ink and graphite on paper, c.1970. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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2.1

2.2

Sunil Janah, Mother and Child on a Pavement in Calcutta, Bengal Famine, 1944, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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Photographer unknown, Famine Stricken Group, Delhi, photograph, c.1865. Published in The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with Descriptive Letterpress, of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan, 1868–72. © The British Library Board. Photo 973/​4. (206).

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List of Figures 2.3

W. W. Hooper, Inmates of a Relief Camp (During the Famine 1876–​1878) in Madras, Tamil Nadu, South India, photograph, c.1876. Courtesy: Royal Geographical Society.

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W. W. Hooper, Famine Objects (During the Madras Famine 1876–​1878), Tamil Nadu, South India, photograph, c.1876. Courtesy: Royal Geographical Society.

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A. T. W. Penn, A Chosen Few (‘Victims of the Madras Famine, Bangalore, Madras’), photograph, c.1877. Courtesy: Royal Commonwealth Society, Cambridge University.

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A. T. W. Penn, Pettah Kitchen (‘A Corner of the Pettah Kitchen with over 3,000 People Waiting for Feeding Time, Madras, South India’), photograph, 1877. Courtesy: Royal Geographical Society.

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Horace Harral, Forsaken! (‘Two Children in the Bellary District of the Madras Presidency, British India, during the Great Famine of 1876–1878’), engraving, 1877. Public domain.

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2.8

W. W. Hooper, Forsaken (‘Madras during the Famine 1876–1878, Tamil Nadu, South India’), photograph, c.1876. Public domain.

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2.9

Margaret Bourke-​White, Mahatma Gandhi, April 1946, with his Charka, or Spinning Wheel, Symbol of India’s Struggle for Independence, photograph, 1946. Courtesy: Getty Images.

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2.4

2.5

2.6

2.7

2.10 Photographer unknown, Before Famine, a Happy Village Scene, photograph (IPTA performance). Published in People’s War, 1944. Author’s collection.

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2.11 Photographer unknown, Come, Let’s Go to the City for Food, photograph (IPTA performance). Published in People’s War, 1944. Author’s collection.

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2.12 Cecil Beaton, Bengali Labourer, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Imperial War Museum.

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2.13 ‘Toiling Orissa Faces Death’, People’s War, 1944. Author’s collection.

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2.14 Sunil Janah, Skeletons Strewn on a Field Dumped with the Dead, Orissa Famine, 1944: No Resources Were Available for Cremation, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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2.15 Sunil Janah, Dog Eating the Skeletal Remains of a Corpse, Orissa Famine, 1944. (On the Road to Raibania Village), photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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2.16 ‘Who Lives if Bengal Dies?’, People’s War, 1943. Author’s collection.

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List of Figures 2.17 Sunil Janah, Orphans Waiting for Food at a Famine-​Relief Centre, Orissa Famine, 1944, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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2.18 Sunil Janah, Men Leaving Their Villages to Walk to the Relief Centres in the District Towns, Andhra Pradesh, 1945, photograph, 1945. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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2.19 Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Hoogli, June 1944, pen on paper, 1944. Courtesy: Delhi Art Gallery.

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2.20 Zainul Abedin, Famine Sketch, ink on paper, 1943. Courtesy: Mainul Abedin.

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2.21 Zainul Abedin, Famine Sketch, ink on paper, 1943. Courtesy: Mainul Abedin.

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2.22 Sunil Janah, Bessemer Blowing at Tata Iron and Steel Co., Jamshedpur, Bihar, 1950s, photograph, 1957. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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2.23 Sunil Janah, Steel Melting Shop, Tata Iron and Steel Co., Jamshedpur, Bihar, 1957, photograph, 1957. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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2.24 Sunil Janah, Women Workers During Construction at a Thermal Power Plant in Bihar, One of Independent India’s First, 1950s, photograph, 1949. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

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2.25 Sunil Janah, Younger of the Two Sisters from Poonani Village Whom I Spotted on a Beach. They Were Picking Sea Shells for a Lime Factory. Malabar, Kerala, 1940s, photograph, 1945. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 122 3.1

Gaganendranath Tagore, Imperishable Sacredness of a Brahmin, watercolour, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan.

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3.2

Gaganendranath Tagore, Courtesy to Countrymen, colour lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Courtesy: Tapash Ray.

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3.3

Gaganendranath Tagore, untitled, watercolour on paper, cubist theatre accordion-​maquette, 1920. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan.

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Gaganendranath Tagore, Sleepless City, watercolour on paper, 1915. Courtesy: Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016.

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3.4

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List of Figures 3.5

Gaganendranath Tagore, Funeral Procession, colour lithograph, 1915. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.6

Gaganendranath Tagore, Autospeechola, lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Author’s collection.

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3.7

Gaganendranath Tagore, The University Factory, lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Author’s collection.

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3.8

Gaganendranath Tagore, Botanical Cartoon, watercolour on postcard, 1915. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.9

Gaganendranath Tagore, Hybrid Bengalessis, colour lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Author’s collection.

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3.10 Gaganendranath Tagore, Metamorphosis –​Don’t Disturb Me now, I Am about to Become a Sab, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.11 Kanai Lal Ghosh, untitled, drawing in black paint on paper, c.1920. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.12 Gaganendranath Tagore, By the Sweat of My Brow I Tried to Be Mistaken for a Saheb but still that Man Called Me Baboo, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.13 Gaganendranath Tagore, A Wayside Digression. Strange Women Encountered on the Way Should Be Avoided for Obvious Reasons, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.14 Gaganendranath Tagore, Nuisance of a Wife, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.15 Gaganendranath Tagore, The Offending Shadow, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.16 Gaganendranath Tagore, Millstone of the Caste System, colour lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.17 Gaganendranath Tagore, Terribly Sympathetic, colour lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.18 Rabindranath Tagore, Mussolini, brush and ink on paper, 1935. Courtesy: Rabindra Bharati, Kolkata.

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List of Figures 3.19 Gaganendranath Tagore, The First Bengali Governor. Where is H.E.?, watercolour on paper, sketch executed in preparation for Reform Screams, 1921. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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3.20 Gaganendranath Tagore, Premier Scream, Montford in Labour –​Behold the Outcome, colour lithograph, from Reform Screams, 1921. Author’s collection.

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3.21 Bottom left: Gaganendranath Tagore, Laughter, watercolour on paper, 1922. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan.

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3.22 Gaganendranath Tagore, Flight of the First Indian Cubist, watercolour on paper, 1922. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan.

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C.1

Gaganendranath Tagore, self-​portrait, photograph, c.1905. Courtesy: Archives of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata and Siddhartha Ghosh.

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Acknowledgements Turning this manuscript from doctoral dissertation into book has been a long, tortuous but thoroughly enriching adventure, which has led me through numerous research places, archives, libraries, funding bodies and unexpected homes. Many people have emerged, like dancing Bodhisattvas, to support and contribute in one way or another to my thinking, offering critical feedback, lively debate, healthy advice and vital financial assistance over the years. My debt of gratitude to these remarkable individuals is truly immense. Firstly, my thanks go to my former thesis supervisors, Julian Stallabrass and Debby Swallow. Julian and Debby’s mentorship and patience throughout the doctoral stages of the project was of crucial value. I  am especially grateful to my external advisor Natasha Eaton; her support, intellectual acumen, boundless generosity and terrific sense of humour were indispensable to the shaping and making of this book. Above all, I thank Natasha for providing a model of creative and iconoclastic thinking in these conformist times. Over the years, the kind mentorship and intellectual brilliance of Andrew Hemingway have been a huge source of inspiration and support. I was very fortunate to work at the Victoria and Albert Museum together with its fabulous curatorial staff, particularly curator Divia Patel, who introduced me to the hidden wonders stored in the archives and trained this junior cataloguer. My doctoral examiners Christopher Pinney and Raminder Kaur offered illuminating feedback in what was one of the most exhilarating and memorable critical encounters of my student days. I have enjoyed thought-​provoking discussions and decisive exchanges about this project with numerous peers, colleagues and friends. In Oxford: the support and friendship of Partha Mitter, the stimulating presence of Malcolm Bull and Anthony Gardner; in London:  Marcus Verhagen, Hammad Nasar and Amna Malik; in New  York:  Jacob and Peter Hellman and Susan Cohen; in Berkeley, California:  the late Sunil and Shoba Janah; in Delhi:  the warm friendship and encouraging support of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram, discussions with Archana Shastri and the late Keshav Malik; in Kolkata:  Tapati Guha-​Thakurta, Abhijit Bhattacharya and Sanjukta Sunderason; in Mumbai:  Shree Sikander,

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Acknowledgements Sumesh Sharma, Mort Chatterjee, Sasha and Navjot Altaf, Shireen Gandhi, Nalini Malani, Nina Sabnani, Anna and Danny Singh; in Vadodara: Gulam and Nilima Sheikh, Jyoti and Jyotsana Bhatt, Ratan Parimoo, Dhruva and Trupti Mistry and the late K. G. Subramanyan. Art and Emergency expands upon essays that I published over the last two years in a variety of journals. The ideas and arguments presented here are the result of these valuable conversations and collaborations with great editors and peers. I am very thankful for the critical readings offered by Saloni Mathur, Parul Dave Mukherjee and Rakhee Balaram. Moreover, my writing has benefited from the opportunities I have been offered to present, share and sharpen ideas with colleagues, friends and students at various conferences: ‘Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalizing World’ at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (2012), ‘Photography’s Shifting Terrain: Emerging Histories & New Practices’ at NYU Abu Dhabi (2015), ‘Working Worlds’ presented by the History of Art department and the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art at University College London (2015), and ‘Forms of the Left: Activist Art & Left-​Wing Aesthetics in Postcolonial South Asia’ at Edinburgh University (2016). This book has benefited from the support of several institutions and a generous fellowship programme: the Arts and Humanities Research Council provided me with a research grant (2008–​12) to conduct my doctoral research, while an award from the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum funded my research trips to India in 2009. I extend my warmest thanks to the anonymous peer reviewer for his/​her meticulous feedback and the editorial staff at I.B.Tauris who have been supportive of the project, enthusiastic and very patient throughout: Anna Coatman, Baillie Card, Lisa Goodrum and Arub Ahmed. It has been a real pleasure working with this exciting press. I am indebted to Sakuntala, Tapash and Anna Ray for all the translation sessions from Bengali and Gujarati to English (which persisted well into the night), but also for the cups of chai, delicious curries, strawberry pavlovas and witty jokes. Reena Mohamedi and her family shared precious family memories, warm exchanges and much more at crucial stages of the project. A very big thank you goes to Boris Knezevic and Crofton Black for patiently reading chapters and providing feedback. I thank Jamie Govier, Claude Savona, Anna Fukuda, Teresa Kittler and Sanaz Hajjami for their loyalty, love and intellectual companionship.

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Acknowledgements In Delhi, I am grateful to Aman, Ashok and Arti Khanna for their warmth, food, shelter, singing and vital medical assistance; without them, this book would not have been possible. My biggest and final thanks go to my extraordinary family: my parents Ciro and Shelagh and my brother Brian. I  thank them all for believing in me. From the beginning to the end of this project they have put up with me, my struggles and the long periods of absence. But also I thank them for the fun times, the olive grove, the berries and the boars, and the fireflies.

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newgenprepdf

Acknowledgements I would much rather be An Arab Bedouin! At my feet the great desert From horizon to horizon. The horse gallops and the sand flies, And I pour my life’s stream up in the sky, And with the fire burning in my heart I ride day and night. With a spear in hand, never With any thought of safety -​ Like the desert wind blowing high Against all barriers. I plunge into danger And my life blood boils up. In my entire body and soul Life wakes up. In dark, in sunlight, As I swim through death, From my dancing soul Wild laughter rings out. Whatever is noble in this world Is my soul’s companion, It runs forward into the storm And dips into the sea. For a moment I long to break In a terrible burst of joy All bonds and to rush forward In sheer exuberance of life. To drink up like wine The empty endless space With the cramped heart set free In the high blue sky. I can no more stay in my corner In this shady mango grove, Lost in sleepiness, slinking In dark domesticity. ​Rabindranath Tagore, Baghdad, 1932

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1

Introduction: Tearing Apart the Storm of Progress

Figure I.1 Paul Klee, Angelus Novus, copper etching plate, intaglio printing with acidic watercolour on drypoint, 1921. Courtesy: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 

The wings of Walter Benjamin’s ‘angel of history’ are seared by the storm of progress (Figure I.1). For Benjamin, the angel prophesied the horrific devastation of twentieth-century History, to wit the state of emergency and the genocide of Nazi Europe.1 But the angel has yet to meet its destiny.2 1

2

Art and Emergency Inspired by a small watercolour made by Paul Klee (1921), a prized possession of Benjamin, Angelus Novus emerges as the explicit artistic figure in the ninth of his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’. The meaning and significance of the angel have been subject to countless interpretations by writers and artists seeking to face up to the brutality of twentieth-​century violence, and the failure of history in testifying to the breakdown of civilisation in a confrontation with barbarism.3 For Benjamin, catastrophe banished all hope regarding the fate of democracy in Europe, and would propel the forces of a brutal state authoritarianism after his death.4 What concerns me here is how Benjamin borrows Klee’s watercolour to do the work of history on the point of collapse. Could it be that art moves in when politics fail? The total violence of neo-​colonialism described and resisted by Third World intellectuals, particularly Frantz Fanon in his volcanic writings, urges us as scholars to rebuff the ‘progress’ of Europe –​including Klee.5 (‘There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.’)6 This is no mean task. The artworks I analyse in this book may be imbricated in Eurocentric modernist thought, the primary focus of which was to ponder over the fate of Europe and the artwork as prophecy; they may be caught up in it, but they can also be said to provincialise Europe. To provincialise Europe is, as Dipesh Chakrabarty put it, to contest the petty obduracy of history and the bankruptcy of Eurocentric humanism; to do away with the enduring colonial distinction between the historical continent called Europe and the continents (and people) ‘without history’.7 In other words, these diverse artists ask us to treat ‘Europe’, along with its intellectual traditions and teleological ideas of progress, as one small part of a diverse world, not the normative centre from which ideas emanate to the so-​called periphery.8 For Homi Bhabha, the distinctive force of Fanon’s vision stems from what Benjamin calls the ‘tradition of the oppressed’. It is the language of a revolutionary awareness that ‘the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule’.9 The state of emergency in the colony is also a site of emergence, of insurgent and incendiary articulation which exposes the violence underpinning the rule of law.10 German jurist Carl Schmitt viewed sovereign power as the prerogative to suspend the rule of law in times of emergency and declare a state of exception. But Benjamin’s insistence on a permanent state of emergency (emergency as the rule not the exception) challenges this implied distinction between law and violence, suggesting instead that the ‘rule of law’ is in practice fundamentally backed by brute force. In this context, Benjamin envisaged the prospect of a ‘real emergency’ as an opportunity for struggle against the permanent state of emergency, the

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Introduction catastrophe that is the status quo. Bringing about this ‘real emergency’ requires the fashioning of a new concept of history at the conjuncture where core and periphery, centre and margin collide. From this locus, the struggle against colonial oppression challenges the historicist idea of time and progress as an ordered whole, perturbing the directionality intrinsic to Eurocentric notions of history.11 Whilst Benjamin prophesies the collapse of civilisation, it is possible that this has yet to happen. To be at the threshold of such a catastrophe, cyphered by the messianic figure of the angel of history, may seem somewhat removed from the artists I discuss here, so let me explain by introducing one particular artwork. The corpse of an ‘unknown’ subaltern lies on a deserted street in Bombay (Figure I.2).12 In the post-​colony, it is not Klee’s numinous figure but this stark, grainy, black-​and-​white press photograph that steps in to do the work of history.13 This history, as subaltern studies scholars have compellingly shown, is built on the backs of those subject to European exploitation and oppression. This history

Figure I.2  Vivan Sundaram, Memorial, mixed media, 1993. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram.

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Art and Emergency has little to say about those anonymous, exploited millions whose struggles, as Fanon put it, have been wiped out and whitewashed from history’s ‘angel-​like’ narratives.14 Vivan Sundaram’s Memorial (1993) seeks to turn this shocking press photograph into an allegorical ground for rethinking the relationship between art and emergency.15 The emergency under scrutiny is the communal carnage of 1992–​3, triggered by the extreme right’s destruction of the Babri Masjid (the sixteenth-​ century mosque situated in the northern city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh), resulting in the deaths of 2,000 people across India.16 The painted image is of no use to Sundaram, whose choice of installation proposes that it is precisely politics that remain unrepresented in the conventional (read: European) repertoire of the arts.17 With cruel irony, Sundaram covers the dead man with a blanket of nails, situates the iron coffin on a makeshift gun carriage, and performs his burial on behalf of an absented state.18 Memorial insists on the need to return to the past in order to make sense of the trauma of the present, the possibility of setting the record straight and awakening the dead.19 Memorial formed the centrepiece of an important exhibition at London’s Tate Modern, Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (2001). The exhibition was a daringly international gesture which sought to demolish the linear blueprint of Euro-​American modernism by considering diverse world art practices. ​Curated by art critic Geeta Kapur, Century City was Tate’s first engagement with the gritty politics of contemporary Indian art. More specifically, the exhibition negotiated the metropolitan and globalising remit that Indian artworks perform as cyphers of the political ‘emergency’ of 1990s Mumbai.20 Although the term ‘emergency’ was not used by either Sundaram or Kapur, (who chose expressions such as national tragedy, crisis, cataclysm), in the cultural aftermath of 9/​11, it is the all-​embracing term ‘emergency’ which has become the principal concept for political crisis and for artists’ responses or prophecies of crisis.21 This latter approach is perhaps best exemplified by the profound commitment of curator Okwui Enwezor to creating multi-​sited platforms for artists engaged with the violence of post-​coloniality and the neo-​colonial present.22 It is this awareness that compels art historian T. J. Demos to exorcise, through artworks, the colonial spectres that still haunt the post-​colony and throw light on Europe’s enduring exploitative legacies.23 In the contingent breach between art and politics, ‘emergency’ has come to stand in for tragedy, violence and states of exception. Emergency extends beyond the questions of sovereignty contested between Benjamin and Schmitt to function

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Introduction as the measure of past, present and future catastrophe. Mindful of these critical debates, following political philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s far-​seeing (some would say prophetic) work on bare life and his nuanced and hair-​splitting engagement with Benjamin, my own book examines emergency within the specific context of twentieth-​century India. Recent scholarship has addressed how emergency continues to haunt contemporary art and artists. With a view to unsettling some more conventional accounts, this book puts forward the claim that emergency must be torn apart. If we can do this, it is possible that in the future, our present and still Eurocentric notion of emergency can be provincialised.24 To tear apart here has less to do with the reactive or measured responses of contemporary artists to recent or looming catastrophes, and is more about deploying a Benjamin-​inflected method. Receptive to the complex demands that art sometimes makes upon us in carrying out the work of politics, this book picks those demands apart. Benjamin, it is well-​known, favoured the fragment, the explosive potential of the monadic quotation ripped from context, and the weaving and un-​weaving of threads as his way of aesthetic-​political working. The fragmentary and ‘ruined’ status of Benjamin’s entire corpus has come to stand not simply as a symbol of failed completion and missed opportunities, but as a paradigm for the constitutive incompletion that characterises knowledge under modernism and the state of emergency.25 Fragmentary writing is ‘risk itself ’.26 The fragment as metonymy, or the writing of the fragment, marks the struggle for a tensed articulation of political desire, that threat of ‘violence or violation’ which identifies the post-​colonial moment. Dissolving the totality which the fragment presupposes, the latter can then relay a mode of existence: ‘fragments over wholes’.27 Infinitely disruptive, fragmentary writing can generate powerful ‘new relations that except themselves from unity, just as they exceed the whole.’ 28 In the light of the powerful critique of the nation state offered by the subaltern studies group, the recovery of such oppositional fragments, as they survive in the post-​colony, assumes renewed urgency.29 This recovery can turn belatedness into a politics of contemporaneity. While the three Indian artists I discuss in this book – Nasreen Mohamedi, Sunil Janah and Gaganendranath Tagore – are by no means subaltern labourers (such as those wonderfully explored by Christopher Pinney and Kajri Jain or figured in Sundaram’s Memorial), they are invested in critiquing the hegemony of modernity and modernism.30 To date, the most compelling and authoritative study of modernism in India is When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (2000), a series of essays and lectures published collectively by Geeta Kapur.31 Kapur draws from Fanon’s anti-​colonial writings, particularly his

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Art and Emergency visceral critique of the bogus (bourgeois) universality gifted by imperialist Europe to the colonies, to work out an alternative ontology of the modern in India, one that registers its revolutionary forms of agency.32 Kapur’s affirmative recovery of the potential of modernism prompts her to charge the Indian avant-​garde left with the onus of completing the nationalist project against the onslaught of globalisation. Here, nationalism embraces tradition while modernism pitches the nation into internationalism.33 But the reduplication of the passive revolution on the part of the Indian bourgeoisie entails the loss of the avant-​garde’s own enunciative place, forever embroiled in the infinite doubling of the nation and the modern.34 Culture is placed at the very centre of identity-​production within Kapur’s militantly forward-​looking teleological historicism. Such strategic positioning pre-​empts any challenging of the political and social imaginaries in which society appears to itself. To question this process would reveal the radical contingency of established forms of politics, the disguise of which Kapur stages through the ongoing clash of modernism and nationalism. Picking up the gauntlet Kapur throws down, Art and Emergency is about how art can live in and with the notion of emergency. More conversant with international art currents, the artists discussed in this book put pressure on Kapur’s nationalist paradigm or idiom of ‘the nation’. Internationalism, in the case of Mohamedi, Janah and Gaganendranath Tagore, does become a paradigm for cultural discourse –​a means to straddle the nation and modernisation. The ambiguous and displaced logic of their modernism is bold and anomalous, offering topical ‘revisions and corrections’ to the overarching, smooth hegemony of Western internationalism.35 Perhaps it is for this reason that writers in the field have overlooked their contributions to date. In direct collision with the static and institutionalised forms of discourse that one could associate with the state, these artists often bore a troublesome, at times oppositional stance towards the ‘nation’, nationalist politics and mainstream art developments. Mohamedi, for instance, practiced a form of abstraction that is both nomadic and in dialogue with cosmopolitan cultural imaginaries. Linked to the trauma of nationhood, her abstract forms remain open, uncertain and placeless, frustrating monologic quests for certainty and the ossified forms of art associated with the nation state. Though sharing Kapur’s understanding of the affirmative potential of modernism for resistance, this book returns to the past to revisit lost opportunities and broken promises, viewed from a contemporary perspective.36 The task is not to assess the past in terms of what is yet to come, nor to nurture revolutionary

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Introduction expectations of the future. Sundaram’s Memorial and Benjamin’s ‘Theses’ reverse our perspective: what hope there is, comes not from the future but from a vanquished past that resists domination. There is no danger of turning memory into a disempowering, melancholic activity: the danger lies in forgetting. The act of remembrance must be politicised, for the past makes active demands on the present.37 To carry out an act of retrospection is to seek to redeem the fragmented past from its misery, hopes and human waste. Perhaps the world can be made whole again. Perverting the forward-​marching logic of triumphal progress, which posits a more traditional relationship between past and present, Art and Emergency deliberately reverses its chronology: it is the present that generates its own past from within, and the past cannot exist independently from the present, which witnesses and redeems it.38 The Latin word perversio gestures towards the act of disturbing, of putting things back to front: from the State of Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975 and back to Lord Curzon’s Partition of Bengal in 1905, the idea is not to advance dialectically into the future, but to be thrown into the bad, choppy infinity of historical progress.39 To go backwards allows one to see politics as historically contingent. This could enable us to recover, from the spectacular condescension of posterity, rich histories of colonial resistance produced in response to these legal anomalies and forms of state-​sanctioned violence (which made oppression possible). This approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of the different forms of agency available to artists. Artists under colonial rule did wage struggles in response to imperially orchestrated states of exception, escaping reduction to what Giorgio Agamben calls bare life.40 They contested their contradictory civil status –​Europe’s included/​excluded others –​ through the pictured image, offering powerful alternatives to the abandoned and hopeless figure of the Muselmann, that most extreme incarnation of Agambian homo sacer.41 From within the concrete history of colonisation and material present-​day legacies of colonial violence, these artists were able to articulate a range of critical positions through their work, actively defined in response to imperial Britain’s exclusionary politics. Plotting the genesis of agency from episodes of victimisation and resistance, I argue that artists under colonial rule did engage in figural retaliation against their oppressors, and critiqued imperial logics of control based on racial exclusion. What one sees in the prints of artist Gaganendranath Tagore is allegory predicated on the bankruptcy of Eurocentric humanism, emerging from the experience of a world that is expiring. As the locus of his political inquiry,

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Art and Emergency Gaganendranath Tagore critiques imperial agents who dissociate their acts of conquest from the European state and its underlying democratic laws, replacing democratic culture with despotism in the colony and coercive rule over ‘subject peoples’. Benjamin’s critique of progress, his conscious upholding of the backward and the slow, emerged from the hiatuses of the themes and languages of development (‘avant-​garde’, the ‘colonising mission’) and backwardness (‘tradition’ and ‘primitivism’); a critique of modernity and the state of emergency.42 Looking at a photograph of Walter Benjamin, writer Amit Chaudhuri questions the connection between the image of the nomadic author and the significance of his thought for Third World modernism.43 The photograph brings Benjamin’s moon-​glassed face closer; in his high forehead, the ‘moustache above a full lower lip’ and the ‘soft daydreamer’s gaze of the myopic’ (marks of introspection, flânerie and the privileges of childhood) we recognise the features of a bhadralok (also known as babu) –​a word for the indigenous, genteel, clumsy and bespectacled ‘bourgeois’ male that emerged in the nineteenth century, firstly in Bengal and then across India (Figure I.3).44 The resemblance brings home a familiar history, which shaped the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries throughout the world, producing a particular individual, allegedly the ‘modern’. Politically disenfranchised and located outside the mainstream of twentieth-​century European history, the Jew and the bhadralok have a deep kinship, yet they harbour a disguised sense of alienation toward a (European) tradition to which they have no right.45 The bhadralok’s genteel quality (literally ‘civilised person’), a product of capitalism and political pedagogy, grants entry to an administrative class which manages the colonial bureaucracy of governance, but exercises no effective political power: the Kafkaesque ‘class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, opinions, morals and intellect’, which the British politician Thomas Babington Macaulay exhorted the colonial state to create in his 1835 Minute on Indian Education.46 This class of subjects who were in Homi Bhabha’s phrase ‘almost the same but not quite’ brings to mind Kafka’s ‘world of chancelleries and registries, of stuffy, shabby gloomy interiors’, so vividly described by Benjamin.47 (Babu) Benjamin’s reflections on the state of emergency were the result of history and its telling, emerging from research into the economic and political histories of the nineteenth century. To conjecture that Benjamin’s observations on the state of emergency, the legal anomalies and forms of state violence that made oppression possible in European society, were anchored in the horrific manifestations of colonial violence and collective catastrophes of abandonment –​caused by

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Figure I.3 Sukumar Ray, untitled photograph, c.1915. Courtesy:  Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives and Ray Estate. 

British imperialism –​may not be farfetched. The colony was the testing ground where sovereignty was constituted through the repeated exercise of violence. In his powerful book The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (2003), historian Nasser Hussain theorises that ‘the colonial concept of law’ in India was predicated upon a ‘jurisprudence of emergency’.48 The colonial political nomos produced an anomalous and partial mode of sovereignty in which ruling was based on a legal patchwork of ad hoc arrangements or exceptions rather than a single liberal rule of law, drawing on European legal traditions in crafting colonial systems.49 The colony created a political space in which the British used ‘emergency’ as an elastic category, stretching over political disturbances such as riots and insurgencies, as well as the project of advancing imperial capitalism. For Hussain, ‘British India was a regime of conquest […] consistently dependent upon the discretionary authority of its executive and the force of its army.’50 The

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Art and Emergency permanent state of emergency that Benjamin sees in the ‘struggle of the oppressed’ becomes palpable in the horrors of colonial rule. In the case of the Partition of Bengal (1905) declared by Viceroy Lord Curzon, the imposition of territorial boundaries (divide and rule) to suppress anticolonial rebellion unleashed further unrest in the form of the Swadeshi Movement. At Jallianwala Bagh (1919) the brutal use of martial law involved the performative display of violence on the part of the colonial state to restore sovereign power, in a massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians.51 At the time of World War II, sovereign violence would manifest itself through the devastating extraction of human and material resources from the occupied territory, resulting in the man-​made (some argue ‘manufactured’) Bengal Famine of 1943, when an estimated three million people died.52 Here we see in stark relief the British Empire’s apparent abdication from governmentality in the colony –​the role/​right of the colonial state in relation to its subjects is no longer to ‘make live and let die’ but to manage death for the sake of the war-​effort.53 The violence of the Partition of India (1947) unleashed another protracted catastrophe –​some would argue interminable –​causing 25 million to become refugees and one million to perish from the arbitrary imposition of territorial borders by the British.54 If the violence of the Nazi Holocaust occupies the historical limit case in European and US scholarship, British India represents a different paradigm, where the imposition of sovereignty leads to emergency rule over colonial subjects. The case studies considered involve historical boiling points at which the latent violence underpinning colonial rule (the permanent state of emergency) becomes apparent. The haphazard introduction of a ‘rule of law’ in India produced colonial mutations with enduring consequences. The progression from colonial to post-​colonial legal conditions was insufficient to root out the jurisprudence of emergency, as emergency powers wormed their way into Indian common law.55 The pursuit of economic planning and development programmes would constitute the only features distinguishing the nationalist agenda from the colonial one, as the post-​colonial state rehashed the imperial vocabulary of law and emergency in the name of the ‘people’s will’.56 Centralisation of the executive powers meant that if a crisis came about (in the form of strikes, insurgencies and separatist movements), the newly independent state would declare an ‘emergency’, just like its imperial avatar.57 This problematic legacy of emergency continued when the terms of the colonial state were used to ensure the success of the ‘people’s will’ during the Emergency

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Introduction of 1975–​7, declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in response to rampant opposition.58 The rule of law was unilaterally abridged, citizens were deprived of their fundamental rights, millions of rural poor were forcibly sterilised, dissent was brutally suppressed, mass arrests ensued and freedom of the press was drastically curtailed. It would seem that progress is inexorable as the eternal return of catastrophe in both colonial and post-​colonial realms. One of the contentions made in this book is that sovereign power, formed by the yoking of violence and law, can be countered and re-​imagined through the art forms discussed. The latter can stand up to power, negotiate and even vociferously contest the limits of the state’s emergency claim(s), for the state as such holds no monopoly over the notion of emergency. Born from situations of disaster involving calamity or mortal peril, the artworks in all instances carry with them the force of open protest, as pleas against horrific experiences of exclusion and abandonment, strongly implicating the sinister authority that imposes such dangerous circumstances. Countering the permeation of colonial relations in the formation of political subjects, the three artists discussed in this book opened up perspectives of resistance and escape from subjection, offering possibilities for utopian renewal. Beyond the concept of precarity (from the Latin word precis –​what is obtained by prayer and hence uncertain, exposed to hazard, insecure) brilliantly theorised by Hal Foster in the aftermath of 9/​11 and the ‘War on Terror’, Art and Emergency contends that artworks can evade and elude sovereign claims by virtue of their liminal status.59 As such, they bear the potential for holding in suspense, being ‘in-​ between’, offering a place of refuge but also conveying fluidity –​the possibility of movement as well as the danger of being stuck in a limbo. Nomadic, the artists analysed here set up modes of creativity that are to be treated as forms of struggle and resistance against the state apparatus. As such, their nomadic thinking implies an often inevitable collision with the law and the sovereign state.60 Gesturing towards an opening and a place beyond, these artworks may even be considered as the resistant or emancipatory flipside of colonial sovereignty (revoking or departing from a command that must be preserved).61 The artworks I am concerned with here do not succumb to sovereignty, but open up possibilities for forging non-​sovereign subjectivities beyond orders of rights, representation and institutionalised forms of agency; they are concerned with recalibrating the relationship between bare life, victimisation and resistance.

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Chapter Plan Chapter 1 considers the non-​figurative work of Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–​90), born in Karachi ten years prior to the Partition of India. In the 1970s, when figuration dominated the Indian cultural landscape, abstract art signified the ascendancy of US cultural supremacy, the epitome of Americanness. It was deemed oblivious to events and politically bankrupt, as the post-​colony embarked upon the horrific path of capitalism and emergency rule. Journeying through the spaces occupied by Mohamedi, we learn of how her tactical abstraction sought to resist classification and narrative capture. Shunned by critics during her lifetime, Mohamedi refused to submit to the repressive demands of literality –​that Roland Barthes termed the Fascistic drive of language.62 Through a defusing of the representational and autographic properties of the drawn line, Mohamedi debunked the well-​worn conception of painting as an intimate record, a repository of the artist’s private sensibilities. Benjamin wondered whether illumination and or redemption might emerge from the ruins of the secular and if so, of what kind. The same could be said for Mohamedi, whose art, positioned simultaneously between painting and drawing, writing and image, invites the challenge of decipherment. Traced between imagined territories that defy sovereign borders and divisions, Mohamedi’s lines unsettle nationalist and narrative closure, thus generating other, more powerful forms of (un)belonging and politics in relation to the rhetoric and memory of Partition and nationhood. In Chapter 2, Communist Party photographer Sunil Janah (1918–​2012) indicts the colonial state and its pitiless reduction of three million rural refugees to bare life in his horrific documentary portrayal of the Bengal Famine (1943–4). Conveying the abhorrence and urgency of the event, the sense of crisis and despair, Janah creatively negotiated colonial censorship to focus his camera on the evidence of state oppression during World War II. Famine was a recurring phenomenon in the history of India, a collective catastrophe of huge proportions that caused abnormal levels of destitution, hunger and death. Studies of famished subjects conducted by British photographers (discussed in the chapter) suggest that famine was treated as a natural phenomenon, providing visual grounds for the continuation of the Empire, whose ‘civilising’ mission was seen as a cure. Janah, by contrast, honed affective techniques to imply famine was in fact a product of the permanent state of emergency imposed by colonial rule. Janah’s photography contrasted with the mediatised, spectacular biomoral resistance performed by Mahatma Gandhi, one

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Introduction of the leading nationalist figures of the time. Created in the manner of what Benjamin termed phantasmagoria (phantasmagoria as the demonic doppelganger of allegory), the viewer travels through Janah’s spectral landscapes and gazes upon skulls. The push-​button moment of shooting is delayed, there is an insistence on the theatrics of preparatory operations to manipulate viewers’ sensory perceptions: the ghostly space of the photograph is meticulously choreographed. Recalling Lenin’s lessons on the role of photography, particularly on a form of visual journalism that could educate millions for the purposes of political expediency, Janah co-​opted the medium as a means to further anti-​ colonial resistance, to figure dissent and decry the hypocritical sacrifice of Indian lives in a world war fought for ‘civilisation’ and against the barbarism of Nazism and Fascism. In Chapter 3, following the Partition of Bengal, the failure of the Swadeshi Movement and the intensification of the nationalist struggle (swaraj), I look at how Gaganendranath Tagore (1867–​1938) brushed aside the utilitarian and civilisational values imposed by colonial rule to call for the immediate redress of social ills. His corrective is laughter, a social gesture that singles out and castigates a peculiar kind of absent-​mindedness (lack of consciousness). In his lithographs, Gaganendranath prompts a critique of the writings of French philosopher Henri Bergson. Under exploitative industrialisation the evolutionary triumph of the élan vital (vital spirit) is denied, so that the reactive behaviour of humans is akin to automata, movement deprived of life. Between mocking laughter and chitkaar kora –​‘a scream’ in response to horror and hullor (uproar and disturbance) –​Gaganendranath shifts from the realm of the eye and thinking to that of sound, using noise as a signal of dissident dissonance. Racist, and despotic emergency replaces the paternalist rule of law to reveal the yoking of terror and sympathy within the colony: the master’s (father’s) discourse always marks a lawful and thus sanctioned suspension of law.63 Driven as it is by profound rage at a fallen reality, Gaganendranath’s art carries with it a savage impulse that counters the fey art of the nationalist Bengal School. Esoteric, strange, obscure, mechanical –​the forms of his prints seek to express absence, whether of truth or of being, disclosing visions of destruction.64 Rather than dialectical regeneration, the result is diabolical irony –​the risus sardonicus. Terror and laughter are common responses to uncertainty, and allegory, Benjamin reminds us, expresses the experience of the passionate, the oppressed, the un-​reconcilable, and the failed (that is, the negative) at a time of extreme political convulsion engendered by despotic measures. The

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Art and Emergency de-​automating strategy of humour promises no freedom or reconciliation; on the contrary, it offers viewers a critique of the mythical workings of a law that no one has any incentive to obey. Benjamin understood that the allocation of benefits and losses might not necessarily be even: progress could be a blessing for some, and at the same time a perpetual hell for the remainder.65 He found this pairing of progress with disaster unacceptable, concerned that persisting afflictions would inevitably be imposed upon one sector of humanity for the sake of another’s advancement. Taken together, these case studies demonstrate how art can assist the critical analysis of colonial conditions in both their past and current modes of operation. When positioned in relation to colonial history and with attention to specific contexts, art can be used in the service of a strategic post-​colonial politics of transformation that is sensitive towards colonial legacies and rich histories of resistance. Such reorientation seeks to critically address colonial vestiges within contemporary conditions, while striving to disclose from within these forgotten ‘forms of the future’.66 Through these visual forms, our present and still Eurocentric notion of emergency can be provincialised, so that new worlds may be brought into existence.

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1 Fugitive Lines of Desire: Nasreen Mohamedi 1947–​77

We look at India from the outside -​a first phase in the cycle.1 ​Nasreen Mohamedi in her diary, Delhi, 1970

Figure 1.1  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, ink and graphite on paper, c.1975. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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Prelude: Satori! An ink line is traced across the toothed grain of the paper. Then another, and yet another, until a cluster emerges (Figure 1.1). From light to deepest grey, Nasreen Mohamedi’s untitled graph displays lines that are calibrated in tone, thickness and reach. The variations of tonal densities make for a curious rise and fall of light and shade; row upon row they create a hypnotic rhythm of their own. The methodical repetition of lines recalls the Persian calligraphic practice mashq, a visual discipline conducive to mystical revelation.2 For Mohamedi even the plainest of things –​a leaf, a spider’s web, a dissipating cloud –​could encourage revelation. ‘Satori!’ she would suddenly utter to her puzzled students. One of her more intimate Baroda pupils, the Parsee artist Nina Sabnani, remarked: ‘We did not always understand what she said but believed her anyway.’3 The Zen satori eludes the grasp of language, definition or description.4 Untranslatable, it implies an opening into the void, a kind of mental catastrophe, yielding the experience of tathata, which is wholeness, or the reality preceding conceptualisation.5 Satori breaks with the common view that tames an event by making it ‘enter into a causality, a generality, which reduces the incomparable to the comparable.’6 For the existentialist writer Albert Camus, moments of redemptive gnosis occur when the security operations that protect us from the terrifying intensity of reality fall apart.7 Revelation takes place at a moment of crisis. Random and unexpected, the revelatory experience lifts the individual out of chronos (profane time) into kairos (sacred time); this moment in its ‘pure status of exception’ and ‘power of mutation’ is the satori.8 Perhaps it is possible that revelation occurs when fleeing repression and terror; perhaps revelation could offer an escape from time, leading one to another ‘greater life’ as Camus put it.9

Introduction We live continually on the verge of a disaster in India, and indeed the disaster sometimes overwhelms us, as we saw in Bengal and elsewhere last year […] A divided India will lead to an aggravation of the disease and to sinking into a welter of hopeless and helpless misery. It is terribly late already and we have to make up for lost time. Must even the lesson of the Bengal Famine be lost upon us?10

Confronted with two world wars and the Nazi Holocaust, many European modernist thinkers addressed issues of historical memory and trauma in relation to

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Fugitive Lines of Desire visual representation, particularly abstraction.11 Lyotard, who grappled with both the Holocaust and the problem of representation, suggested that traumatic memories inevitably return only as experience, not as discursive memory –​for there can be no memory without meaning, and the experience of extreme violence denies all meaning. Trauma cannot be represented but only ‘made present’ through the absence of meaning.12 Placed side by side with the event, the abstract work could neither be subsumed under existing modes of encounter or interpretation nor interpreted as a conscious response to an event.13 Although the horror of the Holocaust is recognised as a limit case in European and American scholarship, historian Gyanendra Pandey has suggested that the 1947 Partition of India is even more inexplicable.14 Partition, indeed, did not involve industrialised slaughter commanded by the state from a distance, but rather ‘hand-​to-​hand, face-​to-​face destruction’, a genocidal, ethnic violence frequently involving ‘neighbour against neighbour.’15 To recuperate Partition, as the underside of independence, remains a deeply contested task. Drawn on the basis of contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-​Muslims, the Partition line marked the emergence of two sovereign nation states: a Hindu-​ dominated but constitutionally secular India, and a Muslim Pakistan, its two wings separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory.16 Over the course of a few weeks, an estimated 25 million refugees crossed the ‘shadow lines’ separating the two nation states: Hindus and Sikhs from areas designated as Pakistan migrated to India, while many Muslims migrated to Pakistan. One million people are reckoned to have died in the catastrophic transfer of power from colonial to national rule.17 Many factors contributed to the devastation of Partition, not least the hasty withdrawal of British colonial representatives  –​and the calculating ambitions of Indian leaders seeking to capitalise on the hurriedly negotiated settlement.18 (‘I fucked it up’ was Lord Louis Mountbatten’s own evaluation of his role in overseeing the division.)19 Formed out of colonial structures of governance, the governments of India and Pakistan sought to establish legitimacy and respond to the emergency of Partition. The two nations set up parallel Emergency Committees of the Cabinet to bring law and order to the ravaged region of the Punjab and the city of Delhi, and to manage the displaced millions.20 The reality of decolonisation on both sides of the divide meant that sovereignty would be exercised by regulating movements across their highly networked boundaries: bureaucratic and juridical regimes were deployed to deal with the paradoxes and contestations of residence, property and citizenship and to establish the correct national affiliation of refugees.

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Art and Emergency The ongoing displacements, regulated by technologies devised to fabricate citizenship and mark ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’, compel us to stretch our understanding of the process of Partition. ‘The figure of the “refugee” emerged to carry the scripted and rescripted labour of postcolonial governmentality.’21 Partition and Independence would determine the meaning of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ in a national sense for Indian society and politics. As members of a minority, Muslims who stayed in India constituted ten per cent of the population of the newly independent nation. Considered a traitor to the holy cause of Islam by the founders of Pakistan, the ‘Indian Muslim’ was a living contradiction. Meanwhile in India, those Muslims who had chosen to remain had to demonstrate their loyalty in order to become naturalised citizens, notwithstanding the guarantee of equality extended by the Republic to all citizens, irrespective of religious affiliation.22 Through a series of related themes, this chapter explores in circular fashion the life and abstract work of Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–​90). Born into a wealthy trading family in the bustling port of Karachi (then part of India), Mohamedi was raised in the cosmopolitan milieu of Bombay in the years following Partition.23 Her family belonged to the Tyabji clan of the Shiite Muslim community of Sulaymani Bohras, whose major fraternities developed over the centuries in the Indian trading centres of Karachi, Bombay, Baroda and Hyderabad.24 Like other West Coast Muslims, the Tyabji clan members were proud of their Arabic ancestry, as reflected in their choice of names and scholarship.25 Modernist in faith and practice, they actively supported the nationalist cause (the majority of Muslim communities had largely refrained from participating in the struggle for independence), staunchly believing in the future of an undivided, secular, and independent India.26 Among the first Muslim communities to ban purdah, a practice seen to limit intellectual development,27 the Tyabjis promoted mass education and literacy –​in particular for women, who had hitherto been assigned the exclusive role of familial custodians and keepers of tradition. Elite Sulaymanis often encouraged their daughters to pursue education in English schools abroad, after completing their instruction in Urdu and other languages at home.28 Around 1913, Mohamedi’s father established in Bahrain one of the first trading companies dealing in Japanese photographic equipment, the eponymous Ashraf. As business flourished over the years, the company expanded across the entire Persian Gulf. A devout Muslim, Ashraf Mohamedi was keen to educate his daughters, but pressing business commitments caused him to delegate their education to

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Fugitive Lines of Desire his wife, Zainab. Urdu, Arabic, Persian and calligraphy were taught in the home, while educational grounding in English, French, mathematics and science took place at English schools. Following the death of her mother in 1942, an event described by historians as a formative trauma in the artist’s life, Nasreen Mohamedi’s education was abruptly curtailed.29 Saleha, an elder sister, took on the role of raising the five-​year-​old.30 Sometime in 1942, (when US troops occupied Karachi), four of the children were sent to Baroda and later Bombay to study until the end of the war, while the older ones remained behind.31 In Bombay, Mohamedi received a Roman Catholic education, complemented by her Muslim family upbringing.32 Little information is available as to how she developed her artistic skills but in 1954 –​at the age of 17 –​Mohamedi secured a place at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London.33 The Central School was then firmly established as one of the leading commercial and fine art schools in postwar Britain. Here Mohamedi would also benefit from meeting the Marxist painter and art historian Peter de Francia, tutor in the Department of Art history and Complementary Studies (1953–​68). It was probably De Francia who familiarised Mohamedi with the work and writings of Le Corbusier, specifically the Swiss architect’s book The Modulor, which De Francia had translated into English for the first time in 1954.34 Mohamedi’s teacher Anna Singh, a painter who had studied in occupied Paris, introduced the young artist to the pied noir author Albert Camus, whose existentialist writings would be an abiding presence in her life.35 In 1959, Mohamedi joined her father in Bahrain where Ashraf, now a thriving business, stimulated her interest in photography and the nearby desert. Returning to Bombay, Mohamedi ­procured a studio at the Bhulabhai Desai Institute, where former members of the Progressive Artists’ Group worked, including Muslims who had chosen to settle in the city after Partition.36 Mohamedi was especially drawn to the reticent artist V. S. Gaitonde, a proponent of biomorphic abstraction, follower of Zen Buddhism and avid reader of Paul Klee.37 Continuing her commitment to abstraction, Mohamedi studied in Paris from 1961 to 1963, having secured a French government scholarship. It was a difficult time for Muslims in France, just after the Algerian War of Independence (1954–​ 62). Several other Indian artists had settled in the city, including S. H. Raza, Akbar Padamsee, and the Pakistani painter Sadequain Naqqash.38 Mohamedi became engaged to a Pakistani student, but the relationship broke up traumatically, and she sought refuge with her family in the Middle East, sojourning in

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Art and Emergency Bahrain, Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey and Karachi (1969)39 –​locations where the Ashraf companies were based.40 Returning to India in 1970, she moved to New Delhi, the new polemic art hub, where she met up again with many of her Bombay c­ olleagues and friends, as well as meeting Geeta Kapur and artist Jeram Patel.41 Mohamedi would later re-encounter both Kapur and Patel at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Faculty of Fine Arts (Baroda), a highly influential centre for the arts, self-​consciously post-​colonial in its development of indigenous forms and iconographies. By 1972, the year Mohamedi was appointed drawing teacher at the Department of Fine Arts, her shift to the inked line and paper was a sustained practice.42 Lyotard’s proviso, that no abstract work could be interpreted as a ­conscious response to an event, cautions against hasty conclusions in relation to non-​ figurative art. These considerations are particularly helpful in the case of Mohamedi and her choice of abstraction, for she was not a child of Partition and did not experience firsthand its immediate effects –​she created her work at a distance, removed from the horrific violence of this disjunctive event. Making a new start, she maximised the minimal in her graphic movements, tracing line after line on paper with quiet, resolute compulsion. Repetitive and elusive, Mohamedi’s non-​figurative compositions were compared by contemporary critics to the cryptic remnants of the ancient script of the Qur’an, to the labyrinthine constructions engineered by spiders, and to interstellar movements within space. Mohamedi’s aesthetic did not visualise the brutality of Partition, nor relate to its narrative or openly come to terms with it. Rather, her nomadic practice, straddling Sufism and some more spiritual currents of European modernism, tapped into the figural potentialities of the line, frustrating the demands of literality and perturbing monolithic interpretative categories tied to the state and nation-​building. Hence her reductive apologia evolved differently into more economic and discrete forms of agency, going against the grain of the figurative art propounded by Geeta Kapur from the late 1960s to the 1970s –​decades that witnessed the rise of authoritarian rule and draconian excesses in independent India. Politically untenable for Kapur, abstraction implied both an unequivocally Western worldview and ‘remained indifferent, oblivious and unaffected’ by India’s plight during the unfolding of capitalism and tyranny.43 Returning to the posthumous appraisal of Mohamedi and her work, the chapter ends by proposing the view that her stealthy, nomadic abstraction slips between habitual categories, holding back narrative and delaying nationalist closure.

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The Studio At the edge and the void Extension from + and -​ To a drama between + and -​ Triangles caught in 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55x2mm 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1244 We see a photograph of a studio: through two large French windows the intense, Indian summer light is suffused, bathing the cell-​like interior with an ochre hue (Figure 1.2). The glass membrane renders the separation less obtrusive –​between outside and inside, public and private. This studio is no fortress of solitude dedicated to the cultivation of inwardness, uncontaminated by the outside world. Conveying a continuous flow of air, movement and light, the space suggests a modernist commitment to openness and transparency.

Figure 1.2  Jyoti Bhatt, Nasreen’s Studio, photograph, c.1995. Courtesy: Jyoti Bhatt and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

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Art and Emergency This pristine and uncluttered space conceals the secrets of its inner life. Describing the photograph yields no vertiginous inventory (à la Perec): the frugal room provokes the chagrin of the writer: no exchange, no seepage, no spillage.45 ‘To live is to leave traces’, Benjamin wrote when discussing the birth of the interior.46 At first, the eye probes the walls delimiting the space of the room, but their starkness deflects our gaze towards the gleaming stone floor. It is here that the eye lingers most. At the centre of the room, set at degree zero, the white surface of a large, architectural drawing table extends. Dominating the floor like a curious sundial, the table relegates all other objects and activities to the corners of the room: a humble bed and a few books of identical dimensions. Turned away from the viewer, each book spine denies its role as symbol and word, withdrawing into a private world. This impersonal library suggests a hermetic and unique classification system. The space is not the dwelling of an intrepid ‘vertical man’: most daily activities gravitate towards the floor, condensing around the drawing table.47 To the left of the table, a square, black-​lacquered stool awaits the drafter. Poised above the drawing table are two rulers and a wooden box with two compartments: one for an ink jar and one for a small water vessel. The image depicts the studio and bedroom Mohamedi lived and worked in up until her death. Located in a quiet, sunny street in Vadodara (then Baroda), Mohamedi’s apartment was only a few minutes away from that of her friend and fellow artist, Jeram Patel, the painter with a blow-​flame.48 In this room Mohamedi painstakingly composed, from 1970 until the late 1980s, the ethereal, pen-​and-​ink compositions for which she is remembered today. The modernist trope of the Western European or American artist’s studio is chaotic, a messy battlefield out of which he creates his pictorial universe. Mohamedi, on the other hand, lived modestly and impeccably.49 Her austere personal discipline and spiritual demeanour were inseparable from her works. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Mohamedi’s colleague and friend in Baroda, wrote of her: ‘Art as life and life as art.’50 Sieving through a variety of personal recollections which have grown up around Mohamedi like an esoteric folklore, we learn of her more eccentric behaviour. She had an intense flair for life, bordering on excess. This is something she was well aware of when describing herself as a ‘naughty nun’, perhaps as a way of defending herself from ridicule and her self-​imposed isolation.51 Choreographing her apparel and ambience in black and white, colours that Wassily Kandinsky considered to be ‘still’ and ‘scarcely audible’ since they lie outside the colour wheel,

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Fugitive Lines of Desire Mohamedi sought to reduce sound to a minimum.52 But this habit of hers produced the opposite effect –​the black sarees she wore, designed for the widows of a small Gujarati ethnic community, caused endless gossip on campus. The colour white, on the other hand, she reserved for the interior of her studio.53 Each time Mohamedi moved into a new space, she would whitewash every surface including light switches, fans, doors and rails, even her toothpaste tube –​everything would be covered with a thick coat of white paint.54 Nina Sabnani, who had been teasing Mohamedi with regard to her ‘chromophobic’ diet, was invited to a white meal: ‘we had buttermilk as a drink, radish as salad, idlis as the main course (with coconut chutney) and rassagulla as dessert! All white!’ When Nalini Malani, another artist friend, insisted on looking after Mohamedi’s barren garden, she was allowed to do so on one condition: that she plant only white flowers.55 Malani would later refer to Mohamedi as the first installation artist.56 The cell-​like dimensions of the studio and stark presence of utilitarian furniture suggest restricted movement, we could even say confinement. Mohamedi would rarely allow a new piece of furniture into her space. Objects carried painful memories and impressed themselves aggressively upon her, she felt; it was important to be selective.57 Yet the presence of certain portable items hinted at an outside world and the possibility of flight, travel and exploration. Writing in relation to nomadic living, Ian Baucom states: ‘Nomadism is the name of the inhabitation of the journey. If the nomad has a home, it is a home whose rooms are walled by the dislocations of travel […] to invent unsettlement into invented transformed permanence. Longing for permanence becomes less a longing to arrive than a desire to have arrived.’58 At the request of her father, visiting from Bahrain, and her sisters from Kuwait and Iraq, Mohamedi agreed to purchase two folding chairs. Her makeshift bed –​a hard, thin rug –​provided little comfort to jet-​lagged friends who travelled far to visit her. ‘It was an awful thing, I would ache all over in the morning,’ her London fine art teacher Anna Singh recalled.59 Mohamedi would make a daily ceremony out of the mundane task of cleaning and polishing her kota limestone floor to reveal the graininess and infinite variety of grey hues in the stone.60 ‘No one in India polishes stone!’ remarked the photographer and colleague Jyoti Bhatt.61 However the performance of ritual ablution was fundamental in the lives of Arab calligraphers.62 ‘Purity of writing is purity of soul’ was a common saying in calligraphic circles.63 Mohamedi in turn approached her work with a fervour akin ‘to ibadat, to one saying prayers’, wrote her sister Rukaya.64 Gulam Sheikh described her monastic discipline as a

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Art and Emergency way to guard a ‘devotionally cultivated and painstakingly sustained garden of purity’.65 Upon viewing the shimmering floor surface, visitors would be compelled to take their shoes off and leave them outside. ‘Only a foolish, senseless person would enter the house with his shoes on.’66 And many did enter and pass through the studio and life of Mohamedi. Heated political discussions unfolded in the cooling space of her room, while she remained silent. One of her contemporaries likened her to a lotus leaf, which repels water droplets and dirt particles.67 Inside they would sit on the floor, a ‘little away from her […] There was no question of resting your head against the wall.’68 In this way, they were made aware of the physical space existing between them. Mohamedi especially cherished those who did not speak much. Honing in on the prevailing, reticent atmosphere, visitors would become quiet in her presence.69 Should it matter that the calligrapher is mute? As an ancient Persian saying goes: ‘writing is the tongue of the hand, or the hard of hearing.’70 In conversation too, Mohamedi preferred the soft voice, the understatement. Most important of all were the pauses. Visitors had to bend down to appreciate Mohamedi’s spotless drawings, for she always displayed these on the floor, never on the wall. Sitting quietly cross-​legged on a black wooden stool, a posture known as the wu-​wei (Kapur called it the ‘perceptual position’)71 and associated with Zen and Taoism,72 Mohamedi would work at the drawing table, surrounded by the tools of her craft: a Staedtler bow-​pen, a German metal ruler, a jar of black Rotring ink and a small metal vessel containing water. Each would be religiously cleaned, carefully wrapped in a rag and put away in the black wooden box at the end of her working day. Stored in a cupboard was her other mechanical ‘pencil’: her Nikon F2. The photograph depicting the studio was shot by artist Jyoti Bhatt in Baroda (1990) and commissioned shortly after Mohamedi’s untimely death from a degenerative brain disorder which had progressively reduced her ability to reason, move and talk. It was included in a commemorative monograph, Nasreen in Retrospect, published in 1995 in conjunction with the artist’s retrospective. Although the monograph is a vital source, it is worth remembering that it was occasioned by the artist’s death. For this reason, many of the essays are personal recollections and eulogies by close friends and colleagues. Commissioned by the family, one of the more prominent essays in the collection is Geeta Kapur’s ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved: Nasreen Mohamedi 1937–​1990.’ Distinct from the more intimate recollections of friends and relatives, along with photographs of the artist and her work, ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved’ stands out as an authoritative piece. Yet even

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Fugitive Lines of Desire Kapur’s assertive voice becomes mournful as the essay develops into an unusual mix, interspersing personal and analytical observations.73 By the 1990s Kapur had established herself as the leading art critic in India, with a commitment to understanding the modern within the framework of the national which grew even more intense in the face of rampant globalisation. Kapur knew Mohamedi as a friend, first in Delhi in the early 1970s, and later at the M. S. University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda. It was during the terrifying years of Indira Gandhi’s rule that Kapur’s national narrative of Indian modernism emerged.74 The following section explores these turbulent times.

Emerging Interventionism: A Wretched Abstraction This is not the British colonial regime. This is a national emergency.75 Nations that find themselves standing at the cross-​roads after a long spell of colonial rule tend to become petty-​tyrannies, while adopting the path of capitalism. Here exploitation is doubled, lies are doubled, hope is roused by slogans and double crossed in the political game. Hence our question needs to be repeated with a certain urgency: can the artist in such societies remain indifferent, oblivious and unaffected?76

Vital to the post-​colonial Nehruvian pursuit of economic and development planning (1947–​ 64) was the strong centralised governance of the newly-​ founded nation state and the retention of extensive prerogative powers by the central executive. Yet by the late 1960s, the failures of Nehru’s government were already apparent.77 Amidst deteriorating economic conditions, the global oil crisis, famines, floods, the influx of refugees, massive foreign debt and heavy reliance on US aid, the state apparatus was radically dismantled under the populist tenure (1966–​77) of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter. Constrained by her own radical rhetoric of economic and social transformation through moderate legislative channels, Mrs Gandhi assumed personal rule over the Congress Party, centralised all authority and resorted to repressive measures against rival popular mobilisation.78 Confronted with agitation in the state of Bihar led by radical Congress veteran and Gandhian Socialist Jayaprakash Narayan, and defeated in Gujarat by a coalition of parties opposed to her rule (the Janata Party), Mrs Gandhi faced an all-​party no-​confidence motion in Parliament. An Allahabad High Court ruling in 1975, invalidating

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Art and Emergency her election win on grounds of electoral malpractice, drove the leader to invoke emergency powers inherited from the colonial state (and embedded in the 1950 Constitution), suspending the rule of law.79 Endowed with the authority to rule by decree, Mrs Gandhi revoked a range of legal protections, stripped citizens of rights, drastically censored the press, and ordered the arrest of thousands of political dissidents.80 Alongside campaigns of terror, she introduced a ‘20-​point’ economic programme, announced radical agrarian reforms, and relaxed control over private enterprises.81 Among the campaigns which roused widespread antagonism and led to the unconstitutional use of force in repressing dissent, Gandhi implemented draconian family planning policies, mandating the forced sterilisation of millions of rural poor, along with urban ‘beautification’ schemes which uprooted large numbers of slum-​dwellers.82 In these difficult circumstances, art critic Geeta Kapur pursued the militant line initiated by Communist artist Jagdish Swaminathan in the early 1960s to claim her role as an interventionist art critic and curator.83 The agitation of the 1960s gave way to what Kapur would later define as ‘indigenism’  –​the assertion of ‘a nation’s history, tradition, its surviving culture and its environment’ in a post-​colonial context.84 In this ideologically charged atmosphere, protracted discussions on the relationship between art and identity took place. The search for an authentic cultural essence assumed a renewed urgency as a result of growing political consciousness in the Third World, negritude and the students’ movement.85 For Kapur, the debates around ‘Indianness’, modernity and internationalism had shifted from the earlier, chauvinistic models with the ‘readmission of the quest at a subtle level’, opening up ‘the potential for new organisation and uniqueness in contemporary Indian art.’86 At the centre of this vigilant intellectual exercise was the problem of rescuing and nurturing an indigenous Indian culture, and elaborating an internationalist paradigm. With the essay ‘In Quest of Identity: Art and Indigenism in Postcolonial Culture with Special Reference to Contemporary Indian Painting’, serialised and circulated in the influential Baroda-​based journal Vrishchik, Kapur sought to theorise the location and practice of artists within the framework of national identity, and to ponder the very early use of the term ‘post-​ colonial’ in the Indian context.87 Making apparent her commitment to the nationalist cause, Kapur spoke of the role of the intelligentsia in evolving a contemporary culture that re-​evaluated its own history and tradition, minimising the relevance of the Western (read: American) art canon.88 According to Kapur, US art was the

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Fugitive Lines of Desire ‘only relevant point of view for those of us who are not an organic part of Western culture but bound to it by historical contingency.’89 In elaborating her framework, Kapur turned to those Third World authors who shared a common post-​colonial fate: the Mexican poet Octavio Paz (Ambassador to India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, 1962–8),90 the Spanish playwright Federico García Lorca, and the militant, Martinique-​born revolutionary Frantz Fanon.91 Paz’s evocative collection of poems, published under the title The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950), as well as Lorca’s writing, offered parallel case studies of fractured post-​ colonial identities, which hinted at the importance of relating to history and cultural origins in an effort to shape the experience of decolonisation in the present.92 Alongside these writers, Kapur engaged with Fanon –​a leading voice in struggles for independence from France –​and his more explicitly anti-​colonial stance.93 Radically forward-​looking, Kapur urged artists (normatively designated male) to create art that embodied an explicit nationalist ethos, and to embrace figurative and narrative forms appropriate to the aftermath of a process of cultural and material ‘sterilisation’ induced by the British.94 In the opening passage of ‘In Quest of Identity’ Kapur writes: I begin by proposing that indigenism is an imperative for colonial peoples: at the initial stage it is a means for claiming one’s dignity and one’s liberty; at a more complex level it is an instrument for the re-​appraisal of the morass of values that survive colonialism, by an understanding of history and tradition in terms of contemporary needs. Finally, it is a means of establishing a creative relationship with one’s natural and cultural environment.95

Then quoting Fanon, Kapur argues: Frantz Fanon, the Negro writer from Martinique (who later lived and worked in Algeria during its Liberation struggle) has expressed the nature of this problem at its most fundamental level. The obsession to assert himself, even his despised nature haunts the ‘native’ under foreign rule. And it is through this antagonism with the ‘other’, the foreigner, that he exorcises his courage and freedom […] “Colonialism is not satisfied with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures and destroys it”.96

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Figure 1.3 Jagdish Swaminathan, Lily by My Window, oil on canvas, c. 1968–72. Courtesy: Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016.

In the late 1960s, Kapur could still concede the political use of some abstraction, as can be witnessed in her enthusiastic appraisal of the paintings of Swaminathan (Figure 1.3). The transcendental quality of Swaminathan’s paintings was favourably interpreted as combining Pahari and Rajput miniature elements with Tantric motifs. Under this reading, the painter’s pictorial mysticism, which saw luminescent fields of colour traversed by the flight of a bird, could be attributed to a specific, vernacular style.97 Successfully questioning the ‘established notion of reality and with that the legacy of Realism in art which the West has offered’,98 Swaminathan had, according to Kapur, consciously produced an indigenous idiom that was firmly rooted in both tradition and contemporary Indian realities.99

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Fugitive Lines of Desire During the Emergency years, Kapur took forward the idea of indigenism propounded in the late 1960s, observing that: Even the ‘universalized’ language of modern abstract art brings with it a definite cultural orientation evolved in the West over the past two centuries. It brings with it an entire worldview and a set of metaphysical assumptions which have the backing of the European tradition […] In stating the culture-​bound nature of language we automatically arrive at the third point in the link-​up: both language and culture have to be considered within specific political contexts if we are to understand anything about their creative possibilities. And if the example of the West shows how, up to a certain historical stage, there is a mutual strengthening of language and culture within an expanding economic-​ political structure […] a colonized nation will prove the reverse.100

Anathema to Kapur’s project to decolonise culture, was what she perceived to be the more spiritual and abstract tendencies of Indian art. Abstraction was considered politically and ethically bankrupt in a country ‘embarked upon the terrifying path of capitalism and emergency rule’,101 the combination of Western abstraction and Hindu metaphysics yielded to Kapur’s eyes the phoniest trope of contemporary Indianness.102 It was during these troubled years that Kapur decried the total expulsion of the human figure from the picture plane in pursuit of ‘mystical or aesthetic purism’. In her words: ‘the figure tended to be eclipsed; at best it was transformed into a metaphor, in the worst work it was substituted by some shady divinity’.103 The elevation of art ‘above the realm of the human’ was a ridiculous, seemingly absurd proposition.104 The critic was equally scathing about those artists  –​unwitting victims of imperial hegemony –​whose abstract work she described as a mere ‘exhibition of sensibility’.105 Mohamedi’s mentor, the painter Gaitonde (a Ford Fellowship beneficiary in New York) was a case in point. His watery abstraction displayed an overweening romanticism (Figure 1.4).106 In the aftermath of the Emergency in India, the exhibition Pictorial Space, curated by Kapur in 1977 at the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi, accelerated this militant confrontation. Turning to the artists’ use of symbolic imagery and figurative pictorial elements, Kapur deployed the latter as building blocks to create an indigenous space which embodied ‘an implied metaphysical proposition, and the syntax for a transcription of the given world into Form. It is a clue to a particular orientation, the worldview of the artist, community or culture’.107 Mohamedi and her form of abstraction eluded all such clues. 29

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Figure  1.4 V. S.  Gaitonde, untitled, oil on canvas, 1960. Courtesy:  Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016. 

Abstract with Memories The world is raging a war [sic] from the outside and mine is an inner one.108

European and North American fascination with Mohamedi’s work has largely developed after her death. Her success beyond the Indian subcontinent can be explained in part by the fact that her linear compositions bear formal affinities with both Russian Constructivism and American minimalism. These resonances at the level of form have invited comparisons (and continue to do so) with the hard-​edged forms common in Russian Constructivist art, as well as the expansive and lyrical use of the line in the work of Agnes Martin. Although such parallels suggest a conspicuous form of cultural imperialism, validating as they do the work of a (then relatively unknown) Indian artist on the basis of comparative recognition, they are perhaps not entirely unjustified. Mohamedi’s own personal diary entries, which contain references to the writings of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, indicate a sustained engagement with European abstract painting. This suggests that Mohamedi was comfortable in adapting European modernist techniques to meet the inner needs of her art and work process.

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Fugitive Lines of Desire Writing about twentieth-​century European and US abstraction, Briony Fer argues that seriality and subjectivity are inextricably entwined.109 This caveat enables Fer to put forth the claim that the serial strategies invoked by postwar artists became the motor of modernism’s undoing and regeneration. In the wake of the exhaustion of a modernist aesthetic, Fer continues, repetition ‘affords access, in effect to a different temporality.’110 Seriality and repetitive working processes allow artists to explore affective dimensions and ‘dramatise the temporal’ in a range of subjective ways.111 In the absence of a systematic unfolding of modernism in India, how are we to treat Mohamedi’s own sustained use of repetition? Her shift between the lyrical play of line and the later more diagrammatic compositions, suggests a dialogue between an inner, solitary absorption and anonymous –​almost mechanical –​creative potential. This form of repetition intimates a stubborn insistence, and for this reason, an ever more radical shift in subjectivity. The value of the trope of repetition in the West had also played a significant role in Freud’s postwar treatment of patients suffering from war-​related trauma. Prior to World War I, Freud had elaborated upon a ‘pleasure principle’, whereby subjects could master their fear of loss through the repetition involved in playing. Later, however, he came to the conclusion that compulsive repetition of trauma would not enable a patient to master an overwhelming situation. Memory and consciousness are mutually exclusive. Moreover, repetition could not yield mere pleasure. For Freud, these tendencies revealed an ‘endeavour of all living substance […] to return to the quiescence of the inorganic world’ –​the death drive.112 Freud went on to propose that the pleasure principle and the death drive –​one (Eros) tending towards preservation and the other (Thanatos) towards destruction –​are contrary, at odds yet irretrievably embroiled in human life and instinct. The philosopher Theodor Adorno, writing in the aftermath of the Holocaust, favoured a form of art that could convey the suffering of the survivor (in the broadest sense, including all those who came after Auschwitz) and undermined the smooth workings of culture, by keeping alive the memory of destruction.113 He did not contemplate abstract art, but suggested that only purposeless, autonomous art could resist the logic of instrumental reason underwriting modernity and capitalism –​and by extension, Auschwitz itself.114 Abstract art could therefore be considered a kind of Adornian trope. Lyotard, who confronted both the Holocaust and the problem of representation, wrote of how trauma returns in the form of experience, rather than discursive memory. Without meaning there can be no memory, and the experience of horrific violence denies all meaning. Trauma for this reason cannot be

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Art and Emergency represented, but only figured through a lack of meaning.115 It is tempting to suggest that the cumulative effect of Mohamedi’s traumatic experiences –​the tragic deaths of family members, her broken engagement –​had a long-​lasting impact on her life and in particular her choice of abstraction.116 Yet the form of her writing, tormented and riddled with redacted words, speaks little of the events which provoked them. I would like to offer a different reading of Mohamedi’s commitment to the line by reference to Lyotard and his considerations on non-​figurative art. In his book Discourse, Figure (1971)117 Lyotard describes the line as embodying a high level of ambiguity, torn as it is between two mutually exclusive exigencies: articulated signification and plastic meaning.118 While the first demands the highest degree of legibility, the second attempts to provide sufficient space for expressing the intrinsic energy stored in the graphic form. One cannot fulfil both these ends. For Lyotard, it was Klee (an artist fascinated by the art of Islam) who rescued the graphic line from the civilisational curse of text and writing, opening up a space where intensities are felt.119 The figural can be understood as a quality unleashed by art works, which deforms and deconstructs signification in the propositional sense of meaning.120 Although the term ‘figurative’ suggests the possibility of deriving the object represented directly from its model, Lyotard insists on the irrelevance of the picture in its representational function:  the pictorial object is determined by the signifier’s organisation alone.121 Lines, for this reason, have to be continually snatched away from writing and signification to prevent the figural from turning into signal.122 Mohamedi’s lines in this very way seek to slow down the eye so as to delay judgement, preventing linguistic closure and compelling the viewer to confront the realm of the senses.123 By entering the space of the figural, Mohamedi, like Klee, seeks to liberate the line from linguistic usage and reignite the viewer’s sensitivity to plastic space. The slowness and passivity which the figural calls forth is the mind’s struggle to rid itself of the discourse of signification.124 Mohamedi’s commitment to abstraction signals a poetics of refusal, deflecting the stark politicisation urged by Kapur from the late 1960s. She calls for a more direct sensuous experience that cannot be objectified or tamed by language. Sufi mystics and Taoist monks, whose writings Mohamedi cherished, suggest to us that what cannot be tamed in art is silence –​and Lyotard similarly observes that the alterity of silence is that of plasticity and desire. To find expression, experience requires a discourse freed from everyday usage, the realm of

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Fugitive Lines of Desire things not said. Like Camus, Mohamedi seems to place the blame on language for blunting sensual experience, fettering words and burdening memory.125 Consciousness is persistently burdened with the memory of all the words that have ever been spoken.126 At a time when her colleagues were defining militant and staunchly nationalist forms, spurred on towards unmasking the shrinking freedom of the individual, Mohamedi eluded camaraderie. The quietude of her compositions becomes all the more enigmatic when we consider the unpropitious circumstances of the time: the wars between India and Pakistan (1965 and 1971), and Mrs Gandhi’s Emergency. Surviving diary fragments repeatedly record these events in ink; national disaster is always entangled with the private. Like Klee, Mohamedi does not take a stance in relation to the ongoing wars. From Hammamet, Tunisia, Klee writes: I have long had this war inside me […] and to work my way out of the ruins I had to fly. And I flew. I remained in the ruined world only in memory, as one does occasionally in retrospect. Thus I  am ‘abstract with memories’ […] One deserts the realm of the here and now to transfer one’s activity into a realm of the yonder, where total affirmation is possible. Abstraction. The cool Romanticism of this style without pathos is unheard of. The more horrible this world (as today, for instance), the more abstract our art.127

Mohamedi likewise connects (and disconnects) her private war with an outer one: Again I am reassured by Kandinsky –​the need to take from an outer environment and bring it an inner necessity. I stress on the word innner [sic] –​almost a year ago when I read similar thoughts expressed by Klee (reading with Gita).128

The Bombay-​based artist Tyeb Mehta, who was close to Mohamedi, had also abjured narrative to evoke the ‘generalized ethos of the century’ through formal means alone.129 Later in life, during the Bangladesh War (1971) he began to insert a single diagonal in his paintings, partitioning the space of the canvas into two related yet separate parts. The diagonal became both a device to activate the painting and a symbol of scission, of simultaneous separation and twinning of the canvas (Figure 1.5). For curator Ranjit Hoskote, ‘the sign of scission suggests a doubling of ­consciousness and an awareness of difference-​within-​belonging at various levels.’130 This interpretation leads Hoskote to feel the diagonal as the arbitrary slashing of

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Figure 1.5  Tyeb Mehta, untitled, pen and ink on paper, 1984. Courtesy: Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016. 

Partition, which changed ‘space, memory and the future forever’.131 Observing Mehta meticulously plot his canvases, Mohamedi writes in her diary: Looking at Tyeb’s preliminary drawing on the canvas, an approach to mathematics to arrive at the same through different means. e.g. each dot, line creating proportions in a total form.132

And a few lines later: Complete concentration and awareness on waiting and patience  –​ resulting in thoughts and action. Talking to Tyeb…economy and structure and intuition…A sensitive  –​very intense line. To choose a direction and extend it in terms of light and space.133

Although opposed to narrative, Mehta never completely renounced the figure: bulls and humans display mouths that are typically rounded out from a

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Fugitive Lines of Desire few minimal curves, eyes are cupped like terse lids, hooves and hands maimed. This minimalist idiom marks the presence of a human world ‘trapped in a continuous moment of terror […] victims, in their stance there is a dumb protest.’134 Mehta’s enduring commitment to the figure of ‘man’ and the bull has been linked to his experience of witnessing the murder of a man on a street during the 1947 Partition riots.135 As in his 1970 film Koodal (a Tamil word meaning ‘meeting point’ or ‘the union’, but also ‘assembly of images’), where Mehta offers his strongest statement on being a Muslim in India, the slaughter of a bull is likened to that of a man. The film offers a figurative parallel to the upheaval experienced during Partition and the abandonment, in its aftermath, of the habitually shared lives of Hindus and Muslims.136 Like Mohamedi, Mehta had read Camus, Sartre and Gide while in Paris. But it was Camus’ views on the vulnerability of the human condition that he contemplated above all: the limits imposed upon man by social convention, and the enduring struggle to wrest freedom from the realm of necessity.137 The fatal fall of Mehta’s characters reminds one of Camus’ protagonists, who become irrevocably estranged from their environment, lost in a world of sensations and ideas. Mohamedi, in her work, does not succumb to this invisible yet crushing force.

The Allusive Neutral One could see in these lines remnants of an ancient script of the Koran, … the non-​duality of Islam.138 In her own struggles with abstraction, against the backdrop of the intensification of state-​sanctioned violence during the Emergency in India, Mohamedi challenged the tyrannical measure of all discourse, including nationalist militant modernism. In her work there is no urge to claim injury or pay off an old score, nor to compel the world to witness some grievance or another. Her silent, accentless posture challenges the paradigm. Mohamedi’s tactical use of abstraction, purging the medium of painting from the realm of figuration, point to a neutralisation of thought and writing; her lines forcibly resist the processes of disclosure and consumption. Roland Barthes’ concept of the Neutral helps in identifying the kind of play that is operative in Mohamedi’s work (Figure 1.6). Postulating ‘silence’ as an 35

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Art and Emergency authentic political stance after a disappointing visit to Maoist China in 1974, Barthes elaborated the concept of ‘the Neutral’. This became the subject of a series of lectures delivered in Paris and later published in a book (a jar of ink appears on the cover of the English edition).139 Drawing on the writings of Maurice Blanchot, who described ‘the Neutral’ as ‘that which cannot be assigned to any genre whatsoever’, Barthes suggested that the concept aims at the ‘suspension of the conflictual basis of discourse’.140 Conflict had saturated Chinese totalitarian society; here ‘the implicit is a crime, because the implicit is a thought that escapes power.’141 Hence a discourse represented by a ‘struggle between two lines’ kept society in a

Figure 1.6  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, graphite, gouache and ink on paper, c.1975. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

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Fugitive Lines of Desire permanent state of alarm, preventing the revolution from losing its momentum.142 For Barthes the power of the Neutral lay in its ability to eschew the oppositional categories underpinning language, along with our understanding of the world. To evade the normative and totalitarian dimensions of political discourse, Barthes encouraged cultivation of the Neutral. However as Barthes himself recognised, the kind of transcendence offered by the Neutral is discordant and anomalous: ‘In order to withdraw,’ he tells us, ‘to preserve the discourse from affirmation, in order to nuance it (toward negation, doubt, interrogation, suspension), one must ceaselessly fight against speech, raw material, (the) ‘law’ of discourse.’143 For this reason, although the neutral is the ‘thought and practice of the nonconflictual, it is nevertheless bound to assertion, to conflict, in order to make itself heard.’144 Marked by aporia, the neutral is not a social or political category but an ethical, existential one.145 Pursuit of the Neutral is a ‘burning, ardent activity’ rooted in longing rather than outright indifference.146 Moreover, it indicates a stance that refuses to submit to or engage with the discourse of the master –​ any master, for that matter. Blanchot himself, in relation to the posture of refusal, contended that such behaviour constitutes the Neutral’s ‘first degree of passivity’.147 Politically, Mohamedi’s relinquishing of accountability is not unproblematic. Her deliberate choice of anonymity constitutes a refusal to assume a public political responsibility, yet silence –​as Barthes writes in relation to Camus’ work –​can also be recognised as an authentic mode of speech.148 Let us remember how, when JeanPaul Sartre criticised Camus’ pursuit of écriture blanche as a refusal of commitment, Barthes later countered that Camus’ writing, like other examples of self-​conscious literature, was historically engaged at another level.149 In Barthes’ view, Camus struggled against literature and its presumptions of meaning and order. Mohamedi writes: To negate what others think of one. A conflict, an inner conflict which is not to be answered but to be lived. I must learn again and again to discard certain thoughts which are stagnant with stench. Discard and renew a new depth of freshness.150

Barthes similarly contends: A reflection on the Neutral, for me: a manner –​a free manner –​to be looking at my own style of being present to the struggles of my own time.151

Barthes maintained that alongside the image of balance one can counterpose another image: that of ‘the drift’.152 Balance can neutralise the conflict thrown up by a paradigm, drifting away from facile and belligerent binary oppositions: ‘between

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Art and Emergency balance and drift, what makes the difference, what is at stake, is obviously security.’153 The Neutral is after all an art of balance: ‘balance as antonym of crisis. Equilibrium and risk: equilibrist?’154 Mohamedi echoes this in her writing: ‘Watching electricians tapping the wires –​strains between concentration and danger –​hung on a rope.’155 And further: ‘Ease each moment…Balance…Tight rope…Breath Freedom.’156 Mohamedi’s love for the discipline and solitude of the spider (she writes:  ‘A spider can only make a web but it makes it to perfection’; and: ‘In this utter chaos a thread of discipline –​a cobweb’)157 suggests a fascination with a creature able to weave a delicate web in precarious circumstances, at the edge of a void. The spider’s survival, centred around the production of silk filaments, represents a perfect congruence of means and ends. Woven from a substance (saliva) that is transformed within, the spider’s web figures in the Sufi expression:  ‘I am but a message from God to God.’158 Here we see the architect as muhandis, the geometer in Sufism. The web is the message. Its extent is not important, just as the strength of a web does not depend on its size.159

Figure 1.7  Vivan Sundaram, Gang on Tank, graphite on paper, 1975. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram. 

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Figure 1.8  Vivan Sundaram, Smash Dynastic Ambitions, ink on paper, 1979. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram. 

Works by Mohamedi’s contemporaries during the Emergency years, Vivan Sundaram and Gulam Sheikh in particular, tended to be more politically ­explicit.160 In one graphite drawing on paper by Sundaram (Gang on Tank, 1975), we see a tank with Indira Gandhi and her grotesque circle of cronies aloft (Figure 1.7).161 In Smash Dynastic Ambitions (Figures 1.8 and 1.9), a tank-​cum-​bulldozer operated by Sanjay Gandhi crushes civilians and their makeshift shelters. Indira Gandhi, intent on avoiding a Damoclean hammer and sickle suspended in the air, appears as the next victim of beautification, about to be engulfed by the vicious Maruti jaws (Figure 1.8).162 In a colourful painting by Sheikh entitled Speechless City, made in 1975 (Figure 1.10), packs of black dogs roam the streets while a pensive cat sits on a tiled roof. A regime of censorship has been imposed by martial law, silencing all opposition. In the town there is not a soul in sight but crows pegged on telegraph poles –​terror has emptied the streets. By contrast to these overtly political statements, the hermetic nature of Mohamedi’s work invites further probing.

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Figure 1.9  Vivan Sundaram, Smash Dynastic Ambitions, ink on paper, 1979. Courtesy: Vivan Sundaram. 

Labyrinths of Solitude One creates dimensions out of solitude.163

Following the death of Mohamedi, Kapur returned to the artist’s work to ponder anew the nature of Indian modernism. Death often encourages the imaginative exhumation of artists’ secret desires and aspirations; in her posthumous appraisal, Kapur pursues a two-​fold mission: a loving restoration of Mohamedi’s work to its rightful place in the Indian modernist pantheon, and the enactment of a particular kind of national imagining. The assessment is an open-​ended process, reaching towards novel understandings. Kapur describes Mohamedi’s work as ‘floating away beyond the reader’s hands’, and admits the difficulty in securing narrative closure:  ‘the text on Mohamedi, posthumously written, becomes more allusive every time I  work on it.’164 Silence is a prophecy which ‘keeps things open’, as Susan Sontag put it.165 Or in the words of historian Vazira Zamindar, the struggle with reticence is ‘etched by loss and nation in ways that are not simple to undo.’166

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Figure 1.10  Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Speechless City, oil on canvas, 1975. Courtesy: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. 

Speechlessness, exhaustion and grief are brought about by the breakdown –​caused by Partition –​of remembered worlds.167 Kapur’s rehabilitation of Mohamedi discloses the shortcomings of her earlier polemic, and one senses the critic’s own dissatisfaction with the politicisation of art that she initiated. In this respect, Mohamedi’s work perturbs existing categories within Indian art history, specifically the figurative forms of modernism that developed during her lifetime. There is a curious passage in Octavio Paz’s essay The Labyrinth of Solitude (drafted in Paris, where Paz was active in Surrealist circles), where the poet suggests that the solitary figure of Narcissus can only transcend the condition of extreme self-​consciousness by self-​forgetfulness and self-​surrender. Orphanos ‘means both “orphan” and “empty.” ’ Solitude and orphanhood are similar forms of emptiness for Paz, but the orphan creates his own world through magic, and thus resolves the impasse of solitude.168 Confronting language in the absence of his mother, the child frees it of meaning, so that the alphabet ceases to

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Art and Emergency be a collection of signs and again becomes ‘a delicate and magnetic organism’.169 Only when the child begins to question the magic of his tools does self-​awareness creep in.170 One could poetically recall that the word nasreen denotes the Arabic name for the narcissus flower, and curiously Mohamedi was herself also orphaned.171 In the same essay, Paz invokes the mythical symbol of the labyrinth to describe the post-​colonial solitude of the Mexican psyche. Exiled from the centre of the world and forced to enter the time of history, the post-​colonial subject is condemned to look for eternity through ‘deserts or in the underground mazes of labyrinths’.172 Only on entering the labyrinth can mythical time and subjective time coincide; time will again be imbued with all the particular shades of emotions of our life: ‘it is as long as eternity or as short as a breath, ominous or propitious, fecund or sterile.’173 Perhaps this may be the reason why Mohamedi found the paintings of Bhupen Khakhar, a Baroda colleague, vulgar and distasteful.174 In Khakhar’s paintings, the chronometric time in which human subjects (of the Gujarati middle-​class) become prisoners of the clock and calendar is celebrated in a lurid and playfully kitsch style (Figure 1.11). We constantly hear the anxious ticking of the clock: in the shop, the factory, the street –​even in bed.175 Octavio Paz goes on to invoke the migrant lives of the Prophet Muhammad as well as that of the Buddha –​both of whom were forced to flee persecution –​to describe the solitude of the post-​colonial psyche, a twofold movement of withdrawal and return.176 It is this solitude that Mohamedi addresses in her mantras, labyrinthine graphs of the questing spirit (Figure 1.12).177 And she writes: Labyrinths, lines among lines –​ A mesh Difficult to destroy Yet one must Walk Nothing more Out of chaos, form –​silence.178

Reflections on the Post-​Colonial Absurd The affinity Kapur and Mohamedi shared for French literature is rooted in an Algerian context. But while Kapur offers a critique reliant upon the embattled, anti-​colonial writings of Fanon, Mohamedi repeatedly returns to the tortured

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Figure 1.11  Bhupen Khakhar, Janata Watch Repairing, oil on canvas, 1972. Courtesy: Chemould Prescott Road Archive and The Bhupen Khakhar Estate.

and reflective dilemmas of the pied-​noir Camus –​a writer whose style Barthes described as ‘a neutral, colourless writing’.179 During the Algerian War of Independence, Camus’ rejection of violence and upholding of humanist values contrasted sharply with the position taken up by Sartre, who continued to urge fellow French intellectuals to ‘dirty their hands’ in supporting the anti-​colonial struggle (as in his 1948 play Les Mains Sales). Sartre saw humanism and violence as essential means through which the colonised could liberate themselves from oppression, and accused the ‘well-​mannered’ Left of political cowardice.180 His endorsement of violence and armed insurrection resurfaced a decade later in his

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Figure 1.12  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, ink and graphite on paper, c.1980. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and in his public denouncement of the Left’s hypocrisy in the wake of May 1968. Opposing the crushing brutality of colonial states and their rulers, he spurred the oppressed to achieve their ends through violent means. Refusing to acknowledge the more problematic side of revolutionary violence, Sartre incarnated the ‘tribune of the oppressed’.181 It was precisely on the issue of revolutionary violence that Sartre and Camus parted ways. While Sartre celebrated it, Camus devoted his writing to denouncing all violence and its corrupting effect, in particular revolutionary violence.182 With the crushing of the Prague Spring (1968), Camus denounced the Soviets and repudiated any ‘forked’ commitment, wishing to be neither ‘victim nor executioner’.183 For him, Sartre’s insistence that intellectuals uphold political commitment was an attempt to ‘shanghai artists’ onto a ‘slave galley’.184 Following her reading of L’Étranger at the age of 16, Mohamedi returned to Camus’ writings after witnessing the plight of Algerians in Paris, and later on

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Fugitive Lines of Desire during her wanderings in the Arabian Desert.185 At the time of the Indo-​Pakistani War of 1965, she recalls lines from the writer’s more intimate Carnets. Further on, her entries reveal a sustained sympathy for Camus’ conception of the Absurd. In the writings of the young Camus, natural elements are seen as double-​faced, like Janus. On one hand the reader is presented with an image of creation that is orderly, harmonious and eternal and in which the human subject shares; on the other, intuitions of unity and eternity are wrested from him in a confrontation with suffering and death: man’s cruel and finite destiny.186 At the root of the Absurd lies the postulate that there is no God, no divine plan of which we are a part, and that our presence is the result of mere chance. For this reason, the Absurd encapsulates a series of perennial dualisms: between our desire for unity with nature and our ineluctable separateness from it; our yearning for eternity and our inescapable mortality; and finally, our endeavours to imbue existence with meaning which are always beset by failure and emptiness.187 In her diary Mohamedi copies out the following passage from Camus’ Carnets: A spectacular virtue that leads to deny one’s passions. A higher virtue that leads to balancing them. I watch the world around me with greater clarity, detachment and understanding of the inner balance.188

The idea that humans are constantly besieged by irresistible and alien forces is reinforced by a later diary entry, this time a reference from another European intellectual noted for his sympathy toward Arab culture: Federico García Lorca. ‘You have to follow the blood’s road’ is a quote taken from the tragedy Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding, 1932).189 In the play, this line is repeated like a refrain by a group of village girls engaged in the act of knitting. Like the Greek fates who unwind the thread of life, the girls control the destinies of human nature. Lorca, like Camus, sees nature as ominous and indifferent to humanity. Whereas Camus’ struggle remains firmly ensconced in writing, Lorca was committed to political action, which would prove fatal for him.190 Recognition of the absurd nature of existence is for Camus a profoundly emotional experience, the most overpowering of all. The only way for a writer to endure and overcome the pain provoked by the conscious awareness of this disparity is to channel his creativity into literary pursuits: ‘the absurd world can receive only an aesthetic justification.’191 ‘Art is the distance that time gives to suffering. It is man’s transcendence in relation to himself ’.192 Mohamedi echoes: ‘Plainer surfaces with concentrated depths. Each line, texture (form) are born of effort, history and

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Art and Emergency pain.’193 For this reason, Camus attaches importance to the act of contemplation which, ‘as one of the absurd aims, benefits without taking sides.’194 When initially perceived, emotions belong to the personal realm. It is only with the passage of time that the writer can transfigure them into a lucid form: ‘To give to the expression of passion the order of a pure language.’195 Pure language is achieved through concentration, compression and economy:  ‘Intelligence does not only bring its vision, it is at the same time a principle of a marvellous economy and a certain monotonous passion. It is simultaneously creative and mechanical.’196 Mohamedi’s diary entries reiterate these reflections: ‘The new image for pure rationalism. Pure intellect which has to be separated from emotion.’197 And again, ‘Everything is purified by suffering. To build out textures, the lines, squares and triangles. All this is a unity –​a . Then despair through textures of Δs.’198 However for Camus, language must be disciplined and stripped down to intensify emotions. Unbridled expression must be contained in the pursuit of spiritual survival.199 ‘Écriture blanche’ (‘white writing’), or ‘degree zero writing’, is merely the product of the novelist’s extreme economy and coolly calculating manipulation of language. Barthes goes so far as to observe that Camus’ literary style is one of silence.200 A similar need to distinguish the emotional aspect of writing –​ which, Camus reminds us, ‘has nothing to do with art’ –​from aesthetic emotion as such, is also reflected in Mohamedi’s diary entries: personal, but terse. Between speech and silence lies the gulf containing ‘the tomb of reason and the cemetery of things.’201 Mohamedi writes: Hardly able to speak Force Strength An emotion without a word My lines speak of troubled destinies Of death Of insects Scratching Talk that I am struck By lighting or fire Resulting in forms Scorched, burnt Browns, blacks Piercing eyes

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Fugitive Lines of Desire Holes New dimensions Out of these layers Of existence Of reality Of unknown strata.202 Mohamedi’s dissatisfaction with language as the painful accumulation of mindless habits is repeatedly corroborated in a series of diary entries where the artist records her reading of Rilke’s poems. She invokes the power of silence to empty out consciousness and sharpen the senses. She writes: ‘Rilke. Long periods of despairing silence.’203 The task of poetry, for Rilke, was to transfer all the data collected by the senses into an ‘inner world space’.204

Desert Roaming: Through the Eyes of a Stranger Dry space –​ sand Bare shrubs forcing existence No support […] Arid –​richness almost complete Coarse, black cracks –​ Dust, skinlike earth Coarse sounds, filigree against sky205 For the young Camus, the Algerian Desert represented the spiritual archetype of emptiness, in which a wanderer can experience extreme consciousness.206 In the novel L’Étranger (1942) for example, set in Algiers, Meursault’s moment of revelation or satori takes place in the dazzling sunlight of the desert. Testifying above all to the inexorable forces of erosion, the desert landscape is not merely background but features in each story as a powerful, active force, as if it were a character in the drama.207 In La Femme Adultère (1957), the reader is denied any opportunity to relate to the desert objectively –​its appearance is always filtered through the emotions and fears of the female protagonist, Janine.208 Presented through her eyes, the desert appears sovereign insofar as it exists beyond any contingent claim to priority or historical and political sovereignty.209 The overwhelming harshness, majesty and limitlessness of the desert landscape set the stage for Janine’s adultery

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Figure  1.13  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1970. Courtesy:  Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

and the revelation of freedom beyond the patriarchal confines of the French ­colony.210 The desert becomes the obverse of the social space Janine inhabits: ‘a space beyond distinctions, restrictions, possessions, hierarchies, exclusions and prohibitions, but of infinite possibilities, open boundaries, and unlimited hospitality and freedom.’211 This is the space of the nomad, whose roaming existence is as borderless and fictive as her wandering is interminable. Yet the profound connection that nomads share with the desert is also a ‘radical exile from the land’, an exile that is a ‘belonging-​as-​exile’.212 Nomadic existence represents a form of freedom that lies outside sovereignty and institutionalised states, rooted in the refusal of a people to establish themselves as a people. Ultimately it is a vision calling for an impossible, chimerical freedom, an aesthetic ideal that can never be achieved as a political goal.213 Once back in her studio, Mohamedi writes cautiously against the lyrical and romantic tendency one might attach to the benefits of nomadic life: Freedom is release from unreality. Obviously freedom is not simply being allowed to do what you like; it is intensity of will and it appears under any circumstances that unite man and arouse his will to more life.214

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Fugitive Lines of Desire It was this ‘resistance to bondage’215 that led Mohamedi to explore other deserts beyond Asia (Figure 1.13). Sometime in 1980, it is rumoured that she visited the American artist Agnes Martin, who had retired to a Zen community in Taos, in the desert lands of New Mexico.216 Mohamedi, in the very similar landscape of the Arabian Desert, sparse like her studio, felt able to achieve a state of maximum detachment.217 Through this solitary ‘emptying-​out’ of the self, an infinite freedom can be felt; this freedom is only possible because it is fiercely constrained. In 1964, Mohamedi travelled with the artist M. F. Husain to the desert of Rajasthan.218 Husain was making the film Through the Eyes of a Painter, and Mohamedi accompanied him as a photographer (Figure 1.14). Husain had lived as an itinerant gypsy most of his life, and in the opening scene of the black-​and-​white film, he sets out to impress upon the viewer his propensity to paint on the way –​ anywhere, everywhere. In an empty room, we see Husain crouching in front of a large canvas, brush in hand. Turning casually towards the viewer, in his broken

Figure 1.14  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1960. Courtesy: Sikander and Hydari Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

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Art and Emergency English he tells us that the film is ‘a total work of form…no spoken word but the sound of music makes the dialogue between the shot sequences…’219 Shot entirely with a handheld camera, Through the Eyes of a Painter unfolds as a lyrical sequence of impressions of the desert landscape of Western Rajasthan. Tracing the magic of village life, the film jumps eagerly from one thing to another like a child’s heart.220 We see an oil lamp, the beard of an elegant shepherd, and an umbrella glides gracefully from the top of a royal palace. And then the lines of the desert –​a bumpy, surreal ride jolted by the sounds of instruments: the Sindhi sarangi (bowed fiddle), the matka (clay pot), and manjira (cymbals).221 It seems as if Mohamedi, in repeatedly seeking out the desert, was following two distinct aesthetic exigencies. Starting with her first stay in Bahrain in the late 1950s, she made a series of lyrical tributes to the savagery of the desert landscape. These minimalist works show Mohamedi’s deft use of ink, and her ability to retain control while allowing accidents to occur; ink glides over the coarse sheet of paper as if through crevices on a rock surface. Following further encounters with the desert in the late 1960s, Mohamedi shows a renewed confidence in the materiality and viscosity of oil paint, and a return to large-​sized canvases. Contingency is eliminated through the use of rollers, along with the gradual and systematic emptying-​out of everyday and autobiographical references. Mohamedi limits her

Figure 1.15  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, oil on canvas, c.1960. Courtesy: Sikander and Hydari Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

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Fugitive Lines of Desire palette to black and white, arriving at a basic dualism; between these poles lies the vast spectrum of evanescent shades of grey. In the first work (91.4cmx152.4cm), a subdued grey overlaps with fainter hues of white, creating an overall sense of sustained mournfulness (Figure 1.15). The paint applied is in some places scraped away gently with a rag and a knife, in others removed with a dry cloth, revealing the canvas beneath.222 In the second canvas (90cmx120cm), thick oil paint is smeared with a small roller, on top of which large squares of newspaper cut-​outs are applied and then removed (Figure 1.16). The effect achieved is that of a translucent patchwork with haphazardly joined seams: a shimmering skin reminiscent of a sail, where two dynamic lines intersect to create a precarious sense of balance. Avoiding the use of primary colours, which Barthes saw as the motor of meaning, Mohamedi opts for grisaille, the ‘colour of the colourless’.223 Grisaille, for Barthes, indicates the thought of the Neutral. It is ‘a borderline thought, on the edge of language, on the edge of colour, since it’s about thinking the nonlanguage, the noncolour.’224 This space, painstakingly nuanced tone upon tone, is that of the shimmer, of the Neutral.225

Figure  1.16 Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled, oil on canvas, c.1960. Courtesy:  Suhail Rahim Collection. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

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Art and Emergency In his consideration of language, Blanchot suggests that if we only find words for extreme feelings such as joy and pain, we seem to miss out on the ‘greyish, scarcely felt underside of life which is its becoming.’226 Blanchot identifies an etymological connection: ‘if éblouissement (bedazzlement) is linked to the German blöde (weak or weak-​sighted), an excess of light, which blinds, [is] expressed in terms of a kind of myopia, a deficiency of the eye.’227 The linguistic myopia induced by extreme feelings is akin to the blindness brought on by the desert sunlight, often said to ‘stab’ the eyes. This extreme intensity can only be captured in the infinite neutrality of grey hues. Light seemingly glows in the monochrome, moth-​like colours of dust. Perhaps it is for this reason too that Mohamedi did not title her works. Camus’ strategy of ‘degree zero’ or ‘white’ writing links the discourse of silence to un-​titling and non-​dating.228 The desert seems to have inspired in Mohamedi a sense of deep, intense concentration. The emptiness and silence of the landscape induce an extreme detachment, allowing her mind to focus on ever smaller particles: In the midst of these arid silences one picks up a few threads of texture and form […] One can be absolutely silent and share the dancing rhythms. The same rhythms we see through despair. One only has to recognise it. Waiting one learns to watch its weight –​the strong aridity of the desert. It makes one detached in a tiny way in a clear and vital way. Waiting is part of intense living.229

And then: Break the cycle of seeing Magic and awareness arise.230 In the same way that the rigour of rules forces the ascetic practitioner into an intense awareness of what is, the uneventfulness of the desert awakens in the artist a heightened attention, a meditative state. In her diary, Mohamedi describes the intense concentration of the sixteenth-​century Mughal emperor Babur, who, engrossed in composing odes, was oblivious to a situation of impending catastrophe.231 Mohamedi writes: Babur, the man who could compose an ode, while toiling over the mountains without adequate shelter when the horses died of exhaustion and the rains flooded the tents, knee deep, may surely be said to have possessed in full measure the spirit of the philosopher.232

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Calligraphic Abstraction? Babur, as well as being a man of letters, invented his own form of calligraphic writing (khatt-​i-​baburi).233 The emperor strove for calligraphic perfection only in order to go through the entire exercise, over and over. The peak of perfection remained elusive, and demanded the constant disciplining of the eye and of the mind to sustain concentration.234 However the story of Babur is not unique. Annemarie Schimmel narrates the sixteenth-​century myth of the calligrapher Shaykh Hamdullah who also excelled in archery.235 Concentration on the target was a spiritual exercise, reinforcing the calligrapher’s vision and attention.236 But such intense concentration led another sixteenth-​century calligrapher in Tabriz to ignore a devastating earthquake in the city because he was deeply absorbed, sitting in his small room, in producing an impeccable wāw.237 Unlike the transformative medium of painting, drawing is far more deterministic and radically restrictive in nature.238 This applies particularly to pen and ink, or to the soft or wet media when used linearly, for example with a sharp or flexible point.239 By its very nature, fluid drawing involves the movement of the hand and its extension of pen, quill, brush, chalk or lead, revealing at once ideation and the process of describing lines.240 As such there is no room for pentimenti, and the impossibility of erasure ensures that lines remain in place as a record. Private preparation and the site of rehearsal coincide to display the impeccable skill of the draughtsman. Grace and elegance become the ultimate criteria for judging. During her stay in Istanbul, Mohamedi recorded her admiration for the laborious, minute elegance of Arabic calligraphy on view in the Topkapı Palace. It is possible that for Mohamedi’s untutored eye (she did not read Arabic), the calligraphic signs appeared as a group of sensuous arabesques: words become pure signs and speech turns into silence.241 She writes: Pages of symmetry […] What a restrained quality, A leaf within the abstract –​minute. All with their quiet and powerful force. Each dot, each line each curve a direction towards perfection. At times silently engraving upon the page […] A restrained discipline. 53

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Art and Emergency The Arabic with a squarish strength. Interlacing iron wrought structure. Sometimes a few bold lines to balance with a   242 Although Islam as a religion emphasises the necessity of ‘the Book’, the Prophet Muhammad is called ‘ummi’ in the Qur’an, which means ‘one who requires no learning’. To preserve the purity of the divine message requires an equivalent purity of mind in the bearer.243 Sufi mystics in particular recounted stories that celebrated the illiteracy of the Prophet. Although proud of ‘the Book’, they considered letters to be a barrier between themselves and the experience of the divine, for which ‘the mind and the heart have to be like a blank page.’244 For this reason, many

Figure 1.17  Calligraphic exercises in shikasta, by ‘Abd al-​Majid, (died 1771), mounted in a muraqqa’, album. Courtesy:  Nasser Khalili Family Trust, Nasser D.  Khalili Collection of Islamic Art. © Nour Foundation, 1996. Mss 391, (folios 1a and 2a). 

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Fugitive Lines of Desire Sufis –​such as the tenth-​century poet Niffari and later Jalāl al-​Dīn Rūmī, and the Persian poet Sanā’ī – saw letters as ‘pure otherness’, symbolising essential alterity in connection with God. Moreover, the letter was described as ‘radically incompatible with the quest for the Absolute.’245 Each letter thus became an expression and fulfilment of the potentialities of the graphic mark, not from the standpoint of signification but purely from that of being.246 The calligrapher achieved flowing lines by repeated practice, showing no trace of smudges or ink spills on sheets of paper known as siyah mashq, or ‘black practice’ sheets (Figure 1.17). The repetition of strokes formed the backbone of these calligraphic specimens, in which calligraphers deployed multiple iterations of the same shape to exhibit sensitivity and skill.247 The swooping strokes kept the eye perennially moving across the page. At times this repetition of black calligraphic strokes, letter over letter, line upon line, filled the page until the writing ultimately became illegible.248 Writing in relation to calligraphic abstraction, Iftikhar Dadi argues that decolonisation saw artists from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa pursue the Arabic script for its inherent expressive possibilities, in order to undermine literality and narrative meaning.249 Mohamedi’s engagement with abstraction similarly resists narrative certitude, but not in the name of a heroic nationalist modernism.250 While in Baroda in the early 1970s, Mohamedi confided to K. G. Subramanyan her admiration for the correction scribbles and doodles in Rabindranath Tagore’s volume of poems entitled Purabi, where text is preserved in the form of accidental blotches.251 In 1924, aged 63, the Nobel laureate poet had started doodling on the pages of his manuscripts, joining up and elaborating on his deletions. From the blotted-​out words materialised grotesque beasts and fanciful creatures, the latter sometimes subverting or obscuring the poetic verses. ‘Scratches and blots cried out for salvation,’ and Rabindranath spent much time elaborating them and turning them into rhythmical motifs.252 For the poet-​sage, then a figure of universal renown, the doodles represented a way of evading his own fame, the tyranny of literature, and the stigma of print.253 The graphic self-​mockery was a means to slip out of his personality, but also an extension of textuality, an open-​ended exploration of being beyond the contingency of the fixed text. Embodying the inseparability of srishti (creation) and lupti (erasure), figures emerged from the blanks and erasures of the verses.254 The doodles were also a way of defying what the poet saw as the enemy of spontaneity, allowing the manuscript to reveal the process of composition, the bouts of uncertainty and experimentation. For Rabindranath, it was the fetish of the printed book that alienated genuine sources of vitality, including the reader. Yet while ignorance of the scripted

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Art and Emergency language –​for the poet –​could turn a library into a prison-​house, in the case of Mohamedi the unfamiliarity of Arabic letters imbued the activity of seeing with a renewed magical quality. It was not the poet’s grotesque creatures that Mohamedi appreciated most, but rather those that ‘preserved the linear structure and had not started to go into fanciful figuration.’255 Artist Jeram Patel, who had studied Typography and Publicity Design at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London in 1959, used crow quill and ink on handmade paper to create creatures ‘on the verge of a Tantrik’s vision and a microbiologist’s dream, when minute turns megassus […] We stand ‘witness to the continual implosions of sperms that erupt from mushroom phalluses, sprout fangs of human skin, expose wounds of vagina.’256 In the words of Jagdish Swaminathan, the violent art of Patel with its amoebic forms, barbaric stains, cuts and gashes cast a ‘totemic spell on the viewer, disturbing, threatening, pulling him inexorably […] releasing him from the fetish of reason and into the realm of sensations, turning him on to the top of a vibrant antennae, pulsing with awareness’ (Figure 1.18).257

Figure 1.18  Jeram Patel, Hospital Series 3, pen and ink on paper, 1966. Courtesy: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. 

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Fugitive Lines of Desire As with Rabindranath’s confessional doodles, Patel’s biomorphic forms begin with a dot of ink on a diary page ‘around which gradual hatching of pen builds the body of form, to be enwrapped in the knife-​edged skin of animals of prehistory.’258 ‘Pencils, razors and scissors gain a biological existence; question marks, arrows and exclamation marks turn insects, a magic box of continual transformation like life itself.’259 Unlike the inward, surreal landscapes offered by Patel, Mohamedi’s forms are fully immersed in perceived reality. Making a definite move away from painting that directly referenced nature during the Emergency years, Mohamedi singled out the line as an abstract trope. The white piece of paper held greater possibilities of seeing.260 Moreover, to avoid roughness and inconsistencies in the surface, she used machine-​made paper, stretching it tightly and taping it on boards.261 ‘Tautened like a drum, one could play music on it.’262 The invention of paper (replacing vellum parchment and papyrus from the tenth century onward) was also a technological event of great importance for the development of calligraphy across the Islamic world. Yet according to the artist Nina Sabnani, Mohamedi was probably inspired by Patel in her choice of ink and machine-​made paper as medium.263 Her private dialogue with herself was occasioned by encounters with discarded everyday objects: empty cigarette packets, tickets and scrap paper. After covering up the entire paper surface of the item with ink doodles, Mohamedi would consign it to the dustbin.264 Pairing the singular (even insular) nature of Patel’s and Mohamedi’s work, Gulam Sheikh suggests that their consciously minimised forms indicated a heightened sense of touch, however ‘intangible their focal point’.265 Mohamedi’s ‘parasensory’ imprints, Sheikh continues, became increasingly hermetic and seemingly ‘computered in a sterilized chamber of solitude.’266 Gradually surrendering her toning of the paper with an ink wash of black or grey, Mohamedi’s steady addition of water to the ink gave it different shades of colour. It finally became so ‘thin that it simply gave the faint impression of colour.’267 Sometimes her drawn shapes ‘were very soft and delicate, difficult to be seen. It was like looking for a glass in the water or a dark hair in the shadow.’268 The art critic Keshav Malik suggested that in the worlds created by Mohamedi, only those who truly listened could hear the music of Mohamedi’s ‘twanging fork’. ‘If there was a musical score for the inner ears, this was it.’269 Or, one could add, the sound of sand moving in the desert. Mohamedi provides no explanation in her diaries as to the reasons behind this formal shedding and strict adherence to black ink, a form of ‘chromophobia’ or perhaps a simple desire to challenge the tyranny of colour.270 Patel’s own distaste for flat pictorial space and conventional colour formulas is useful in this respect. Courting loose affinities with the Zero Group of Germany and junk sculptures

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Art and Emergency in the wake of Pop art, Patel’s gashes became increasingly deep and colourless. What Patel brings to life through his use of the searing flame are ‘psychic wounds, disturbing in their often demoniac strength, yet strangely alluring for their muted or metallic tones and their oneiric impact.’271 For Patel, black-​and-​white abstract compositions could never be as effective if rendered in colour: ‘I’m not interested in colour. To me it is a very misleading thing. I use red as energy, as a field but not a colour. As a vibrating field.’272

Abstracting Lines: A New Instrument of Vision Painting, Lyotard writes, ‘does not treat the eye as a fixed organ. It liberates the eye from adherence to the organism […] painting gives us eyes all over: in the ear, in the stomach, in the lungs.’273 Some connoisseurs of Arabic calligraphy would rather the eye be titillated by the calligraphic figure than by language. Among those who encountered the script of the tenth-​century calligrapher Ibn Muqla, one observed ‘He whose eyeball regarded it carefully, would wish that all his limbs were eyeballs.’274 But to become receptive to the plastic energy stored in the figure, the eye must battle for it constantly.275 In the same vein, Mohamedi waged a constant battle with the customary ways in which the mind and the eye have subordinated the line to linguistic usage. In her diary she writes: ‘The eyes have come at a time when they have been already exploited by the mind.’276 Her use of the mechanical eye of the camera to select and slice details out of context echoes the quest to liberate the eye and further purify vision. Radically disengaging the medium from its narrative and representational function, Mohamedi dismantled conventional modes of seeing, forcing the eye to sense anew. Benjamin remarked that the difference between technology and magic is a purely historical variable.277 Mohamedi certainly believed that some machines could enhance her perception; however she did not conflate magic with technology but kept the two spheres separate from one another. Complementing her drawings, her photographs were in all probability intended as guides to resolving the problems she formulated whilst plotting her graphs. Hence her photographs function more as private notations of natural phenomena or architectural features that, sliced out of context, are denied any anchor in reality. According to the Muslim scholar Alhazen (c.965 Basra–c.1040 Cairo), referred to by Mohamedi in a diary fragment alongside a sketch of a camera obscura by Leonardo Da Vinci (date unknown), mathematics has a superior

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Fugitive Lines of Desire form of beauty flowing from calculation. Concentrating on the mechanical side of the optical process, geometricians sought to calculate the laws that determined the trajectory of light in an attempt to purify the senses.278 For this reason, artists who used geometry were reluctant to introduce pictorial elements in their paintings. This concern with geometry surfaces in many of Mohamedi’s photographs. Swinging the lens of her camera upwards and downwards, Mohamedi constantly eliminated the middle ground, the very point at which the eye seeks meaning. Rather than disclosing what is already identifiable, the photographs consequently often throw up some surprising or unfamiliar aspect of the object or event pictured. Tight-​cropping, unconventional angles, framing and the close up were all means to this end, eliminating the figure/​ground relationship by setting up an overall composition (Figure 1.19). Mohamedi mobilised the camera viewfinder to cut out peripheral vision, adjusting the lens manually to create startling

Figure  1.19  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1970. Courtesy:  Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

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Figure  1.20  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1965. Courtesy:  Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

visual frames and deplete the image of its representational base. Purposefully two-​ dimensional, her approach favours vectors, scale and textural surface, creating a dialogue between compression and expansion of scale, between luminescence and the opaque object (Figure 1.20). László Moholy-​Nagy spoke of photography’s propensity to render ‘chiaroscuro, shining white, transitions from black to grey imbued with fluid light, the precise magic of the finest texture: in the framework of steel buildings just as much as in the foam of the sea.’279 His 1936 article, ‘A New Instrument of Vision’, introduced into the curriculum in Baroda, is worth mentioning for its detailed explanation of how sight could be altered by the camera, liberating human beings from the constraints of narrow perception and consciousness.280 In this view the camera became an extension of human vision; an enhancing prosthesis that could present the world in ways that people had not seen before. Photography, rather than replicating the human world,

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Figure  1.21  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1970. Courtesy:  Chatterjee and Lal. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

could expose the ‘inexhaustible wonder of life’. Moholy-​Nagy extended this observation to other mechanical media, including gramophones, when he suggested that artists incise grooves on wax plates used for recording in order to generate original, as yet unheard sounds. Similarly, the camera could cleanse human vision, offering a novel sensory experience. The cities and architectural landmarks selected by Mohamedi are stripped of their references; this treatment is reminiscent of the wordlessness of the desert (Figure 1.21). Consider, for example, Mohamedi’s photographs of the Mughal architecture of Fatehpur Sikri, a city commissioned by the emperor Akbar in the late sixteenth century. Here, Mohamedi’s camera selects a spatial field bereft of humans. Condensing foreground and background through the lens, the decoration of the city design becomes sensuous ornament, pure pattern. In another photograph (Figure 1.22) the stepped gardens of Fatehpur Sikri seemingly correspond to the piazza or chowk

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Figure 1.22  Nasreen Mohamedi, untitled photograph, c.1972. Courtesy: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi. 

in Chandigarh by Corbusier, also photographed by Mohamedi. In a letter to Anna Singh, Mohamedi writes: Nature is so true…such truth in her silence. If only we would listen to her intricacies then there is no difference in sound and vision. There must be space far beyond the logical  –​to be able to grasp the order within the apparent disorder. I  was in Chandigarh where I  feel as if Corbusier built areas for the value of defining space. Different but again a hypnotic feeling for space in Fatehpur Sikri. I am by the sea such vastness. Nature has its own secrets.281

Built from scratch on desert terrain, Chandigarh was a bold, modernist experiment in civic design commissioned by Nehru in 1950 and built by an international team of architects with a view to rehabilitating the state of Punjab following Partition.282 Prime Minister Nehru described Chandigarh as ‘a new town, symbolic of freedom in India, unfettered by the traditions of the past, an expression of the nation’s faith in the future.’283 But by 1977, when Mohamedi visited this temple of modern India, Chandigarh produced little affective resonance and the powerful landmark had lost sight of the democratic goals of the country’s modern citizenry.284 Yet the minimalist Mughal city and the modern temple of the future are paired by Mohamedi in her pursuit of hypnotic space. Corbusier himself referred to his 62

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Fugitive Lines of Desire highest architectural intentions as ‘poésie’, probably with Mallarmé in mind.285 Displaying a precisely rendered ecstatic spatiality (‘an illumination…illusion… perception’), an experience of transcendence is offered here.286 We know that the architect conveyed this phenomenon in terms of the extremes of representational possibilities:  of setting and of language. Corbusier’s expression l’espace indicible (which can be translated as ‘space beyond words’) reverberates with Mohamedi’s own feeling of a commonality between secular repositories of culture and the otherworldly.287 But it is during the drawing process that Mohamedi rediscovers the density of the line. Flattened in the photograph, lines re-​acquire a greater variety of density and tone when drawn. Perhaps this could explain Mohamedi’s reluctance to exhibit her photographs: the camera reduces all sensation to a single plane. Moreover, not only is the temporality of painting antithetical to that of photography, the camera cannot convey the kinetic ability of the ‘I’ (the self) in space. As Mohamedi writes, ‘I understood why measurement is not _​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​physical measurement. But one can search for the other measurement.’288 And then: ‘At precious moments one can see the thin hair like thread placed right at the centre –​measured to the last possible point. Don’t miss the possible! Which brings the immeasurable!’289

Reclaiming the Beloved She disappeared without a trace, they said. If there were footprints on the sand, the sea got there before anyone saw and wiped her off the face of the earth.290 The orphan, who recites the Koran without lesson, Drew the line of abolition, naskh, over the ancient pages. For the message which he brought abrogated all previous revelations.291 One significant challenge posed to art historians by Mohamedi’s artistic output is that her drawings are deliberately undated, unsigned and untitled. Moreover, no indication was left as to how each work should be orientated or viewed.292 It would be natural to look for some explanation of her technique and a chronology of her works in her diaries. But it remains unclear what happened, after the artist’s premature death, to her studio and her meticulously archived diaries and drawings. 63

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Art and Emergency Off-​the-​record interviews and unpublished information suggest that much of her corpus went missing and has made its way into private collections in Japan, India and the United States. In ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved’ (1993), republished in the book When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (2000), we may discern a persistent desire on Kapur’s part to restore subjectivity to Mohamedi’s work. Yet this subjectivity is what the artist had deliberately neutralised, painstakingly removing from her work all autobiographic traces, idiosyncrasies and manual slippages. This ‘degree zero’ of artistic sensibility resists all forms of graphological disclosure. Kapur insists that the absence of the subject is linked to bereavement: the premature death of Mohamedi’s mother (when the artist was five years old), the abrupt ending of an early love affair, and the deaths of her brothers.293 The critic interprets these losses as having procured a void, one which only Mohamedi’s narcissism could fill by exploring poetic and aesthetic concerns.294 This erasure of the self echoes both Sufi poetry and Zen Buddhism. In the Sufi poems of Rumi, the trope of the Beloved is commonly invoked as the unattainable object of desire. The Beloved also embodies the desire for metaphysical union with a higher being and the creation of a rapturous state of enlightenment. Sufi poets famously transformed longing for the Beloved into a source of creativity. For Kapur, this emptiness is conducive to an uncluttering of the mind. Such an idea resonates with the aesthetic of self-​naughting propounded by Ananda Coomaraswamy in Akimcanna: Self Naughting (1977), an essay focusing on the metaphysical.295 Kapur’s persistent endeavour to restore subjectivity to Mohamedi’s non-​ figurative work is linked to the broader quest of rescuing the artist from the totalising assumptions of a European, avant-​garde abstraction.296 Perhaps a more contentious aspect of Kapur’s loving gesture of poetic restoration is the way in which she simultaneously aligns Mohamedi with the utopian strand of Russian Constructivism:  ‘Emerging from revolutionary socialism (especially from the Soviet Union in the 1920s), it is Suprematism and among the Suprematists Kazimir Malevich, whose influence on Mohamedi must be acknowledged.’297 Triangles, chevrons and circles, according to Kapur, dominate Mohamedi’s visual vocabulary, ‘making geometrical abstraction stand proxy for a symbolic language.’298 Reason is posited, Marxism invoked, reflecting Kapur’s nostalgia for a lost revolutionary future. The critic’s unwillingness to address certain diary passages, in which Mohamedi links her personal struggles with abstraction to particular historical events, is limiting. Violence, Lyotard suggests, belongs to the depth of language.299 Gyanendra Pandey observes how:

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Fugitive Lines of Desire The forgetting of violence is not so much of closure as that of trauma –​ something which, even when apparently forgotten, cannot be forgotten, a suggestion of horror and shame that returns to haunt even the mainstream that pretends to have little or nothing to do with it.300

Alluding to Mohamedi’s enduring fascination with Camus, Kapur merely reflects upon the loss of God creating a crisis of the subject, but does not delve into the broader post-​colonial implications of Camus’ existentialist thought for the artist. Dismissed as an existential fad by Kapur, Camus’ concerns were in fact relevant not just for Mohamedi but for numerous other Indian Muslims working in postwar Paris.301 In 2009, Kapur returned to the work of Mohamedi to query the very idea of universality underpinning art history in her essay ‘With Frugal Means: Nasreen Mohamedi’. Keen to arrive at an inclusive understanding of universality, Kapur’s goal was to defend more vulnerable forms of abstraction and call for some overdue art historical revisions. Despite her staunch critique of a totalising art history, Kapur reminds us that revisions are likely to occur when a work is torn from its cultural context –​in other words, from its political moorings. Capitalising on local difference when making and viewing exhibitions, the (typically European or American) curator reproduces cognitive tropes that invariably recode that very difference for the (Western) viewer.302 Kapur rightly suggests that one ought not to ‘ethnicize Mohamedi’s very cosmopolitan practice –​even as it would be limiting to see the formation/​dissemination of pan/​Arab/​Islamic knowledge in local and ethnic and not also in cosmopolitan terms. It would be even narrower to attribute to Mohamedi, who is, of course Muslim, some especially religio-​cultural affinity to Islam.’303 Kapur recognises Mohamedi’s cosmopolitan practice but hesitates to elaborate upon the artist’s dialogue with a de-​territorialised Islamic imaginary. For Kapur, Mohamedi’s sustained fascination with Islamic and Mughal architecture, along with her intense engagement with Sufi metaphysics and literature, are not to be read tautologically as the ‘political givens of postcoloniality’.304 For Kapur, these references should be read as secular, private and serenely dedicated forms of ‘unbelonging’, a purely existential need on the part of the artist to be both a nomad and a cosmopolitan.305 I do not wish to claim that Mohamedi longed for Pakistan, despite members of her family settling in Karachi. It was in Bahrain, Kuwait and Iran that they would frequently reunite. Sometime in the mid-​1970s, Mohamedi confessed to Nina Sabnani that she felt profound gratitude towards the Pakistani youth who broke 65

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Art and Emergency off their engagement in Paris. To live in Pakistan, Mohamedi claimed, would have meant becoming a closeted mother and housewife, certainly not an artist.306 ‘Mohamedi is not exempt from the temptation of using illusions/​allusions,’ Kapur writes.307 The author’s own essay is replete with metaphorical images alluding to peril, migrancy and violence. Later, Kapur weaves a richly lyrical text which guides the reader back into the labyrinth of solitude photographed by Mohamedi: the seashore, the desert and Fatehpur Sikri. The cosmopolitan itinerary reveals that in the case of Mohamedi ‘belonging is not an issue.’308 Kapur’s reflective journey brings to mind Edward Said’s book After the Last Sky (1986), in which the Palestinian author offers an intimate exploration of his own irrecoverable past through a disjointed series of photographs of the occupied territories; the photographs become a ragged document and a relic of a lost civilisation. ‘I write at a distance, I have not experienced the ravages. If I had, possibly there would be no problem in finding a direct and simple narrative to tell the tale of our story.’309 Narrating the de-​centred, far-​flung experience of Palestinian exile, Said writes with a hint of pride: ‘Better our restless, nomadic wanderings than the horrid shutters of return.’310 Dispossession and dispersion frustrate the search for a Palestinian image and voice. The word ‘migration’, unlike ‘displacement’, describes not only the forced movement of individuals escaping calamity to seek permanent resettlement but also voluntary exile.311 Zamindar finds that the historiography of the Indian subcontinent peters out into silence on the brink of 1947. She claims that most writers discontinue or truncate their narratives at this ‘moment of arrival’, when the nationalist aim of statehood has been accomplished; in its wake, studies fragment into research on individual nation states bound by naturalised, fixed borders, as though no ‘moment of rupture’ had ever occurred between the new territories of India and Pakistan.312 The category ‘Muslim’ –​a colonial, socio-​political construct –​became radically transformed during the Partition years: mass exodus, resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees, the close monitoring of movement and the creation of citizenship transformed the definition of this imagined community on both sides of the divide. These phenomena require that the idea of Partition as perpetual trauma be ‘stretched’ to include the very ways in which the process of nationalisation itself became, for some individuals, interminable. For this reason, Zamindar further argues for an attempt to connect these severed histories to unpack the post-​colonial burden of this protracted political process.313 These considerations are significant when engaging with the work of Mohamedi but also for the wider implications of Kapur’s own secular theory of modernism in India. Writing about the self-​imposed silence generated by the

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Fugitive Lines of Desire spectacular destruction of Partition, the historian Pandey contends that a disguised form of violence has since emerged which is far more sinister.314 This violence has led to the building of naturalised nations, communities, and histories, majorities and minorities. For this reason, Pandey critiques those who propose that the ‘nation-​state’ is a consolidating project, binding people to territory and culture.315 This modern political construct, as argued by Hannah Arendt, is a ‘hyphenated entity’ capable of generating a violent interruption of existing social relations that time cannot easily repair.316 Mohamedi’s non-​figurative aesthetic may be linked to her sense of belonging to a proud Muslim minority (she chose to live in India), which in the aftermath of independence became the emblem of a contentious modern identity.317 In the end, and in spite of these limitations, Kapur’s own reluctance to arrive at closure on the subject allows for powerful hermeneutical possibilities. Towards the end of her essay, Kapur contends that non-​figurative art developed in many instances as a means to defy hegemonic conditions and outright repression.318 This observation however is not extended to Mohamedi and the politicisation of art Kapur called for in the 1960s and 70s. Eluding the modalities that officially code the attenuation of the affirmative within language  –​negation, dubitation, the conditional  –​the allusive neutral keeps things open.319

Conclusion Silence silence inward a further silence.320

This chapter has offered a circular exploration of Nasreen Mohamedi’s life and her choice of abstraction. Moving through a series of related themes –​silence, nomadism, the desert and the literature of Camus –​I have argued that Mohamedi’s abstraction resists classification and narrative capture. Positioned between painting and drawing, writing and image, Mohamedi’s hieroglyphs deliberately refuse to submit to the demands of literality – a literality that more politically explicit artists fully embraced during the Emergency years. Such defusing of the representational and autobiographic functions of the graphic line debunks the well-​worn conception of painting as an intimate record, a repository of the artist’s private sensibilities. Impervious and anonymous, Mohamedi’s lines do not clear up doubt for the benefit of certainty, but open into a void.321 Traced between imagined territories that defy sovereign borders and divisions –​including the order of Partition –​ Mohamedi’s fugitive lines slip between habitual thought patterns in pursuit of the

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Figure 1.23 Nasreen Mohamedi, ink and graphite on paper, c.1970. Courtesy: Glenbarra Art Museum. © Heirs of Nasreen Mohamedi.

absence of every sign. For this reason, the post-​colonial burden of the political emergency of Partition plays an allusive and equivocal role in her life. Unsettling nationalist closure, her non-​figurative art generates other, more powerful forms of (un)belonging and politics in relation to the available rhetoric and memory of Partition and nationhood. Both allusive and neutral, the ultimate significance of Mohamedi’s hieroglyphs remains deferred. Our gaze is riveted on those lines: an expectancy of epiphany arises (Figure 1.23). I work on _​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​_​there are changes which are slight + slow… at times very slow. To perceive them + to understand one’s rhythm right to a breath. All this is so natural + yet one has to go on sieving labyrinth after labyrinth.322

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2 Beyond or in Emergency? The Emergence of Photography during the 1943 Bengal Famine: Sunil Janah

…1943… World War going on, and our country, this Bengal… Neither a bullet fired, nor a bomb exploded. But in one year fifty lakh people died only because of starvation. They just starved and dropped dead.1 Mrinal Sen, In Search of Famine, 1980

Introduction A shaft of light illuminates a mother and her suckling child, lying in the street (Figure 2.1). Muting the surrounding elements, the dramatic light focuses our attention on the two figures as though on a theatre stage. Mysterious, somewhat ghostly, the dappled rhythms of light and shade animate the scene, converging around the woman’s eyes and her angular facial hollows, mouth and cheeks; a play of chiaroscuro lingers on the rag draped around her loins to sculptural effect –​ a Pietà. Although we as viewers are unaware of the history and context of this photograph, the intimate moment between mother and child that has been singled out here evokes our immediate sympathy, transforming it into the very condition of being together. To fully see and sympathise with the subjects before us, we need to turn to their particular histories. Entitled Bengal Famine, Mother and Child on a Calcutta Pavement, the black-​and-​white photograph was taken by photographer Sunil Janah in front of his home in Calcutta on a summer evening. The mother and child were amongst the thousands of rural refugees flooding the city in search of food and shelter in July 1943.2 Hunger spurred people on to desert their homes,

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Figure 2.1  Sunil Janah, Mother and Child on a Pavement in Calcutta, Bengal Famine, 1944, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

fields and families. Mothers and fathers abandoned their children or sold them into prostitution. Corpses lay on the streets or rotted in rivers. With a country gripped by World War and famine, the government was refusing to give the destitute the food and aid to which they were entitled according to state policy. Such was the magnitude of this collective catastrophe that it touched upon the lives of millions and dwarfed individual stories and misfortunes. Responding to the social realist mandate that characterised artists as ‘engineers of the human soul’, Janah, a Communist Party member and photographer, documented the conditions of famine victims for the Party newspaper, People’s War.3 The photograph Bengal Famine, Mother and Child on a Calcutta Pavement was later integrated into a larger photographic sequence and framed by evocative descriptions of this ‘exceptional’ emergency in the pages of People’s War. Circulated across India, an estimated 36,000 copies of the photo found their way

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Beyond or in Emergency? into the homes of Janah’s wartime viewers. The impersonal cruelty of lived hunger became a more intimate affair. This chapter engages with the photographs produced by Janah, and the spectacular affective technologies he relied upon to bring home the devastation caused by the man-​made (some would argue manufactured) catastrophe of the Bengal Famine. ‘Sympathy’ is but one of a number of strategies Janah exploited to convey this contemporary drama as it unfolded. In 1795, Adam Smith, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, identifies ‘sympathy’ as a regulatory, psychological component of the self, singling out this feeling for praise in his meditation on the economy of morality. Sympathy governs our response to the other, to ourselves, and beyond this to society, cementing social cohesion.4 Historian Zahid Chaudhary, in his book Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-​Century India, suggests that the return of the ‘mimesis of sympathy’ haunts the medium of photography. This recurrence, he proposes, chips away at those narratives of progress and rationality which regard the emergence of the photographic medium as heralding a break with the pre-​modern.5 For this reason, he suggests, a ‘certain uncanniness resides at the heart of photographic mimesis itself: a strange mix of sympathetic production that is simultaneously contact and copy’.6 Retrieving the philosopher Spinoza’s observations regarding affect, Chaudhary intimates that an image, whether an actual object or merely a memory, re-​affirms its simultaneity with us.7 Photography is always a ‘revamped order of sympathetic mirroring.’8 Such an understanding of the camera as ‘sensory prosthetic’ underscores the fact that this technology is not necessarily experienced as a discrete object detached from the body.9 Rather, it becomes ‘an area of sensitivity, extending the scope and active radius of touch, and providing a parallel to sight.’10 In her book The Civil Contract of Photography (2008), Ariella Azoulay advances a powerful view to the effect that photography constitutes an imaginative mode of cultivating resistance against the whimsical abuses of state sovereignty. Azoulay submits that photographs are objects that speak; atrocity photographs set up a ‘civil contract’ between spectator and photographed ‘non-​citizens’, asking the former to go beyond a merely empathetic response and restore the citizenship denied to the latter. The affective dimension of the contract entails that we act as witnesses for the people or events represented, hence anchoring spectators in a ‘civic duty towards the photographed person’.11 In the triangulated vision between those photographed, the photographer, and the viewer, the image can and must be made to speak in the present.12 Photography, Azoulay argues, prompts the question of how and under what legal, political or cultural conditions can the disaster

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Art and Emergency affecting those who are denied citizenship (partially or totally) be viewed and pictured. Inspired by Benjamin’s writings on photography, Azoulay contends that the power of photography consists in opening up the possibility that viewers ‘encounter’ their fellow human beings in the immediate physical conditions of their social milieu, independently of time and space, and beyond the realms of photographic expertise or literacy.13 It is because of this technology that subjects can exhibit and regard themselves as fellow human beings, and stake a claim to the life conditions they share, contesting the manner in which the sovereign regime or nation state strives to construct them.14 Through his photographs, Janah calls upon his viewers to recognise and restore the citizenship rights of the starving subjects depicted. The Bengal Famine catalysed the emergence of a radically committed art form of singular political import. The horror of the famine and the use of photography emerged simultaneously, presaging Adorno’s ideas regarding the intrinsic relationship between the modern formation of the ‘mass’ subject and the catastrophic.15 For the first time in the history of Indian news media, photographs and text were interlocked in the form of a picture story to document a disaster of enormous proportions. Circulated and displayed at political meetings across the country, the images brought home the impact of the famine, helping raise relief funds and promoting the Communist cause. As an image of the consequences of wilful mismanagement of an ailing economy and the sacrifice of agrarian interests to those of the city and the military, the Bengal Famine provided ongoing inspiration and justification for the ending of imperial rule and the Independence movement. Images of the human destitution, hunger and suffering caused by the famine were deployed as affective rhetorical devices by the Communist Party of India (CPI), not only in speaking out against political oppression and unjust deprivation but also for mobilising resistance.16 Through this mediatic commitment, the CPI prefigured the creation of a mass subject that is at once ‘witness and victim of the catastrophic’.17 Furthermore, as Claude Lefort argues, the phenomenon of the ‘mass subject’ is nothing but a technologically mediated response to the problem of popular sovereignty. The latter, in the case of democratic regimes, is ‘a vacancy, intermittently occupied and activated by virtual representations and surrogates of ‘the people’ –​a transcendental political subject that, in late modernity, transmutes into media-​centred virtualized mass spectatorship.’18 The widespread circulation of photographs of disaster and death displayed a mass subject whose spectral body could only be witnessed not rescued.19

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Beyond or in Emergency? For many contemporary observers, the Bengal Famine was part of a much older story, whose origins could be traced back to long before the outbreak of war, in the British imperial rule of India. After a severe recurrent famine from 1870 through the 1880s, the ‘drain theory’ propounded by various Indian nationalist exponents gained prominence in the emergent rhetoric of nationalism and anti-​colonial justification for ‘home rule’.20 The widespread unanimity among nationalists in blaming the British (state power) had enduring repercussions on the views and ambitions of India’s nationalist movements and its leaders. Mass malnutrition had compelled middle-​class nationalists to consider the plight of the peasantry more carefully. As the Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen writes, in the eyes of many political activists, the Bengal Famine represented the climax of British rule (or rather misrule), becoming ‘a focal point of nationalist criticism of British imperial policy in India.’21 For this reason, ‘famine’ was used by a number of political activists as a catalyst for the Independence movement, with charged images of emaciated Indians disseminated to serve the cause for home rule.22 Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s future Prime Minister, observed how the catastrophe represented the final, tragic act in Britain’s long history of ‘indifference, incompetence and complacency’ and therefore furnished a decisive argument in the demand for self-​government.23 Writing with regard to the appalling famine mortality, Nehru was to comment: ‘Obviously, if a National Government had been formed in 1942 there would have been a great deal of cooperation with the people […] I am quite convinced that the Bengal Famine could then either have been avoided or at any rate very greatly minimized’.24 The Bengal Famine claimed the lives of three million people. Its complex causes were linked to wartime exploitation of the colony, which led to privation and severe inflation. Writing after the war in 1953, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill recounts in his work Triumph and Tragedy how ‘no great portion of the world population’ had been so ‘effectively protected from the horrors and perils of the World War’ as India. In his view, India had been ‘carried through the struggle on the shoulders of our small island.’25 Yet it is unlikely that this ‘small island’ could have survived the war without the support of the colony’s two and a half million recruits, its massive industrial contribution and steady supply of food, as well as its strategic military bases. India was second only to Britain in terms of its contribution to the war effort, furnishing more than two billion pounds’ worth of commodities and services.26 This colony moreover was essential to the protection of British interests worldwide, positioned as it was along

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Art and Emergency the communication and supply routes that stretched from Britain, via the Suez Canal, to the Cape and thereafter via the Indian Ocean to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. For the duration of the war, ships carried provisions, troops and arms from the colonies situated around the Indian Ocean to Britain, as well as to war zones in the Mediterranean area and Southeast Asia. India was to sacrifice as much as Britain in the defence of an Empire from which it was attempting to liberate itself. In this chapter, it is proposed that during World War II, a new form of governmentality emerged in the colony. The plundering of the colony’s material, natural and human resources led to the forced migration of millions of rural inhabitants towards Calcutta in search of nourishment, causing many to perish. Treating the colony as an occupied territory, the Government of India consigned a vast subject population to ‘the status of the living dead’.27 These crushing dynamics were exacerbated by Churchill’s racial prejudice towards His Majesty’s subjects. For the then Prime Minister, ‘Hindus were a foul race, protected by their mere pullulation from the doom that is their due.’28 The endorsement of Boat Denial and ‘scorched earth’ policies provided Churchill the grounds for Malthusian efforts to curb the customs of an ‘inferior race’, whose ‘breeding habits’ he compared to those of rabbits.29 These beliefs, coupled with the need to crush national resistance and preserve internal security, were seen as justification for the PM’s stonewalling of food shipments dispatched from countries sympathetic to the plight of starving Indians. Moving beyond the theorisation of biopower as the ‘domain of life over which power has taken control’, I concur with Achille Mbembe’s view that such a concept has more to do with the management of death than with life. Mbembe moreover explores how this concept is linked to sovereignty and the state of exception in the colony.30 Under this reading, the defining and constitutive limits of sovereignty are the exertion of control over mortality and the notion of life as a means of using and displaying power: ‘to dictate who may live and who must die.’31 Mbembe examines the trajectories by which the state of exception and the relation of enmity have become the normative basis of the right to kill.32 This conception of sovereignty radically reconfigures the relationship between resistance, sacrifice and terror. In such circumstances, power repeatedly refers to and invokes exception and emergency, along with a fabricated concept of the ‘enemy’.33 The colony hence becomes the ideal location for suspending the controls and guarantees of a judicial order  –​the zone where the violence of the state of exception is deemed to operate in the service of civilisation;34 and

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Beyond or in Emergency? where the right of the ‘stronger race’ to annihilate the ‘lower’ is affirmed. ‘The struggle is not only over Lebensraum but concerns the much larger Lebensraum needed to earn a livelihood. To conquer and hold sufficient Lebensraum (living space), others have to be displaced, that is, lose space, which often entails the species weakening and dying out, leaving the space completely.’35 It becomes a Totenraum (dead space). Following Arendt, Mbembe contends that it is in the colony that we first see the ‘synthesis between massacre and bureaucracy, that incarnation of Western rationality.’36 Pivotal to the instrumentalisation of human life and the destruction of populations is the stirring up of racial discrimination. This in turn regulates the management of death and makes possible the brutal functions of the state.37 The propagandist policy of the CPI vis-​à-​vis the man-​made famine was complicated on the one hand by war between the Allies and Axis powers, and on the other by the competing claims of democracy versus dictatorship. At the same time as it posed significant challenges to the monolithic hegemony of the Indian national movement, confronting not just imperial domination but also the stranglehold of feudal-​patriarchal power in the Indian countryside, the CPI found itself supporting the war effort and by extension, incongruously, the British. As a result of this policy, the CPI stood in relative isolation from the national movement as well as the mass of the people, including peasants, workers and students. Such isolation, while prompting a sense of ‘militancy, self-​sacrifice and idealism among cadres’, placed the Party in an even more paradoxical situation, since most of the people perishing from the man-​made famine were Party members.38 Despite their perception that colonial conditions had precipitated the famine, the CPI and its artists could not, due to censorship measures enforced by the British, openly denounce its root causes. To appreciate the novelty of Janah’s photographic strategies, I set the scene by first considering surviving images produced by British photographers of nineteenth-century famines. The latter failed to set up the ‘civil contract’ described by Azoulay. The colonial photography discussed does not posit the type of voluntary, consensual and non-​governmental looking that Azoulay treats as essential to photography’s civic and political power. Turning to the photographs Janah made during the Famine, one can see how he often resorted to theatrical measures in his effort to relay the shocking murder of millions whilst avoiding stereotypical tropes. Already in 1943, Ian Stephens, an eyewitness and the editor-​in-​chief of the Calcutta-​based newspaper the Statesman, described the difficulties related to

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Art and Emergency delivering the ‘famine story’ in an editorially enticing way. According to his view, the problem was primarily one of ‘representation’: Death by famine lacks drama. Bloody death, the death of many by slaughter as in riots or bombings is in itself blood-​bestirring; it excites you, prints indelible images on the mind. But death by famine, a vast slow, dispirited, noiseless apathy, offers none of that. Horrid though it may be to say, multitudinous death from this cause looked at merely optically, regarded without emotion as a spectacle, is, until the crows get at it, the rats and kites and dogs and vultures, very dull.39

Janah’s visibility and career as a Party photographer would turn him into one of the most sought-​after photographers in the post-​Independence years. The final section of the chapter is dedicated to his industrial commissions and tribal studies, haunted as they are by the ghosts of the famine.

Phantasmagoric Aesthetics There are, in the relief camps of Palaveram and Monegar Choultry, sights to be witnessed, which even we, who have become callous and hardened, cannot but look upon without shuddering; sights which we dare not describe, and which an artist could not paint.40 In order to sustain the imagination of these images, your heart must turn to stone […] and your eye must be transformed into a camera.41

According to Chaudhary, photography’s most widespread and effective impact in British India coincided with a shift in the ordering of colonial power. He proposes that the emergence of what he coins a ‘phantasmagoric aesthetics’ in the aftermath of the 1857 Mutiny marked the point at which colonial power extended its scope into the ‘life-​worlds’ of colonial subjects. In this interpretation, ‘phantasmagoric aesthetics’ is defined as a means of structuring vision and visibility to replicate modern, alienated forms of perception; what Benjamin termed ‘the deepening of apperception’.42 Social alienation becomes the ground from which ‘violence, toward others as well as oneself, may be witnessed with comparative ease.’43 Conducive to bolstering colonial governmentality, photography played a crucial role in mystifying and then normalising violence, a violence that insinuated itself into the very fabric of colonial subjects’ ‘manners and customs’.44 Despite the frequency of famines occurring in the subcontinent between 1860 and 1880, the few official ‘famine’ images that reached the public were used to

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Beyond or in Emergency? support arguments to justify the ongoing imperial presence in the colony. One of the early surviving photographs depicting the theme of ‘famine’ can be found in the ethnographic study The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with Descriptive Letterpress, of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan (1868–​75).45 This official publication, motivated by the ‘need for better understanding and therefore better government of the population’ in the aftermath of the 1857 Mutiny, aimed at social diagnosis and the systematic control of otherness. In these volumes, the optical empiricism of the photograph is linked to the abstract, statistical truth of the letterpress in an attempt to facilitate the identification of the sitter, including his political and social compliance: from the ‘specificity of the body to abstract, mathematical laws of human nature.’46 This rationale, however, becomes redundant when dealing with undernourished Indians. The image Famine Stricken Group, Delhi by an anonymous British photographer (c.1865) offers the viewer an odd sociological type (Figure 2.2). Barely clad, a group of malnourished men, women and children pose seated in a courtyard. They are oddly profiled against the white architectural background. On the left, two small children bow their heads in abject submission; next to them crouches a female figure, perhaps their mother, whose dejected face discloses little humanity. In the centre, a frail man props himself up on a rod. From amid the cluster of bedraggled men and women rises a gleaming, upright column. Its presence is by no means incidental and is intended to highlight the desolate, sub-​human condition of these beings, perhaps hinting at the redeeming role of British civilisation; it contains within itself the ‘principle of its own transmutation and redemption’.47 With the photograph Famine Stricken Group, Delhi, the editorial rationale of government control and social diagnosis underpinning The People of India as a whole facilitates the development of imperial humanitarian commitment. The image seeks to bolster the credibility of the colonial government’s resolve to improve food distribution in times of drought by setting up infrastructure in rural areas.48 The politics underpinning famine relief was to demonstrate European superiority over man and nature. While the opening line of the letterpress accompanying the photograph indicates that cogent images such as these weaken the descriptive power of words, there follows a long explanatory text in support of Empire. From this perspective, Famine Stricken Group operates in a similar way to colonial photographs depicting ruins. With its ambivalent sense of temporality, the ruin registers both the termination and survival of matter. Incarnating the demand for narrative projection and manipulation, what Benjamin called its ‘irresistible decay’, the power of the ruin lies in the way its surfaces endure time while

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Figure 2.2 Photographer unknown, Famine Stricken Group, Delhi, photograph, c.1865. Published in The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with Descriptive Letterpress, of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan, 1868–72. © The British Library Board. Photo 973/​4. (206).

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Beyond or in Emergency? succumbing to wasting and wearing. To attend to the untimeliness of the ruin is to suggest that human designs have persisted beyond their end, qua persistent fragments of their former glory.49 Famine Stricken Group embodies a broader moral, which points in two directions simultaneously: backwards to a history of political decay and economic stagnation, and forwards to an era of prosperity and progress under continued British rule. The photographer foregrounds native backwardness (obscuring imperialism as its cause) and offers the disease as a cure.50 Similarly to photographs of archaic, decaying buildings which invoke the fetish logic of metonymy in soliciting a desired colonial ‘habitus’, images representing famine victims reinforce the view that the starved were supposed to be fed.51 While ‘Famine’ would continue to be used by the imperial government well into the twentieth century as a means to justify British guardianship of the colony, strict laissez-​faire policies impeded organised food distribution and price controls, resulting in the banning of all voluntary humanitarian relief work.52 Moreover, the dogma behind governmental non-​action in response to famine was that ‘giving anything away for nothing’ –​even giving food to the starving –​demoralised the recipients and led to ‘pauperism’.53 The drafting in 1880 of a Famine Code was one of the earliest indicators devised to measure the scale of famines. The Code introduced a means for measuring the intensity of food scarcity, proposing steps that governments were required to take in the event of imminent famine.54 The Famine Code stipulated principles that conformed to Utilitarian orthodoxy, encouraging reliance on public works for famine relief and warning against interference with the grain trade.55 Caught in a predictable capitalist dilemma that made no admission for the relationship between markets and human suffering, Viceroys routinely downplayed the terrible effects of the famine. Governors who invested money in building famine relief camps and emergency infrastructures were severely criticised, and photographers with humanitarian agendas banned from the camps.56 Official use of the camera was channelled into celebration of imperial self-​confidence and ordered splendour. To this end, Viceroy Lord Curzon, no more eager to confront the famine relief nightmare than his predecessors, ensured that many freelance photographers turned their cameras to documenting the Delhi Durbar in 1903.57 The remarkable contribution of photographer Raja Deen Dayal (1844–​1905) is one notable exception. Instrumental in documenting the periodic famines and floods that ravaged Hyderabad from 1900, Dayal photographed the relief efforts and public model works projects undertaken by the Sixth Nizam (Sir Mahbub Ali Khan) in his own dominions, in order to feed and care for the victims of the

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Art and Emergency drought. The photographs, used by the Nizam to affirm his own power within the same imperial system, tell us much about the intimate relationship between photography, modernity and statecraft in the princely India of the late nineteenth century. Up until the time of the Boer War (1899–​1902), when a new wave of rampant chauvinism directed all British press efforts towards raising finance for war, the scattered images which did make their way into the public realm were taken by British commercial photographers, dissident journalists, medical officers, and later missionaries involved with fundraising in Britain. Opposed to the devastating free-​market policies endorsed by the Raj, these chroniclers represented a shift in British liberal thinking: from championing the ‘imperial strategy’ to upholding the country’s ‘civilising mission’.58 Regarding the phenomenon of famine as a springboard for Indian self-​initiative, liberal philanthropists backed Indian home rule within the Empire, believing that this could best be achieved through collaboration with humanitarian English Liberals.59 Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, British interest in the famines dwindled. American writers, missionaries-​turned-​photojournalists, and a handful of British photographers readily took up the task of documenting the effects of the famine in India, publishing inflammatory reports in the US press. Their reports exposed the devastating underside of the Raj’s free-​ market policies and dispelled the general ignorance regarding famine, accusing the government of ‘deliberately deceiving world opinion about the conditions of the Indian countryside.’60 At the outbreak of the Great Famine in 1876, few medical officers had access to basic photographic equipment. It was only in 1888 that the cheaper, handheld Kodak No. 1 camera replaced dry plate technology and the tripod-​mounted field camera, turning doctors or missionaries into concerned documentary photographers.61 Posted in the remote famine relief camps of southern India, medics lamented the lack of cameras and argued how only ‘photographic evidence’ could record and document the desperate conditions of the victims.62 The British medical officer Doctor Cornish, who was working in the district of Cuddapah (Madras Presidency) during the Great Famine of 1876–​8, shared with his readers the perception that language was too poor a medium for conveying the hellish sights he witnessed every day.63 For Cornish, words had little power in ‘giving eyes’ to the reader; only the mechanical eye of the camera could relay the conditions of the men, prompting the much-​needed interest of the imperial government and the British public:

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Beyond or in Emergency? I often regret that I have not a photographer temporarily attached to my office while moving about amongst the famine-​stricken people of this Presidency. Words at best can but feebly represent the actual facts, but if members of Government could see the living skeletons […] I do not think there would be much hesitation in arriving at a conclusion that the condition of the lower classes of the labouring poor is critical […] many of them men and women in prime of life, who were literally moving skeletons. We saw children of all ages in such a condition of emaciation that nothing but a photographic picture could convey an adequate representation of their state.64

Memento Mori: The Famine Photographs of Willoughby Wallace Hooper and A. T. W. Penn Some of the better-​equipped photographers who were able to photograph famine victims were prompted more by lucrative gains than by any humanitarian considerations. Neither spurred on by anger towards imperial policies nor driven by compassion for the victims, British army official and amateur Willoughby Wallace Hooper pursued the starving body as a gruesome, quasi-​ethnographic exercise in photographic eschatology.65 The photographs Hooper took were not intended for official purposes, but sold commercially and circulated in private photograph collections and family albums.66 This cruel documentation was performed by Hooper concurrently with a project observing the manners and customs of the British elite in India. Travelling to the remote, rural areas of Madras and Tamil Nadu, Hooper selected his subjects carefully according to age, gender and caste to choreograph innumerable natures mortes. The compulsion to depict humans at moments of extreme suffering would lead him to photograph insurgents condemned to death during their execution in 1886. While on this occasion, ‘no delay…between words of command was in any way requisite to suit the exposure’, in photographing the famine victims Hooper was not concerned with arresting the instant of decease.67 By contrast, his use of albumen print for slow exposures suggests a prolonged and predatory way of shooting, operating in the temporal space created by starvation where powerless, motionless subjects slowly wait for death. Christopher Pinney suggests that in the case of the execution by firing squad of Burmese rebels, Hooper surrendered to the ‘logic of photography’s mortiferous eidos’, whereby the trigger hit the viewer ‘like a bullet’.68 In the case of the famine imagery, the eidos of the image works differently: the photographic apparatus contradicts this temporal logic, becoming a tool complicit in the miserable procrastination of death. 81

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Figure 2.3  W. W. Hooper, Inmates of a Relief Camp (During the Famine 1876–1878) in Madras, Tamil Nadu, South India, photograph, c.1876. Courtesy: Royal Geographical Society.

In one of the numerous photographs produced by Hooper during this serial project, we find a group of severely undernourished inmates sitting on a couch (Figure 2.3). Victorian, post-​mortem family portraiture often featured the corpses of deceased relatives resting in familiar chairs, slumped on couches, or even braced in specially designed frames to appear more lifelike. Using similar domesticating strategies, Hooper’s use of a couch against a plain background inscribes these bodies in the rarefied elite studio space, setting off a hideous presentation of the ravaged body. Seemingly drawing from the conventions of academic painting, Hooper composes elaborate tableaux as though shooting within the soft, romantic and hazy light of a metropolitan studio. But the couch, normally used as a prop to denote familiarity and mitigate bereavement, gives the photograph an odd, uncanny feel. In the image we see a seated woman resting her head with composure; a small bundle of bones fills her lap. From a lopsided angle, another woman with withered, bare breasts looks towards the viewer. Her open hand lifts the sunken head of

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Beyond or in Emergency? a starving child to dramatic effect, yet there is little in her posture to convey maternal feeling. Sitting next to her is a stilted adult man with a protruding ribcage. Below are three figures: two sitting up, while another lies on the floor suggesting complete atrophy. Hooper exposes the selected subjects to the cold gaze of the camera and reduces them to the status of sub-​human specimens, stripped of individuality and the dignified privacy of pain. Portrayed as helpless victims subject to inertia and want, these images say nothing about the struggles endured by these men and women and their determination to survive. The photograph is doubly motionless –​in its depiction of bodies, and in its failure to movere, to move us. Similar photographs became highly sought-​after amongst the colonial elite as collection items. Chaudhary, for example, suggests that in the context of British imperialism, these photographs are placed uneasily beside everyday images of the Raj –​British officials dressed in Victorian clothes, sipping their afternoon tea or posing in their military gear.69 The tradition of famine is brought into the security of the domestic space, ‘recording and reproducing the brutality’ of colonial governmentality.70 What emerges from the theatrical nature of this particular photograph is Hooper’s disquieting capacity to choreograph ocular spectacles to entice potential customers. This morbid quality surfaces most prominently when viewing Hooper’s photographs as a series or a planned sequence. The same men are repeatedly shuffled and re-​arranged like deathly ornaments on, around, and behind the couch, which remains firmly positioned (Figure 2.4). This repetition is key to performativity, and exhibits the photographer’s own command and authority over these powerless bodies. Moreover, repetition levels identities and drains the image of drama, offering up these specimens as fetish-​like objects for a Western audience. The effect is that of a staged composition whose clinical formality fails to provoke any feeling, let alone sympathy, on the part of the viewer. Photography’s mimesis of sympathy is occluded, and our response  –​to the other, to ourselves and to society –​does not cement cohesion. Failing to catalyse that Azoulayan ‘civil contract’  –​the triangulated relationship between photographer, subjects depicted, and viewers –​the victims’ claim to citizenship remains unuttered and unutterable. Hooper’s taste for the macabre comes to the fore when comparing his photographs with those of commercial photographer A. T. W. Penn (1849–​1924). In contrast to Hooper, who was from an upper-​class, military background, Penn came from humbler origins, the son of a boot and shoe manufacturer. Operating from a studio based in the hill station of Ootacamund, Penn moved to Bangalore

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Figure 2.4  W. W. Hooper, Famine Objects (During the Madras Famine 1876–1878), Tamil Nadu, South India, photograph, c.1876. Courtesy: Royal Geographical Society.

during the famine of 1876–​7.71 Although frustrated by the negligence of the colonial government and appalled by those who ‘were asking what the fuss was all about’, Penn exploited this new demand for ghoulish imagery and advertised his prints for sale in newspapers.72 Confident that this visual technology was more adequate than language in conveying the horror he had personally witnessed, Penn sought to show the public what was at this point only being written about in the papers. In a special page of Bangalore Spectator, he advertised his own photographs in the following manner: Mr Penn has just succeeded in securing several groups of the famine stricken wretches at the Relief Kitchens which will give a more vivid idea of the severity of the famine in South India than the most elaborate official report or newspaper article. The size of the photos is 8 x 6 inches, the price Rs. 1.8 each, unmounted, views of Bangalore large and small.73

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Beyond or in Emergency? A few lines down, Penn includes an advertisement offering his studio portraiture services: ‘A choice assortment of gilt velvet and iron frames for one, two and three portraits.’74 According to Christopher Penn, the photographs were collected by the colonial British elite and displayed in albums as tactile memento mori: photographs of severely malnourished bodies set against those of loved ones. The collectors in some cases had witnessed the tragedy, or knew of family members or acquaintances living in the vicinity. In the albums, photographs were mounted on pages decorated with delicate flowers and other decorative elements –​the framing techniques of the domestic. For this reason, while the images presented a statement of documentation, of heredity, and perhaps evolution –​they also functioned as family albums. Strange tensions emerge from this process, as the narrative of the family album domesticates difference, yet simultaneously renders the familiar, or even the familial itself, strange.

Figure 2.5  A. T. W. Penn, A Chosen Few (‘Victims of the Madras Famine, Bangalore, Madras’), photograph, c.1877. Courtesy: Royal Commonwealth Society, Cambridge University.

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Art and Emergency Amongst the pictures sold by Penn are A Chosen Few and Pettah Kitchen. A Chosen Few displays a formal rigour reminiscent of Hooper’s grim photographic studies (Figure 2.5). Shooting at a distance, Penn positions his sitters at the centre of the composition in the manner of a conventional Victorian family portrait. We sense a keen desire on his part to photograph his subjects in their natural habitat, to create a document suggestive of ‘authenticity’. In a vertical portrait a family is huddled together, clinging to each other as though to life itself. Unlike Hooper’s men and women, the subjects of Penn’s A Chosen Few appear animated, and for this reason less gruesome. Penn creates a pyramidal structure of the family group with the father, clothed and standing, towering over a tangled mass composed of the skeletal arms and legs of his children. He gazes with defiant pride at the cameraman; the family’s future hinges precariously upon him. A comparative glance at a similar image taken by Hooper, perhaps in the very same village, suffices for us to appreciate Penn’s more considerate and humane approach. In a horizontal photograph by Hooper, the bodies of the children have

Figure 2.6  A. T. W. Penn, Pettah Kitchen (‘A Corner of the Pettah Kitchen with over 3,000 People Waiting for Feeding Time, Madras, South India’), photograph, 1877. Courtesy: Royal Geographical Society.

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Beyond or in Emergency? been clearly arranged by the photographer to maximise visual impact; a rhythmic pattern is achieved by layering the protruding pelvises and fibulas of the three children. Hooper seemingly delights in setting up a haunting play of ghostly patterns of light and shade. Although capitalising on the shock effect of his images, Penn produced images displaying a more humane aesthetic, such as the photograph Pettah Kitchen (‘A Corner of the Pettah Kitchen with over 3,000 People Waiting for Feeding Time, Madras, South India’) shot in a famine relief camp set up by the Governor of Madras (Figure 2.6). Amidst a desolating, seemingly endless reef of human coral, Penn’s camera tracks the journey of a wooden litter upon which a recent victim is carried. There is a sense of pathetic reverence accompanying the passage of the body outside the camp, the clearing of space, but also the presence of a guard who stands dutifully beside the path. The humanising touch characteristic of Penn’s imagery is also discernible in some of the lithographs produced and circulated in London at the time. Photographs could not be reproduced directly in the newspapers, and for this reason were transposed to lithographs or etchings. This process often entailed significant modifications with respect to the original composition of the photograph. Lithographers modified backgrounds, added details, rearranged the positions of sitters, and eliminated imprecision, such as the blurring caused by the movement of a subject. Such modifications could re-​inscribe photographs within the realm of picturesque imagery rather than straightforward documentary. This was the case with several of Hooper’s photographs, taken during the Great Famine in Madras. Transformed into engravings, they were later circulated in the liberal-​reformist illustrated newspaper The Graphic. We find for example an engraving by the London-​based artist Horace Harral (1844–​91), based on one of Hooper’s photographs, in the non-​official history of the government’s response to the famine, The Famine Campaign in Southern India (Madras and Bombay Presidencies and Province of Mysore) 1876–​78. The report, written by the Honorary Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Indian Famine Relief Fund, William Digby, represented the first and only critical study devoted to the famine. Spurred by the need to create a ‘permanent record’ of the catastrophe, Digby was also concerned with briefing the British media, ‘whose duty it is to inform public opinion.’75 This was all the more so given Viceroy Lord Lytton’s utter uninterest in the Famine. While news of the catastrophe had reached London through reports by the Governor of Madras, Lytton, who had been appointed by Disraeli, appears to have been more concerned at that time

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Art and Emergency with Queen Victoria’s proclamation as Empress of India than the food emergency affecting millions. Keen to downplay the terrible effects of the famine, Lytton criticised the Governor of Madras for the amount of money spent on creating the relief camps.76 For Digby, it was only by gathering accurate information through non-​official channels that the ‘sympathy of the British people towards the suffering of their fellow subjects in Southern India’ could be fostered.77 Despite the numerous disturbing descriptions collected by Digby, a single image (Figure 2.7) is included in the report: an engraving by Harral entitled Forsaken!, based on a photograph taken by Hooper in 1877 (Figure 2.8). Forsaken! stages the most significant threat posed by famine to the social order: the collapse of family ties, chiefly that between mother and child. Forsaken! depicts a small boy and a baby sheltered by the cavernous trunk of a large banyan tree. Scattered in the vicinity are a cracked water vessel and a broken, empty pot; to the left, barely visible, is a small crow perched on a nearby branch. The image discloses the engraver’s attention to detail, and a certain degree of poetic licence: pushing the trunk of the tree to the corner, Harral foreshortens the composition and directs our attention to the foul crow with its beak wide open.78

Figure 2.7 Horace Harral, Forsaken! (‘Two Children in the Bellary District of the Madras Presidency, British India, during the Great Famine of 1876–1878’), engraving 1877. Public domain.

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Figure 2.8  W. W. Hooper, Forsaken (‘Madras during the Famine 1876–1878, Tamil Nadu, South India’), photograph, c.1876. Public domain.

In another engraving based on a photograph by Hooper, Harral’s humanising touch detracts from documentary accuracy. Entitled The Last of the Herd, the image shows a dejected cattle herder, the hollowed-​out body of a cow, and a small child squatting in the dust. The child clutches an earthen saucer; the father gapes at the inert beast. Gleaming white in the background is a large animal carcass. Although both images are highly contrived, Harral further aestheticises the scene by adding important details and distorting the original photograph: he turns the herder’s face to the horizon, and populates the latter with shrubs and trees. More graphically compelling, the image is evocative of a bucolic, even pastoral meditation. The meditative quality underpinning Hooper and Harral’s compositions is quite absent in a group of official photographs taken by an anonymous photographer around the beginning of the twentieth century in Bikaner province. With Bikaner Famine: View of Famine Victims Outside the Palace Walls. General Panorama of Palace, Lake and Famine Work (1896–​1900), the aerial view (which had been endorsed throughout the nineteenth century to illustrate landscape, topography, archaeological sites and military subjects) is taken up to document the management of famine relief work.79 Shot from within the towering palace

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Art and Emergency walls, the unknown photographer creates an orderly panorama which places the viewing mechanism within a controlling, hermetic space. The result of long exposure, the clear panoramic view displays significant depth of field: shrubs, trees and minuscule men at work. Similarly in the photograph Refugees Building City Extension. Mixing Material Behind Line (unknown photographer, 1900), the camera is aligned with the grid-​ like pattern of the work camp to ensure the spatial distribution of individual bodies. This formal organisation enhances the sense of separation, as well as the alignment, serialisation and surveillance of human labour.80 It highlights the outer perimeter of the future city extension and cuts a perfect diagonal across the picture plane to divide workers from non-​workers:  the toiling bodies are depicted as an active and disciplined workforce which can be administered, managed and successfully put to use.81 Political capitalisation on ‘Famine’ became part of a broader narrative of oppression and resistance, bolstering the creation of a genuine aesthetics of famine, which displaced previous imperial visual narratives. Ways of looking at and reproducing the indigenous, undernourished body for mass consumption were further facilitated by developments in chemistry and camera technology. These phenomena brought the camera within the reach of many, eroding the pre-​eminence of the professional photographer. Since the body of the famine victim was invested with a powerful symbolic role and made to represent the oppressed and victimised ‘body’ of the nation, representations of famished subjects were superseded by more elaborate and evocative depictions. The former British emphasis on the ‘natural’ character of famine, which covered up its deeper political and economic implications, gave way during the 1940s to the recovery of the nation’s subjective experience of famine, in an indictment of the colonial government. With the CPI, this recuperation would in part restore to the famished body a political and more affective resonance. Mahatma Gandhi, in his rise to political prominence, transmuted hunger into an emblem of biomoral resistance, which became politically crucial in the sequence of events that led to Independence.82 Abstinence became a cardinal, mediatic instrument in his attempt to assimilate the more spiritual aspects of the drive for power. In fasting, Gandhi sought to express the naturally creative potential of non-​violence (satyagraha) in an anarchic world on the verge of ceding to unadulterated brutality, savagery and despotism.83 The ‘fasts unto death’ put pressure on issues of caste, communal and (crucially) colonial injustice, leading to critical points ‘of contingent conclusion if not final resolution’.84 They achieved

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Beyond or in Emergency? the effect of rendering Gandhi the focus of national and international attention. Although for the Mahatma, ‘truth and the principle of ultimate good did not emerge out of the utilitarian arithmetic of majority opinion, but out of a more absolute calculation of value,’ mechanical reproduction became an essential tool for furthering dissent and protests on a mass scale.85

Gandhi’s Superbody and the Performance of Political Somatics At the turn of the twentieth century, technological advances in technology and chemistry improved the mobility of the camera and facilitated the mass distribution of photographs. The static gravitas associated with nineteenth-​century spectacular outdoor panoramas, royal durbars, hunts, and architectural sites was governed by colonial needs as much as it was linked to the heavy and complicated logistics of glass plate technology. Thus the turning away from the use of large format cameras to smaller and more compact camera models (‘the camera is getting smaller and smaller’, Benjamin prophetically remarked) entailed the progressive liberation of photography from ‘the tableaux-​like quality of the studio’.86 But although these innovations had brought the medium within the grasp of many, eroding the pre-​eminence of the professional, photography was still the exclusive preserve of British colonists. For this reason it was mostly nurtured within the courtly domain, the bazaar, and the commercial studio.87 From 1930 onwards, the constitution of photographic societies began to change. No longer dominated by Europeans, civilians or military, nor confined to the three Presidency cities, the organisation and running of small elite societies and clubs slowly shifted from British to Indian hands. Many practitioners, including Janah, regularly subscribed to the Times of India’s Illustrated Weekly, the only paper in India to publish photographs by amateur photographers and set up national competitions.88 As the illustrated newspaper developed, its editors sought to instil a pictorial aesthetic among contributors and viewers.89 It was during Gandhi’s Non-​Cooperation Movement that the camera became decisively mobile, moving beyond the studio and into the streets. The creation of smaller and more compact models such as the Speed Graphic, Rolleiflex, and Leica,90 allowed press photographers attached to the state-​run Press Information Bureau or to newly established independent photo agencies, to move more freely and record major political events firsthand.91 This phenomenon in turn signalled the beginning of candid photography and the increased visibility of the photographer 91

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Art and Emergency in the public arena. Once the stage where British repression had been most ‘graphically and regularly enacted’, the city embodied the promise of modernity, and for this reason became an object of ambivalent craving for Indians.92 Transformed into a set for staging political engagement, the street was the site wherein colonial hegemony appeared increasingly threatened by national unrest.93 In a growing trend, especially after the rise of Gandhi, who sought to reinstate the village as the fulcrum of national feeling (as opposed to the false mimicry of the colonial city), politics were no longer restricted to debate chambers or ‘terrorist’ alcoves. The Mahatma nonetheless believed that colonialism had to be defeated from within ‘its modern fortress’, and encouraged nationalist politics to overflow into the streets and openly challenge colonial rule.94 Conversely, with his long marches on foot (padayatras) across the countryside, the leader spread the nationalist idea from the city back into the villages. In so doing, he mapped out a new India, no longer demarcated by railway tracks but by the intricate, seemingly invisible networks that connected villages.95 Swadeshi narratives of nationhood were carried and diffused across villages through the cheap and mobile technology of the lantern slide.96 Grafted onto entrenched forms of popular entertainment, the form of the lantern slide was deployed to exhibit ‘national’ issues, while at the same time ‘defining the nation’.97 These mobile and highly-​crafted spectacles momentarily united disparate individuals, encouraging each to imagine himself as part of a national community. Visually narrating national triumphs, the lantern slide shows fostered philanthropy among communities, often denouncing the brutality of the colonial regime, as in the case of the Jallianwala Bagh series.98 The Congress-​led agitation in the form of the Non-​Cooperation Movement in the early 1920s, civil disobedience in the early 1930s, and the Quit India campaign of 1942 were all events in which processional marches, prayer meetings and public rallies became affective theatrical performances, fundamentally sabotaging the functioning of the colonial public sphere. Increasingly, confined meeting places were abandoned in favour of assemblies in public squares and parks. Gaining momentum, the movement was propelled not just by the size of its audience but by the need to project ‘openness, the hint of defiance that an open public meeting granted.’99 It was in the streets that for the first time, the formation of crowds ‘allowed people to see themselves as a collective body’, supplanting earlier displays of a subservient, carefully selected audience mesmerised by the composed spectacle of the imperial pageant.100 Public space could either be occupied or strategically vacated to sabotage colonial expectations.101 Whereas in South Africa, Gandhi had been able to rely on local press photographers to report the dramatic burning of registration cards and his satyagraha

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Beyond or in Emergency? mass  campaigns, in India the 1910 Press Act and the subsequent Rowlatt Act of 1919 prevented the production and distribution of seditious photographic material.102 Due to this vigilant censoring, the circulation of photographs touching on political issues in vernacular newspapers was very limited. Unlike other mechanically reproduced images sanctioned by the British, which allowed Indians to channel their  political energies into religion, photographs were less conducive to this purpose.103 Political leaders such as Jinnah, Aurobindo Ghose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gandhi responded defiantly to the British press by launching numerous papers, including The Bombay Chronicle, Young India, The Leader and later The Hindustan Times. Hence their iconic portraits were singled out from the crowd, fostering ‘new forms of recognition, memory and mass perpetuity.’104 Gandhi was probably the first political figure to self-​consciously exploit photography for political purposes. Although the leader did not court photographers, he harnessed mechanical reproduction to affirm his iconic public persona, achieving the complete integration of private and public, as well as religious and secular realms, which he so crucially advocated both in his writings and his speeches.105 The relation between the leader’s asceticism and his command of mass publicity reveals how ‘Gandhian body politics were not so much a technology of world-​denying renunciation as the worldly condition of his communicative efficiency.’106 For this reason one could argue that Gandhi’s ‘experiments with truth’ were also ‘experiments with mass publicity’ and effective photographic strategies.107 In any case, the leader’s iconic status was crucial to his rise in 1920 to the hub of the anti-​colonial struggle, leading the Indian National Congress to assume control over the all-​India social movement. His powerful visual impact was reinforced by his ability to speak the language of the people, ‘touching’ their hearts and ‘moving’ hands and feet.108 Gestural simplicity was important in communicating with the local crowds, and likewise with the imagined international audience he had fostered.109 Yet Gandhi himself was often disappointed that the masses and the media congregated merely to see him, rather than to hear him speak. From the Johannesburg certificates bonfire of 1908, the Dandi Salt March of 1930, to the numerous ‘fasts unto death’ that Gandhi endured, his actions were all means to this end: the choreography of politics for both Indian and imagined international publics. Perhaps this is why Sarojini Naidu, a distinguished poet and Congress leader who could not take seriously the Mahatma’s saintly image, did not regard him either as a Buddha or Jesus but rather, the American cartoon character Mickey Mouse.110 Despite Gandhi’s view that the camera represented an ‘inferior

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Art and Emergency form’ of technology when compared to the charka (spinning wheel), black-​and-​ white photography played a pivotal role in moulding his public persona, especially in his pragmatic choice of clothing: khadi, a white hand-​spun and hand-woven cloth.111 Prior to Gandhi’s Swadeshi Movement, a person’s precise community and social standing could be readily ascertained from what he or she wore. It was ‘when enhanced with the bewitching touch of colour’ that the colourful symbolism, the lavish detail and the immaculate craftsmanship of Indian textiles could be brought into relief.112 Hence, black-​and-​white photography denoted ‘the pristine reference of the Western photographer, scholar, critic and connoisseur,’ and while supplying a reliable copy of reality, it was perceived by most as disappointingly monochrome.113 Gandhi, by contrast, harnessed the monochrome quality of photography to political advantage. Through his promotion of khadi, he sought to transform the ‘colonised body into an Indian body’, a project ideally suited to the black-​and-​white photograph.114 As most reporters were foreigners who catered for the demands of an international market, the wearing of khadi conveyed a clear, simple message to the untrained eye.115 It was America’s paramount industrial photographer, Margaret Bourke-​White, who took the most iconic photograph of Gandhi. Bourke-​White, a fierce and intrepid individual, was primarily a ‘photographer of objects, even of people as objects.’116 At the approach of the Great Depression in the United States, Bourke-​White had built her career shooting monumental steel mills, factories, dams and construction sites. By emphasising formal attributes such as detail, repetition and pattern, the photographer glorified the visual counterpart to American industrial progress and capitalist achievement. But in India, the unlikely subject of Bourke-​White’s focus was Gandhi, who was to become the nation’s most celebrated craftsman. Treating modern technology with disdain, Gandhi turned a blind eye to his dependence on photography and the media to propagate his message. While the spinner maintained that the charka alone symbolised the perfect ‘proletarianism of science’, Bourke-​White retorted that the camera represented a democratically superior form of handicraft.117 These tensions crystallise in Bourke-​White’s 1946 portrait: Mahatma Gandhi, April 1946, with his Charka, or Spinning Wheel, Symbol of India’s Struggle for Independence.118 A glance at the image (Figure 2.9) reveals Bourke-​White’s continued exploitation of industrial photographic techniques as reflected in the precise rendition of form, volume and depth of interior. Her modernist ambitions recall the words of American photographer Edward Weston, the supreme artist-​technician of the surface: ‘The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the living self, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.’119

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Figure 2.9  Margaret Bourke-​White, Mahatma Gandhi, April 1946, with his Charka, or Spinning Wheel, Symbol of India’s Struggle for Independence, photograph, 1946. Courtesy: Getty Images. 

Despite the instructions of Gandhi’s aides never to use flash, which was deemed disrespectful, Bourke-​White necessarily employed powerful flashbulbs inside the dim office. The flawless image is as much the result of Bourke-​White’s aggressive resolve as of her sitter’s cooperation. The Mahatma, appearing serenely oblivious to the photographer, is immortalised by Bourke-​White while reading intently –​ cropped, the giant arm of the spinning wheel (charka) appears frozen in time.120

Agitating and Organising: The CPI and the Role of Photography Although Gandhi relied very much on the attention that international press photographers granted him, he never engaged a photographer to provide pictures to meet specific editorial needs. By contrast, as early as 1942, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India, Puran Chand Joshi (P. C. Joshi), recognised the importance of photography in terms of political expediency. Decades earlier, Lenin had capitalised on photography, and particularly on a visual form of

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Art and Emergency journalism that could agitate and educate illiterate millions. ‘History in photos,’ he remarked, is ‘clear and comprehensible. No painter is able to depict on canvas what the camera sees.’121 After Lenin’s death, photography continued to play a pivotal political role in Soviet Russia. At the 1934 Congress of Soviet Writers, during Stalin’s leadership, artists, writers and photographers were called upon to ‘depict truthfully’ and fulfil the ‘needs of educating the masses in the spirit of Socialism.’122 Joshi’s enthusiastic adoption of the Stalinist line on visual and literary propaganda strangely resonated with Bourke-​ White’s photographic approach. Putting aside her political beliefs, Bourke-​White travelled across India with the CPI and Sunil Janah to cover the ‘fall of the British Empire’ for the US picture magazine Life.123 Disillusioned with the national movement, Joshi sought new ways to achieve political and social emancipation, endorsing the need for Communist Party members to occupy all ‘intellectual grounds from political parties and the press to education and cultural activities.’124 Advocating the Gramscian role of the ‘organic intellectual’, Joshi believed that intellectuals operating in semi-​democratic conditions were ‘distinguished less by their profession, which may be any job characteristic of their class, than by their function in directing the ideas and aspirations of the class to which they organically belong.’125 The influence of Communist thought played a greater role in India’s nationalist struggle following the break of diplomatic relations between England and Russia in 1927. Intellectual debates about the social function of art and literature had emerged in the mid-​1930s, culminating with the formation of the progressive cultural movement, the Anti-​ Fascist Writers’ and Artists’ Association of Bengal, in the early 1940s.126 By 1930, as the Comintern came under the influence of the Soviet Union and Stalin, its control over Indian Communists became dysfunctional. Though largely ignorant of the political and social situation of Asia, the Comintern referred all decisions on Indian Communist directives to the English Communist Ben Bradley, representative of the Communist Party of Great Britain.127 With no representative of its own at the Comintern headquarters in Moscow, Indian Communists experienced constant fluctuations in Comintern policy towards imperialism and the national movement.128 Banned by the Government of India in 1934, the CPI had been reduced to less than 50 members and stood isolated from the nationalist movement and the masses. In 1935, the scattered group met in Surat and elected Joshi as General Secretary of the Party. The election occurred in a critical period, when the implementation of the Sixth Congress thesis on colonial and semi-​colonial countries had reduced the CPI to a negligible existence.129

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Beyond or in Emergency? Despite the Soviet Central Committee diktat that all cultural endeavours should celebrate partiinost and abide by the doctrine of socialist realism (1932), Joshi enjoyed relative independence on the cultural front. By 1939, the CPI had emerged as a nationalist force with key regional members as well as an independent base among workers, peasants, students and intellectuals. This was a time at which the CPI leadership had begun to think independently, grasping the importance of developing a national consciousness within the Independence movement. Moreover, Joshi came to realise that ‘Marxism was, under colonial conditions, not a negation of, but an affirmation and further extension of nationalism.’130 Endorsing the propagandist policies propounded by the Central Committee, Joshi was also instrumental in founding several progressive cultural movements across India to bring art and politics closer to the people: the Progressive Writers’ Association (1935) and the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA).131 Moreover, Joshi was able to attract Sardar Jafri, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, P. C. Mahalanobis, and Bishnu Dey, some of the most progressive cultural figures in India.132 In 1941 under the direction of the Comintern the CPI abandoned the united front and extended full support to the war effort and to the British Indian government. Although the British legalised the CPI (it had continually been banned since its foundation), the Party’s abandonment of the united front and betrayal of the nationalist cause was interpreted as an act of treason by Congress.133 A pariah within Congress, the CPI now stood further isolated from the national movement and the mass of the people, comprising workers, peasants and students. But the sudden legalisation granted the Party an unprecedented visibility, which it exploited by launching a new national weekly newspaper, The People’s War. By means of this publication, the CPI was finally able to stage the nationalist struggle in the realm of the visual. Launching mass relief campaigns during the Bengal Famine, the CPI seized the opportunity for political expansion: by 1943, People’s War had a national circulation of 25,000–​30,000 copies, while the Party’s membership had grown rapidly, to an estimated 30,000 (up from 5,000 in 1942). That of its trade-​union following stood at a quarter of a million.134 Under Joshi’s leadership, Communist intellectuals, artists, actors and writers explored every available medium for the purposes of propaganda; each performed an essential mediating role in the struggle between class interests.135 Joshi’s organic vision would profoundly shape the theatre performances carried out by IPTA artists across villages and cities. Once photographed, the affective visual tropes developed for the stage became iconic, repeatable motifs that were reproduced and circulated in the press across India to inform, raise consciousness and stir up viewers (Figures 2.10 and 2.11).

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Figure  2.10  Photographer unknown, Before Famine, a Happy Village Scene, photograph (IPTA performance). Published in People’s War, 1944. Author’s collection. 

Figure 2.11  Photographer unknown, Come, Let’s Go to the City for Food, photograph (IPTA performance). Published in People’s War, 1944. Author’s collection. 

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Beyond or in Emergency? Studying for a Master’s degree in English Literature at Calcutta University, Janah had not intended to become a photographer. He lacked any professional training: My grandmother had bought me a Box Brownie when I was a mere boy and later a Voigtlander Brilliant camera. Within a few years, I became seriously addicted to photography. In this, I was aided and abetted by Shambu Saha, a well-​known photographer and friend of our family […] He had taught me all that I knew then of photography, including darkroom work, for which he let me use his own well-​equipped unit.136

At the time, many of Janah’s friends had found temporary jobs in the wartime offices set up in Calcutta. An acquaintance suggested to Janah that he apply for a job as a photographer advertised by the Inspectorate of Scientific Stores  –​an establishment where scientific, specifically military instruments supplied by colonial manufacturers were created, inspected and tested. The range of equipment comprised communications machinery, wireless receivers and transmitters, and optical instruments such as telescopes. Although Janah had no technical qualifications, his meticulous photographing of industrial objects got him the job. He recounts: I had to photograph ‘exploded’ views of these  –​all the components taken apart and placed one after the other in the right sequence, so that they could be accurately reassembled at the site with the help of these photographs and prepared instructions. I  also had to do many other precision jobs such as making telescope graticules and gauges for various instruments photographically. These demanded precision and technical skills I  had not yet acquired. Fortunately, we had an Englishman, E. J. Wender, the head of the optical section, a scientific fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, who was willing to help me understand and use the expertise needed. I learned how to make excellent, flawless prints. During the ten months that I worked there, I made up for my lack of technical training.137

Janah resigned from the job to prepare for his MA examinations, but, ‘swallowed up’ by the Communist Party, he never sat for his exams.138 Like many other students of his generation, Janah was strongly drawn towards Communist doctrines:  ‘Socialism, putting an end to all social injustices and the exploitation of any people, seemed to most of us the only worthwhile objective, which could be achievable only after India had won Independence.’139

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Art and Emergency Unlike freelance press photographers who provided an ongoing, rapid service and supply a variety of disparate images, Janah followed specific political events, aiming in each case to create a single image that could sum up a complex story in its entirety and ‘bring clearly before the mind the events of their time.’140 The selection of the images, along with their arrangement, sequencing and layout was carried out in consultation with the editorial hierarchy of the Party journal.141 The most significant difference in method between the CPI’s output and other press photographs, however, concerned the text. The press photographer normally exerted no control over it and had little contact with the author. The Party photographer, on the other hand, had a tacitly understood relationship with the narrative and could often determine the function and use of the images. Despite the fact that photographic documentation was more suited to recording the changing present, Joshi also commissioned Party artists –​including Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Zainul Abedin, Gobardhan Ash, Somnath Hore, Gopal Ghose and Quamrul Hassan –​to sketch the effects of the famine ‘from life’ with the simplest and most rudimentary of media: pen and paper.142 Largely inspired by the contemporary Chinese example, classical and lyrical qualities were removed from this art to create graphic documents of a debased humanity.143 This greater reliance on craft and artisanal ways of documenting the human catastrophe, as Janaki Nair observes, suggests the artists’ more personal involvement with the famine phenomenon.144

Necropolitics and Necropower in Bengal Eternal life Enough of poetry Bring us rough, dry prose. Let the music of subtle stanzas fade, Raise the hammer of bold prose today. Poetry, I say goodbye to you, Your pleasures are not needed, The earth is wrought in prose –​ Under the reign of hunger. The moon is a burnt piece of bread.145 The immediate cause of starvation in Bengal was the dramatic rise in prices, which prevented peasants and rural workers from buying food. But the

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Beyond or in Emergency? breakdown in the market and in the distribution of food largely resulted from war-​related measures.146 Following Japan’s entry into the war in 1941 and the occupation of Rangoon from 1942, all rice supplies from Burma were cut off. Repeated bombing (by Japanese forces) of Chittagong –​a major coastal seaport centre and a crucial British military base in south-​eastern Bengal –​caused much damage and heightened tensions in Calcutta. Simultaneously, the call to ‘Quit India’ during August 1942 triggered a militant movement in the Tamluk and Contai subdivisions of the Midnapore district (Bengal), which was brutally punished by the British. The Boat Denial and ‘scorched earth’ policies implemented by British forces, ostensibly to foil Japanese attacks, destroyed some 66,000 simple watercraft boats, representing the sole source of income for hundreds of thousands of fishermen, fish merchants and peasants along the coastal region.147 These initiatives dramatically disrupted the regional economy, but worse was yet to come; on 16 October, a cyclone devastated the coastal regions of Bengal. The subdivisions where resistance had been strongest were crushed; countless villages and fishing colonies were razed to the ground, with grave loss of lives. The effect was the destruction of the rice crop, aggravated by the forcible movement of some 35,000 peasant households for ‘military reasons’. Under the same scheme, termed the Rice Denial Policy, local cultivators were forced to sell 40,000 tons of grain for consumption by military and industrial workers based in the city of Calcutta. These measures unleashed a ‘psychosis of shortage’ whereby local producers and traders hoarded large quantities of rice away from markets, for speculative purposes.148 Treating the colony as an occupied territory, the Government of India constrained a vast subject population to the status of the ‘living dead’. Colonial supplies were exploited to the utmost: food grains, c.40,000 tons per month, were sent to the main Mediterranean war theatres; the entire commercial output of timber, textile, steel and cement was requisitioned; Calcutta factory workers were instructed to produce ammunitions, bombs and weaponry; and in Bombay, mills manufactured uniforms. Even the railway lines were melted down to contribute to the war effort.149 Viceroy Lord Wavell himself, in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1944, remarked that ‘the vital problems of India are being treated by His Majesty’s Government with neglect, even sometimes with hostility and contempt.’150 The Government of India’s endorsement of the concept of ‘provincial responsibility’ decisively limited relief measures. The London administration refused to ship provisions and the War Cabinet, which controlled all shipping to and from the colony,

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Art and Emergency turned down international offers of grain aid on its behalf. The hostile country was treated as an occupied territory: the War Cabinet, while ensuring that tens of thousands of nationalists remained in prison, preserved internal security by conscripting as many foreign sepoys as possible. Moreover, it retained absolute control over the press and exercised full emergency powers of arrest and detention.

Cecil Beaton’s Famine Chic and Fashion Victims My whole conception is that of India humming from end to end with the activity in munitions and supply production and at the same time with the bustle of men training for active service of one sort or another, the first operation largely paying for the cost of the second.151 We do want particularly, good pictures showing the War effort in India and all the social services of all kinds.152

Although the Bengal Famine was originally a rural phenomenon, city-​dwellers, initially protected by subsidised food distribution schemes, soon found they had to share supplies with the flood of destitute rural dwellers pouring into the city. In Calcutta, most rural refugees died of starvation or related diseases. The dramatic countryside exodus was one of the most striking aspects of the famine; it became a central motif in contemporary literary and visual representations.153 Focusing on the urban impact of the famine-​generated mass emigration, most stories recount the journeys of country folk to Calcutta, their plight once there, with seldom any possibility of return. In 1943, numerous reports appeared in the Calcutta-​based English-​language newspapers, the Statesman and Hindustan Standard, accompanied by harrowing photographs depicting the predicament of the impoverished refugees in the city. Amongst these, we find images of corpses lying on pavements, women prostituting themselves, and orphans plundering dustbins. Interestingly, the images produced by London-​born fashion photographer Cecil Beaton (1904–​80), offered British viewers a glamorous picture of the Indian situation. At the beginning of World War II, Beaton’s career was at a low ebb following a scandal over an anti-​semitic jibe he was purported to have made. The war offered Beaton a great opportunity for personal and professional redemption. Appointed by Sir Kenneth Clark, Controller of Home Publicity at the Ministry of

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Beyond or in Emergency? Information (MOI), and Hugh Francis, Controller of Photographs, Beaton became the Empire’s official photographer during the war years. Between 1942 and 1945, the MOI sent the photographer to cover the war effort in Calcutta –​then a crucial, strategic post. Subject to censorship, Beaton’s photographs were circulated by the MOI to all major British newspapers as well as abroad. While sojourning in Calcutta, Beaton wrote with enthusiasm about the varying aspects of ‘India’s effort in the war’: the factories where precision instruments and aircraft were manufactured, the gun and rifle shops, and the social institutions set up in support of the war.154 He described the graceful women of Calcutta in their draped sarees, lined up like ‘caryatids’, carrying heavy sacks of jute on their ‘proud’ heads.155 Away from the devastating landscape of war-​torn London, the photographer indulged in the spectacle provided by the Indian scenery. He writes: I am able to enjoy in a leisurely manner some of the glimpses that the shutter of my camera were able to perpetuate. From the thousands of incidents recorded by my lens, I admire once more the noble courage of the Indian warriors, rendering such invaluable service in the jungle, on the sea, in the air. I see again the extraordinary elegance and natural dignity of the inhabitants of this gargantuan country, their elongated limbs like living bronze statues, their eyes mysterious and dove-​like, their lips full and sensuous.156

Beaton was given no brief, but encouraged to use his ‘own style’ and imbue the MOI’s propaganda campaign on the war in Southeast Asia with a touch of glamour. ‘The British do not approve of propaganda, but they are content that events should be recorded,’ Beaton wrote.157 The photographer was commissioned to focus not upon scenic wonders such as the Taj Mahal or the Himalayas but on ‘background subjects’, presumably civilians.158 The intention was to document the smooth and efficient running of urban India and produce portraits of, among others, the industrious women and men working in jute and ordnance factories, and disciplined Bengali schoolgirls in their immaculate starched uniforms. By contrast, Beaton’s photographs of the Bengali countryside convey a romantic, pastoral nostalgia. Carefully designed, perfectly composed and idealised, they are reminiscent of his Vogue and Vanity Fair shoots as in the photograph Bengali Labourer, in which we see a robust peasant pose like an American pin-​up against cumulus clouds (Figure 2.12). A monumental staged procession unfolds before us in the photograph Rice Cultivation, Bengal: young, half-​clad coolies carry straw bundles on their heads in

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Figure 2.12  Cecil Beaton, Bengali Labourer, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Imperial War Museum.

catwalk fashion.159 There is no visual clue as to the misery and devastation brought upon the Bengali countryside and its inhabitants by the famine. Beaton’s photographs offer British viewers the fiction of peace and cooperation in the occupied territories. Bengal becomes the land of plenty; fertile fields, happy peasants and smiling schoolgirls. Any evidence of the complete disintegration of rural customary patterns of work and subsistence, along with the disruption of social ties and order, is excluded from these images.

In Search of Famine? Sunil Janah and the Bengal Famine 1943–4 If you are a regular reader of People’s War, you may have observed that our photographs tell you stories. They are not put in simply as decorations.160

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Beyond or in Emergency? Once the CPI had woken up to the full horror of the famine, Joshi travelled to Calcutta from Bombay with the intention of finding and recruiting the young Communist student and amateur photographer, Janah. Seventy years later, this is how Janah describes the encounter: Joshi wanted to travel around Bengal to make a detailed reportage of the famine for the Party’s journal. We had met a few times earlier, and he had come to know of my amateur skills from the photographs he had seen published in the Illustrated Weekly. When summoned by him, I turned up at the local Party office. Joshi asked me to accompany him on his projected tour across famine-​ravaged Bengal, and informed me, that this tour was to begin on the very next day! […] What we saw, travelling from village to village, was a recurrent, chilling nightmare. Unlike in the more publicized famines that have occurred in Africa in later decades, no international relief had come to the aid of the people –​in fact, not even the news of the dimensions of the calamity had reached the outside world. The British-​owned news agencies operating in India were chary of any detailed reporting of events in India that could be used to the disadvantage of the Allied forces. During a world war, the plight of  starving Bengalis and other unfortunate Indians was not anyone’s priority, or even concern.161

Janah’s firsthand experience of the famine culminated in a photo essay published in People’s War in November 1943, entitled ‘Toiling Orissa faces Death’ (Figure 2.13). The photo essay comprised a written report by party member S. S. Batliwala, interlocked with Janah’s black-​and-​white photographs. In the essay, Batliwala describes how the province of Orissa, situated in the south of Bengal and within easy reach of enemy attacks, had been ravaged by the famine. He attributes much of the responsibility for the famine’s intensification to Government corruption, and more importantly to private speculators who purchased, hoarded and sold large quantities of rice. The situation, if allowed to continue, would not only cause the miserable death of many but also break the people’s morale, encouraging a Japanese counter-​offensive. In the image Skeletons Strewn on a Field Dumped with the Dead, Orissa Famine, skulls and bones lie in an open field (Figure 2.14). The bleached skeletons follow a serpentine curve, creating a horrific tableau. The photograph offers the viewer a surrogate for the real event, transforming trauma into aesthetic catastrophe.162 The theatrical quality of the image evokes photographer Felice Beato’s Interior of Sikanderbagh, taken in the aftermath of the

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Figure 2.13  ‘Toiling Orissa Faces Death’, People’s War, 1944. Author’s collection. 

1857 Mutiny.163 Dug up by order of the photographer, the skeletal remains of slaughtered sepoys and prosthetic additions of dubious provenance were arranged across the grounds of the interior pavilion for a macabre photo op.164 Both images offer choreographies designed to elicit ghoulish responses: Beato’s disastrous panorama celebrates conflict, the advancement of political sovereignty and the triumph of British imperial might; Janah indicts the Empire in its disastrous collapse, by documenting the violence and the failure of colonial governmentality.165 Similarly theatrical is the image Dog Eating the Skeletal Remains of a Corpse, Orissa Famine, (On the Road to Rai Bania Village) (Figure 2.15). Janah zooms in on a semi-​decomposed corpse being devoured by a dog. The dog gnaws at the remains of the lower pelvis; the upper part of the skeleton recalls the figure of Christ on the cross. Upon closer inspection, the bones don’t match; they are mere props used to enhance the graphic horror. Below the photograph, in bold lettering, is the appeal, ‘Orissa Needs Your Help Send All You Can’, encouraging

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Figure 2.14  Sunil Janah, Skeletons Strewn on a Field Dumped with the Dead, Orissa Famine, 1944: No Resources Were Available for Cremation, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

patriots to send money to the Orissa Provincial Committee of the Communist Party. Shortly afterwards, another photo essay entitled ‘Who Lives if Bengal Dies?’ was published in People’s War (Figure 2.16). The four-​sequence montage sums up with bleak realism the rural migrants’ dispiriting march unto death: ‘Quitting the Village’, ‘On the Pavement’ (which we encountered at the beginning of the chapter), ‘In the Relief Hospital’, and ‘On the Burning Ghat’. In ‘Quitting the Village’, a family sets out on the unknown journey which will slowly but surely cause its complete dis­integration. Gradually pressed to the ground, metabolism slows and living and waiting to die become one. As the men and women falter and collapse to the ground, the camera shutter closes closer to them. The same compositions and tropes resurface in the play The March of Death, performed by IPTA actors across India to raise awareness and generate funds

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Figure 2.15  Sunil Janah, Dog Eating the Skeletal Remains of a Corpse, Orissa Famine, 1944. (On the Road to Raibania Village), photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

for famine relief. But in the pages of People’s War, Janah’s photographic narrative and Joshi’s firsthand accounts are directed towards saving the famine victims and staving off Japan’s impending invasion. Patriots are urged to send money to the People’s Relief Committee of Bengal: ‘To let famine rage in Bengal is to let Bengal die, to let famine invade the rest of the country and tempt the Japs to invade Bengal.’166 Responsibility for the famine is attributed to the greedy private speculators, not the Government of India. To reinforce the charity appeal, the last page of the report includes Janah’s photograph Orphans Waiting for Food at a Famine Relief Centre, Orissa Famine (Figure 2.17). Under a black sky, hundreds of orphans squat in a field. Janah kneels down with his camera: the affective experience of the famine becomes a communal affair. By 1945, the Bengal Famine had spread southward, gripping large areas of southern India. That same year, the editorial board of Life sent Bourke-​White to

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Figure 2.16  ‘Who Lives if Bengal Dies?’, People’s War, 1943. Author’s collection. 

Figure 2.17  Sunil Janah, Orphans Waiting for Food at a Famine-​Relief Centre, Orissa Famine, 1944, photograph, 1944. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

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Art and Emergency India to witness the ‘fall of the British Empire’.167 Struck by Janah’s photographs in Calcutta, Bourke-​White travelled to the CPI headquarters in Bombay to meet with him. Janah narrates: I was scheduled to go down and photograph what was happening there, but joining Margaret Bourke-​White on the same trail would mean that Life Magazine would unknowingly be paying for some of the expenses of the Communist Party of India. I travelled first class in the Railways and drove around half the South Indian peninsula in a hired car with a driver […] instead of travelling by bus between cities and walking the rest of the way, as had been my lot […] We were constantly together and I found that we went about our work in a very similar manner except for one big difference, the time and materials we could expend on every photograph. When we were recording things happening and did not need to, or could do nothing to change what was before us, we both took our photographs rapidly –​she with her Rolleiflex and I with my Leica. But when we found the possibilities and the time to do some rearranging of the scene we preferred to stage ‘posed candids’. I would be content with shifting the position of people a little, taking a little more time to shoot three or four pictures with my Rolleiflex, which had a larger format than my 35mm Leica. But she would whip out her larger format camera, a 4x5 Linhoff Technika, put it on a tripod, grab her flash gun, attach the flash cord to her camera, and direct the people in the scene until she had them exactly as she wanted. Then she would, like an old-​fashioned photographer, put her black focusing cloth over her head, and take time to focus on the ground glass. The semblance ended there, because she would then shoot four, six, eight, ten or 20 times, pulling out the tabs of her film pack in quick succession, until she was satisfied […] Bourke-​White’s style of photography was monumental, the construction she built up was starkly architectural, yet the results were unfailing in the rendition of the minutest of detail. I could see for myself what stubborn persistence and effort it took to achieve that.168

Shooting with a handheld Rolleiflex and no flash, Janah took advantage of the better technology provided by his American colleague. When Bourke-​White’s flash set off, Janah photographed with a rapid shutter using the light she provided. A glance at Men Leaving Their Villages to Walk to the Relief Centres in the District Towns, Andhra Pradesh, 1945 (originally entitled Rayalseema Famine), reveals the profound impact of this exposure on his technique and approach (Figure 2.18). More humane than Bourke-​White, Janah refrained from using aggressive lighting,

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Figure 2.18  Sunil Janah, Men Leaving Their Villages to Walk to the Relief Centres in the District Towns, Andhra Pradesh, 1945, photograph, 1945. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

which petrified sitters and undermined the candid shot.169 This concern with more humane and less invasive forms of documentation that convey resistance and pathos –​such as the use of pen and ink –​is something we now turn to.

With a Brush and a Little Ink Significant differences emerge when comparing Janah’s photographic documentation to the sketches made by Communist artist Chittaprosad Bhattacharya. Whereas Janah’s ‘march of death’ unfolded from the village to the city, Chittaprosad in 1943 travelled backwards, from Calcutta to the famine-​stricken villages in the Contai subdivision of the Midnapore district. The 22 pen-​and-​ink sketches Chittaprosad created were published serially alongside his eyewitness accounts of the famine in People’s War, and also as a small book (censored by the British)

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Art and Emergency entitled Hungry Bengal: A Tour through Midnapur District, by Chittaprosad, in November 1944.170 Entirely devoted to the famine, the three-​rupee publication was the first of its kind.171 The themes included: ‘Trek Back’, ‘Calcutta Pavement’, ‘Desert Villages’, ‘Humanity Dehumanised’ and ‘Withered Buds’. Accompanied by another Party member, Chittaprosad describes the multitude of abandoned and huddled-​together men and women, the long wait in the dismal relief kitchens and the improvised hospitals along the road, the ‘procession of famished, helpless, living skeletons’.172 Interviews conducted with victims encountered on the way occasioned Chittaprosad’s on-​the-​spot life studies, made with rudimentary pen and ink on paper (Figure 2.19). Unlike quick sketching, wherein a sense of urgency is conveyed, the drawings transmit the artist’s care for his sitters and comrades. Protest and anger emerge from Chittaprosad’s written account, but also dismal frustration at his inability to provoke any agency in his subjects. Despite his attempts, they all remain passive and apathetic.173 ‘Lines are brisk and denote turns and

Figure  2.19 Chittaprosad Bhattacharya, Hoogli, June 1944, pen on paper, 1944. Courtesy: Delhi Art Gallery. 

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Beyond or in Emergency? hooks which terminate in sharp jabs, thin space between the two contour lines of a limb are filled in to emphasise the skeleton-​thin apparition of shrunken bodies.’174 Most sitters had sold all their belongings to procure food, hence little indication of their professional or social standing emerges from the sketches. Making use of the prolonged temporality afforded by the drawing process, Chittaprosad identifies each sitter for the reader, inscribing his name, age, religion, former profession and life expectancy on each sheet of paper. Some sitters even appear reluctant to ‘sit’; commenting in 1943, a bedridden famine victim observed: ‘I am ashamed to be ill. I don’t like being sketched in my sickbed, the last place a Bolshevik should be.’175 Chittaprosad expresses his disgust at the neglect suffered by the people of Midnapore, who a few years earlier had rebelled so courageously against the British.176 Making apparent his artistic and political agenda, Chittaprosad critiqued fellow artists for their sensationalist or reified representation of the famine, which contrasted with the CPI’s call for realism:177 I saw the advantages of graphic techniques and I was fairly intimate with the medium of pen and ink, and with the swiftness of pencil sketches. I did not go to generalize famine in my works and did not get lost in moral or formal abstractions, nor did I go for any ineffective “theatrical hysterics”, to mention the very unhappy weaknesses which overcame many important artists of the country those days, particularly those who could afford to avoid any direct contact with the famine victims […] There were still other artists, particularly from Bengal, who looked at national tragedy through their respective individual formal mannerisms and reduced the famine-​victims to performances of ghastly and ridiculous tricks to draw the attention of the world. Apart from the shocking debauchery committed by these artists against the integrity of the great masses, we are alarmed by the fact that what they performed was, they claimed, fundamentally an expression of social realism and experiments in Indian national form! […] If it was physically possible, I would have met and sketched each of the three million individuals who perished in that massacre. Because it was only through the sketches and reports that I could participate in their living and death-​struggle to retain from total extinction all the values which made life and society worthwhile for them as well as for me.178

Turning to the images of another party member, the artist Zainul Abedin, the socialist realist style used by Chittaprosad gives way to the bleaker, expressionistic

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Figure 2.20  Zainul Abedin, Famine Sketch, ink on paper, 1943. Courtesy: Mainul Abedin.

use of pen and ink (Figure 2.20). Abedin’s life studies were exhibited by the CPI in Calcutta in 1943, while others made their way into the public realm in the book, Darkening Days: Being a Narrative of Famine-​Stricken Bengal (1944).179 Predictably, these images were all censored by the colonial state in the national interest, and through their proscription their power of representation was enhanced.180 If an effort is made, in most of Chittaprosad’s images, to preserve the family unit and delay its fragmentation, Abedin’s sketches foreground its total disintegration, caused by the ignominy of starvation. In his visual chronicle, the artist highlights the influx of rural refugees and the unattended corpses scattered on the streets of Calcutta. Using a rough, dry-​brush technique on leftover scraps of paper, Abedin avoids the romantic tonalities of chiaroscuro ‘save for the points at which the split hairs of the brush created a textural modulation at the termination of a stroke.’181 Fashioned with sparse lines, Abedin’s figures are anonymous.

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Beyond or in Emergency? The narrative structure of Darkening Days (illustrated by Abedin with text by Ela Sen) is in itself telling: the front and back of the book, beginning and end converge in a single sketch: a baby gropes for the breast of his mother. Darkening Days offers no climax, but only the relentless figurative stream of refugees as they abandon their homes and head for the city. Sen writes: ‘The sufferings of our people have been deposited beyond our vision to give credence that all is

Figure 2.21  Zainul Abedin, Famine Sketch, ink on paper, 1943. Courtesy: Mainul Abedin.

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Art and Emergency well once more.’182 The narrative is often abruptly interrupted by images, as we roam over the pavements of Calcutta: a corpse, a crow perched on a bony leg, a dog scavenging amongst human remains. Abedin drains the expansive descriptions provided by Sen with economic and angular brush strokes. Moreover, Abedin limits any reference to the outside world: we barely perceive the edge of a pavement, the rim of a dustbin, gutters and railway tracks. Sometimes human figures disappear altogether and dogs roam empty streets. In Close to the Ground Abedin draws men and women with huge feet, less to suggest their endless peregrinations than to emphasise their dehumanisation and proximity to death.183 Unlike Chittaprosad’s sitters, Abedin’s subjects have no time to pose and be drawn. They ignore the viewer, turning their backs to us as they rummage through rubbish. In one sketch, a mother and her two children trudge forward, clutching their empty bowls (Figure 2.21). Sketched on the edge of the picture, they offer a fleeting glimpse of their fugitive subsistence: the vanishing point of being human. In the watercolours of another artist, Gobardhan Ash, hope dissipates entirely. Under a large banyan tree, figures can be barely discerned. The family has become an abstract bundle of bones. Ash reminds us of the nameless multitude that once tilled the soil, now subject to starvation. The documentary efforts performed by these artists was undertaken despite the availability of photography:  the power of the handmade, black-​and-​white representation was perhaps considered more moving, even more interactive than the photographic image. Janah himself would, later in his career, admit to his dissatisfaction with recording the plight of the starving with a mechanical device in a hurried manner, rather than responding more humanely to the struggle for survival.

Immortal Famine? Neither life nor death, it is the haunting of the one by the other… Ghosts…184

The famine images produced by Janah and the CPI artists represented the first attempt in the history of modern India to expose the plight of refugees and visually inspire resistance for political expediency. During the final decade of India’s battle for freedom in which genocide, famine, war and populist politics were defining factors, these images constitute one of the most compelling visual attempts to

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Beyond or in Emergency? create and mobilise a mass public. Whatever threats were posed to the colonial order by these images of ‘bare life’, what is interesting to note is the silence in the national narrative with regard to these works. This tenuous and fragile legacy has barely been acknowledged in historical accounts of Indian art, with art historians skirting around it. In 1945, as World War II drew to a close, Britain’s brief flirtation with the CPI came to an end. A redundant ally in the fight against Fascism, CPI members ‘were promptly told where they belonged.’185 Janah continued to photograph political events for the Party up until 1947, when at the Second National Conference of the CPI, leading members declared the bankruptcy of Independence. Moving from the People’s War line back to the strategy of anti-​imperialist struggle, the CPI Central Committee described the postwar years in India as ‘the period of unprecedented opportunity to make the final bid for power’.186 Mindful of the Red Army’s successes, the victories in the People’s Liberation War in China, and the armed struggle for Independence in Southeast Asia, the CPI surmised that a greater degree of insurgence against British rule in India was all the more justified. Party officials were convinced that the interests of landlords and princes were inextricably entangled with the Empire and suspected an impending alliance between ‘British big business and their Indian brothers’. For this reason, the CPI sought to unleash agitation on a national scale to unite the industrial workers with the peasants.187 In 1947, however, on India’s attaining Independence at the cost of the brutal Partition, the unrest ended. Following further upheaval in the CPI in 1948, the Party splintered; former General Secretary P.  C. Joshi and several members, including Janah, were expelled.188 Their dismissal marked the dissolution of the CPI and the collapse of a movement that had radically transformed the meaning and social function of art. As Janah would recount: For many of us, the disastrous Partition of our country, and the murderous communal riots that accompanied India’s Independence, were a heartbreak from which we never recovered. Independence had not brought any beginnings of a new era, nor any remarkable changes in the country, not even the promise of any. I did not rejoin the Communist Party, nor did I want to join any other party. I felt that I could never be a political activist again […] Independence did not, of course, bring relief to the appalling miseries of our people, but it happened to coincide with the termination of my Communist Party days and relieved me from the onerous task of recording further miseries.189

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Art and Emergency A politically disillusioned Janah returned to Calcutta in 1948, where he set up a private commercial photographic studio. Completely dissociating himself from Party politics, he began to work for the Government of India. Under Prime Minister Nehru’s drive for rapid industrialisation during the 1950s, Janah found himself covering the country’s major industrial and development ventures.190 The projects came under the Indian Government’s first Five-​Year Plan, Nehru’s ‘new temples’ of modern India. The Hindustan Steel Works, the first public sector undertaking in the steel industry, commissioned Janah to photograph the building of three of Nehru’s temples: at Durgapur in West Bengal, Rourkela in Orissa, and Bhilai in Central India. The function of photography here was no longer to critique poor labour conditions and the plight of workers, but redirected toward producing lavish marketing brochures to attract interest from potential (foreign) investors. The figure of the worker appears entirely subordinated to the machine. Up until the early 1960s, Janah continually engaged with heavy industry, working for leading Indian industrialists and businessmen such as J.  R. D.  Tata and G. D. Birla, and for British mercantile firms. In photographing the mining of coal, manganese, bauxite and aluminium, he produced images celebrating the economic foundations of post-​colonial India. In its latter incarnation, documentary photography acquires a different propagandistic purpose. Reminiscent of Bourke-​White’s industrial photography, Janah glamorises machines and industrial prowess at the expense of the workers. The industrial landscape is a ‘photographic paradise’, remarked Bourke-​White of the Cleveland Otis Steel Mills in the early thirties.191 Janah too delights in the novel spectacle of smokestacks, derricks and titanic machinery. In the image, commissioned by the Tata Iron and Steel Company in 1957, Bihar, (originally entitled There She Blows Setting the Jamshedpur Sky Aglow) two gigantic Bessemer converters emit toxic clouds of smoke (Figure 2.22). The converters dwarf the two workers, their faces blurred, who are casually depicted in the background. The contrast between the scale of the human figure and the machine is further accentuated in Steel Smelting Shop, Tata Iron and Steel Co. Jamshedpur, from 1957 (Figure 2.23). Singling out the steel smelting area of the factory, the viewer is titillated by the play of light generated by the repetitive crates positioned on the ground. The titanic arm of a machine steers a colossal vessel along its tracks, moving towards a Lilliputian worker with his Nehru cap. The spectral figure of the factory worker resurfaces in the highly choreographed photograph Women Workers During Construction at a Thermal Power Plant in Bihar, One of Independent India’s First, 1950s (Figure 2.24). Female adivasi (tribal) workers descend a vertiginous staircase

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Figure  2.22  Sunil Janah, Bessemer Blowing at Tata Iron and Steel Co., Jamshedpur, Bihar, 1950s, photograph, 1957. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

balancing baskets on their heads, their bodies profiled against the stark diagonal of the scaffolding.192 The precarious and backbreaking work of women is beautifully packaged for the viewer and the potential investor. Towards the end of his photographic career, an embittered Janah began to photograph India’s adivasi communities. Meeting the well-​known British anthropologist Verrier Elwin, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship and association, Janah spent much of his free time escaping the narrow bounds of cheerless, staid respectability in search of the communal experience of tribal life.193 Janah’s

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Figure 2.23  Sunil Janah, Steel Melting Shop, Tata Iron and Steel Co., Jamshedpur, Bihar, 1957, photograph, 1957. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

primitivist fascination with vanishing pre-​industrial humanity was fuelled by the very forces of development that would eventually annihilate this humanity. This is particularly so in the case of adivasi men and women, recruited as industrial labourers in Nehruvian India and brutally dispossessed of their lands through the construction of factories, dams and mines. Janah’s glorification of the machine and upholding of the brutal, extractive post-​colonial economy, parallels the sexual fetishisation of adivasi women as in the photograph Younger of the Two Sisters from Poonani Village Whom I Spotted on a Beach. They Were Picking Sea Shells for a

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Figure 2.24  Sunil Janah, Women Workers During Construction at a Thermal Power Plant in Bihar, One of Independent India’s First, 1950s, photograph, 1949. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah.

Lime Factory (Figure 2.25).194 The adolescent girl closes her eyes as she coyly offers her breasts to the voracious gaze of the camera. From an overview of Janah’s career as a photographer, we can see him moving from the turbulent arena of pre-​Independence India to the intimate, personal space of the studio, and finally towards nature, a realm seemingly untainted by industry. Whether Janah, in his documenting of idyllic tribal life, was unconsciously shouldering blame for his political disillusionment, is something that enhances the mystery around him.

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Figure  2.25 Sunil Janah, Younger of the Two Sisters from Poonani Village Whom I Spotted on a Beach. They Were Picking Sea Shells for a Lime Factory. Malabar, Kerala, 1940s, photograph, 1945. Courtesy: Arjun Janah. © Sunil Janah. 

Under the leadership of Joshi, the CPI played a crucial role in providing food, shelter and medical aid to the victims of the Famine of 1943. Janah’s photographs can be seen to contribute to this surge of relief activity during the emergency years of World War II. For this reason they represent a peculiar moment in the history of Indian photojournalism, a history marked by the CPI’s paradoxical endorsement of the People’s War line. Though the social welfare operations backed by the CPI challenged the hegemony of the Indian national movement during the 1940s, they offered no genuine political alternative. As Joshi would later put it: ‘Ultimately, we failed in our basic task, namely, to explain the roots of the problems which confronted the masses.’195 Unable to comprehend and critique the long-​term economic, social and political factors which had made such a society so peculiarly fragile and vulnerable, the CPI failed to explain the famine phenomenon: what had marked its onset, its duration, and future, horrific incarnations. Janah too,

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Beyond or in Emergency? while a committed Communist, was aware that mere act of taking photographs would not change the course of events: I do not relish, to this day, the fact that I earned my early fame from the grim business of photographing the starving, the dying and the dead victims of a dreadful famine. Joshi had impressed upon me, however, the need for bringing this hidden tragedy to light, and my only consolation had been that our reportage brought the unfortunate victims of this man-​made famine some long-​overdue attention, and may have prodded relief efforts.196

Janah’s inability to radicalise his subjects can perhaps be linked to the CPI’s precarious allegiance with the British during the war.197 The latter prevented the Party from embracing a truly revolutionary practice. As Joshi would later state (in 1965): ‘The historic tragedy of the Indian Revolution was that the Indian Communists were too blinded by Stalinist dogmatism to make a positive contribution in shaping the course of events.’198 Janah’s disaffection with party politics explains his reticence to describe some of these photographs. He further recounts: Photographs cannot make a political statement directly, but they can arouse emotions that can be harnessed for social and political causes. I did that for a time, and then, although politics was never expunged from my thoughts, I  settled instead on taking photographs with no other purpose than that of pleasing myself and, perhaps, others too. These photographs captured moments from the history of our people and from the events, experiences and encounters of my lifetime, and they may have, in Susan Sontag’s words from one of her essays on photography, “conferred on them some kind of immortality.”199

Conclusion This chapter has proposed that the man-​made catastrophe of the Bengal Famine precipitated the emergence of a novel form of documentary photography. The magnitude of the calamity of the Bengal Famine spurred Communist Party member and photographer Sunil Janah to capitalise on the documentary form, developing novel ways to photograph the ravaged body and foster awareness around the disaster. Famines were severe and recurrent in the late nineteenth century in India and had in part fomented the growth of a nationalist critique of colonial rule. The experience of famine and the widespread agreement among nationalists as to British responsibility had a deep impact on the aspirations and convictions of 123

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Art and Emergency Indian leaders and their movements. The mass poverty and suffering made palpable in the phenomenon of famine forced nationalists to pay greater attention to the plight of rural populations. Hence famine was not only part of the critique of colonial rule, it became the lash with which to ‘whip’ the British for their oppressive and cruel regime of conquest –​the permanent state of emergency imposed by colonial rule. The CPI built upon the ongoing indictment of British rule in India, but was also able to radically transform the meaning and social function of art. Janah’s famine photographs starkly differ from surviving images of nineteenth-​century famines made by British photographers. For this reason they offer a rare and startling visual account of a collective catastrophe that touched upon the lives of millions. Julian Stallabrass has suggested that fine art has a propensity to claim ownership over anything which ‘is on the point of death, and photography, in particular, has a strong disposition to transform its images into memento mori.’200 A similar case can be made for Janah’s photographs. Two spectres –​his faith in Communism, and his modernist aesthetic –​continue to haunt his images. Up until his ongoing engagement with remote adivasi communities, one senses the photographer’s repeated desire to capture the fugitive in the moment of extinction, and to fix the ephemeral and transitory in a stable and stabilising image. Janah’s images are thus more in tune with the process of expiry than that of becoming.201 This impulse to fix the fleeting moment underpinned much of the early anthropological activity of bringing images and information about the ‘other’ to the Western viewer. Writer James Clifford compellingly describes the activity of photographers or anthropologists who, in lamenting the extinction of the ‘last x’, seek to rescue it at the instant of its permanent disappearance.202 The collapse and failure of the CPI in the wake of Partition, along with Janah’s own disillusionment with party politics, spurred the photographer to secure industrial commissions on behalf of the Nehruvian state. Much of Janah’s photography –​famine victims, death and adivasi groups –​is concerned with suspending time and preserving fragments of the past, as photography becomes a form of petrification: a funerary monument, an epitaph. And even beyond the failure and political dismemberment of the CPI, Janah’s images are a record of utopia and salvage: memorials to broken promises. As Benjamin reminds us, the return of the departed is always a haunting.203

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3 Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi: Gaganendranath Tagore 1905–​21

Sometimes this literature of just-​before-​the-​battle is dominated by humour and allegory; but often too it is symptomatic of a period of distress and difficulty, where death is experienced and disgust too. We spew ourselves up, but already underneath laughter can be heard.1 ​Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 1961

Introduction Opposing ‘fantasy’ to ‘imagination’, anthropologist Arjun Appadurai suggests that while the former divorces thought from action, connoting escapism and passivity, imagination can be interpreted as a social force, capable of engendering ideas of commonality and creating the wherewithal for action.2 Moreover, imagination ‘has a projective sense about it, the sense of being a prelude to some sort of expression, whether aesthetic or otherwise.’3 The focus of Appadurai’s discussion is how the contemporary global circulation of electronic media transforms everyday subjectivities to create diasporic public spheres (citing the example of terrorists emulating Rambo-​like figures, or housewives internalising soap operas to recreate their lives).4 The further one’s public sphere is removed from the direct experience of metropolitan modernity, Appadurai explains, the more it is prone to construct an imagined world that is ‘aesthetic, even fantastic’, especially when appraised according to the standard of another (Eurocentric) perspective.5 With respect to the work of Pakistani artist Sadequain Naqqash (1930–​87), Iftikhar Dadi has argued that the act of mistranslation and perpetual slippage achieved through mechanical reproduction ‘freed the works to be perceived in the Pakistani context without their ideological baggage […] consequently, European modernism appears before our eyes as pulverized and increasingly reconfigured.’6

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Art and Emergency Indifferent to travel and firmly rooted in the city of Calcutta, artist Gaganendranath Tagore (1867–​1938) participated in a virtual cosmopolitanism, forming his impressions of European and Japanese modern art movements from exchanges with visiting artists and readings of illustrated magazines of the early twentieth century. The etymology of the word ‘translation’ gives us a better clue with regard to the task awaiting any translator: it derives from the Latin tradūcere, meaning ‘to carry from one place to another’, which is in turn derived from trans (on the other side) and dūcere (to lead).7 This carrying from one place to another can be seen as a productive process.8 For the semiotician Umberto Eco, the act of translation always involves creative betrayal (tradurre é tradire –​ to translate is to betray). In this view, translation is a playful form of mimicry, an act of travesty, similar to wearing a denture or a wig, or using artificial prosthetic limbs which replace a missing body part.9 These observations are particularly useful when considering the work of Gaganendranath, who settled his account with modernist art movements in a colonial environment that had a more than tenuous relationship with industrial modernity. Emerging from the same elite orientalist circles as his brother Abanindranath (the Bichitra Studio and the Indian Society of Oriental Art), Gaganendranath’s concerns differ considerably. In his search for alternative styles from indigenous sources, Abanindranath (chronicler of the state and closely steered by E. B. Havell) avoided the rich visual repertoire offered by the Bengali folk tradition, withdrawing into a private world of fantasy.10 Seeking to elevate art above the everyday, he turned to the court miniatures of Mughal and Rajput traditions to create refined, delicate wash paintings, inspired by the epic stories of those traditions. Gaganendranath, by contrast, linked his work to earlier vernacular forms of Calcutta humour to offer a powerful critique of contemporary society. Relinquishing historicism as the main thrust of anti-​colonial nationalism and identity formation, he conjured up imagined worlds through his (mis-​)translation of modernist European sources. These novel forms became ‘prolegomena to the desire for acquisition and movement’.11 Selecting the mechanical medium of the printing press, he introduced a new kind of politics through laughter, which poked fun at what he perceived to be the crumbling colonial society of Calcutta.12 His characters are savage and often appear as though speaking from the stomach. Their mouths, guzzling and gobbling, disclose beastly teeth, which sink memorably into the viewer’s consciousness. Perhaps it is for this reason that Gaganendranath is mostly remembered today as a cartoonist.13

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Figure 3.1  Gaganendranath Tagore, Imperishable Sacredness of a Brahmin, ­watercolour, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan.

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Art and Emergency For example, in the print Imperishable Sacredness of a Brahmin or Eternal Purity of a Brahmin, from the pamphlet The Realm of the Absurd (1917), Gaganendranath vilifies religious corruption by giving a Brahmin priest four arms, reminiscent of the Hindu god Vishnu (Figure 3.1). Covered with repulsive black hair, the fleshy, spineless creature indulges in meat and licentious women. Gushing forth from his cavernous mouth is sonti (rice wine).14 ‘The most important of all human features for the grotesque is the mouth,’ submits Bakhtin.15 Site of vocal production and oral gratification, the mouth is one of the most ‘somatically and psychologically sensitised areas of the human skin, resonant with cultural connotations of exclusions and containment.’16 For Georges Bataille, the open mouth is of a bestial order, diametrically opposed to a face with a closed mouth.17 A zone of ‘overlaying indiscernibility’ (or ‘de-​territorialisation’), the mouth is where the identity of the human subject and that of the animal overlap as a difference of intensity.18 Life, on important occasions, is still bestially concentrated here: ‘fury makes men grind their teeth, terror and atrocious suffering transform the mouth into the organ of rending screams.’19 Irony is an attitude in which the relationship between the rule and its violation is differently balanced. Politically dangerous and therefore suspect, laughter is a peculiar and distinctly human emotion, valuable because it is involuntary and hard to fake or imitate. In stimulating an uncensored and truthful account about what people really feel (and think) about each other, laughter emits a powerful social signal, which can single out ‘us’ against ‘them’. Similar to the behaviour it seeks to correct, laughter offers a systematic parody of our ordinary functioning. With laughter, ‘what is ordinarily mechanical’, that is, the involuntary action of the diaphragm in expelling air from the lungs, ‘tries to become like what is purposive’; and what is ordinarily purposive –​the creation of sound through the vocal chords –​‘tries to become like what is mechanical.’20 Sweaty, saggy and flatulent, Gaganendranath’s characters imply excessive indulgence of their sensual appetites. The cause of these incongruities, according to Gaganendranath, was to be found in the pitiful desire of his Bengali social peers to be more English than the English, while maintaining their ingrained social habits: almost the same but not quite.21 The babu is depicted as the product of a warped colonial mimesis; to become anglicised is ‘emphatically not to be English’.22 Empire and nation become wholly, if oddly, consistent. Historian Dipesh Chakrabarty emphasises how early colonial modernity in countries outside Western capitalism reflect ‘deep irony in the history of the political’.23 A couple of pages later, Chakrabarty’s irony turns to despair as he

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi describes the project of writing a history from the margins.24 For Homi Bhabha, the civilising mission takes place in an ambiguous area between mimicry and mockery.25 Gaganendranath, from his own privileged position with regard to colonial rule, exposes the farce of the post-​Enlightenment mission, mocking mimicry and ridiculing ‘its power to be a model, that power which supposedly makes it imitable.’26 Gandhi, when asked what he thought of modern civilisation, responded tongue-​in-​cheek that it ‘would be a good idea’; Gaganendranath goes further and parodies any desire for civilisation.27 Civilisation is a joke (and a bad one). Through turning the grand colonial narrative of civilisation –​ the very idea that some races need to be ‘helped’ towards a civilised rule of law –​into the object of scathing mockery, Gaganendranath exposes the irony embedded in the ambivalent claims of liberty on one hand, and the ethics of the colonial master on the other; an irony of which his peers were unaware. This chapter engages with a series of images and print albums produced by Gaganendranath between 1915–​17, following Lord Curzon’s Partition of Bengal (1905) and the imposition of territorial boundaries (divide and rule) to suppress anti-​colonial rebellion in the form of the Swadeshi Movement.28 Suffused with a spiritual, Japanese aesthetic, these prints were circulated at the time of the Gandhian call to ‘return to the village’ and offer an allegorical critique of the negative impact of colonial industrialisation on the landscape and social fabric.29 In a second series of albums considered, Gaganendranath offers a trenchant critique of the post-​Enlightenment values of English colonialism, and a damning analysis of the shared fate of his people under colonial rule and the collapse of the Swadeshi Movement. Suited for diffusion in the elitist space of adda, defined by Chakrabarty as the ‘specific site of struggle to be at home in modernity’,30 the prints are funny in content and dwell on what Gaganendranath perceived as the double standards and deplorable injustice of his social peers.31 We find Bengali officials masquerading as black sahibs; the Brahmin paying lip service to sacred scriptures while he takes bribes and indulges in whores. Moreover, Gaganendranath calls to our attention the forbearing wife of the babu, who toils painstakingly in the home while her husband pays a visit to the urban demi-​monde of Calcutta. The third body of prints to be reviewed was circulated in 1921, following the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919), amid mounting nationalist protest and insurgency in India. The Massacre, in which brigadier general Reginald Dyer ordered troops to fire upon a group of about 1,000 unarmed religious believers (killing an estimated 379 people and injuring many more), represented a desperate attempt on the part of the colonial state to preserve and re-​institute state power through a performative display of

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Art and Emergency mythical violence.32 This law-​founding violence sought to reinscribe state power through a display of force that could not fit into the normative structure of ‘regular’ law. For Gaganendranath, this ‘mythical violence’ removed all irony and laid bare the brutality of British government in India: when despotic emergency replaces the paternalist rule of law, laughter turns to horror. The uneasiness of living under martial law surfaces to reveal the impossibility of genuine freedom in the colony.

Laughter! Alien government in India is a veritable chameleon. Today it comes in the guise of the Englishman; tomorrow perhaps as some other foreigner; the next day, without abating a jot of its virulence, it may take the shape of our own countrymen. However determinedly we may hunt this monster of foreign dependence with outside lethal weapons, it will always elude our pursuit by changing its skin, or its colour.33 Everything human is pathetic, the secret source of humour is not joy but sorrow. There is no humour in heaven.34

From inside a train carriage a corpulent man kicks a compartment door into the face of a gentleman about to alight (Figure 3.2). Clad incongruously in Western attire, his breeches stretched to bursting capacity, the man grunts: ‘Not here Baboo.’ Standing on the other side of the carriage is a gentleman wearing a flowing white kurta and dhoti. Tucked under his arm is the book Laughter by Henri Bergson. Upon viewing the image, one is reminded of Lyotard, who in The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (1983) describes a situation in which two arguing parties reject the discourse of the other, and as a result cannot concur on the event that brings them together. Though the event has taken place, they are incapable of putting it ‘into words’: the two cannot ‘communicate’.35 Hence, the event necessitates a witness. ‘Differend’ was the name used by Lyotard to characterise this sort of situation; it conveys both a sense of urgency (the event must be represented) and frustration (the event cannot be represented). The image seemingly asks viewers to act as fair witnesses and put an end to the dispute. Our impartiality however is clearly biased in favour of the mysterious man of light; his smile prompts the viewer’s empathy in this incongruous situation. Who is this man? The image just described is entitled Courtesy to Countrymen and is part of a larger album of prints, Wry Thunderbolt, published in Calcutta in 1915. By

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Figure 3.2  Gaganendranath Tagore, Courtesy to Countrymen, colour lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Courtesy: Tapash Ray.

this time, the moving railway carriage had become a dangerous ‘othering’ space, prompting the colonial subject to take up ‘volatile identities’ and sabotage the colonial oppressor in spectacular and unpredictable ways.36 Uproarious laughter could perhaps dissolve the anxiety felt by the train passengers. The elegant man radiating an aura of light is Gaganendranath Tagore himself, the designer of the print. Gaganendranath belonged to the prominent and wealthy Tagore family, which resided north of Calcutta.37 Unlike other members of this illustrious family, little is known about him. The silence surrounding him is due partly to his own reticence, partly to that of pioneer writers who, in their efforts to map out the history of modern Indian art, have left this remarkable man in the shadows.38 The eldest of three brothers, Gaganendranath was considered a man of irresistible charm

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Art and Emergency and refined taste. The Governor of Bengal, the Marquess of Zetland, provides an evocative description of the artist: I was, indeed, always conscious in his presence of a suggestion of that sublime peace which radiates from the conventional image of a seated Buddha. Yet there was a dynamic quality in his make up which banished those barriers and restrictions which so often hamper the relations between people of different races and upbringing.39

His devoted daughter, Purnima Debi, describes Gaganendranath as an individual endowed with a bewitching personality that enraptured all those in his presence. Debi recounts in her diary how a family friend, having recognised Gaganendranath in a theatre audience, was overcome by his elegance.40 Notwithstanding such (posthumous) romanticising accounts, what emerges from these testimonies is a gentleman of capricious taste and eccentric temperament. Boasting an impressive collection of exquisite oriental fabrics and flamboyant costumes, Gaganendranath was a talented and creative textile pattern designer. A tendency to experiment with costume and dress ran in the family and according to his nephew Rathindranath, the artist himself was responsible for designing a sartorially sophisticated adaptation of the colourful Tibetan robe boku.41 ‘This gown-​like thing became the distinctive dress of the artist brothers,’ as well as that of his cosmopolitan uncle, Rabindranath.42 While Gaganendranath’s admiration for all things exotic did not extend to European fashion –​which he deemed ‘clumsy and inappropriate’ –​he enjoyed all things mechanical, including the piano and foreign toys.43 Shopkeepers in Calcutta nourished his ‘knack for new things’ by keeping him informed on the arrival of the latest mechanical gadgets: cameras, phonograms, typewriters.44 Such artificial instruments, according to Bergson, result in the fundamental transformation of the individual who deploys them, to the point that they become a virtual extension of the human organism.45 A versatile draftsman himself, Gaganendranath engineered several motor aeroplanes, as well as a glider for the children living at Jorasanko, the Tagore residence in Calcutta.46 But it was his ability to fashion and set off makeshift fireworks that gained the children’s respect.47 Acting as patron to a number of artists and literati, Gaganendranath was a fabulous impersonator who would often turn his living room into a cosmopolitan gathering place where adda was regularly held.48 ‘A born actor, he had his part cut out in any new play that was produced in our family.’49 His talent for theatrical performance and personification led to him being recruited by Rabindranath for the

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Figure 3.3  Gaganendranath Tagore, untitled, watercolour on paper, cubist theatre accordion-maquette, 1920. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan.

more formal theatrical productions staged at Jorasanko. When ‘not requisitioned for dramatic performances’, the artist devoted much of his spare time to taking photographs.50 From the 1920s, Gaganendranath was keenly involved in creating sophisticated theatre displays, which could bring performers closer to the audience. Studies in colour, partition screens, artificial stage lighting and overlapping planes indicate his interest in manipulating the mood of the attending public (Figure 3.3).51

(Mis)translation: Bergson and Laughter (1911) Bergson’s book Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (published in English by MacMillan Press in 1911) informed the making of Gaganendranath’s early caricatures.52 Laughter was widely read in the London Bloomsbury circle, which  his uncle Rabindranath frequented during these years.53 In Laughter,

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Art and Emergency Bergson argued that, for society to free itself from its latent destructive tendencies, self-​reflection was needed: this could be achieved through laughter. In his view, laughter is a disciplinary exercise imposed by society upon those who behave in a way that offends its inner sense of rectitude. Perennially directed at an inherent stiffness of the body or mind, in lieu of the elasticity, alertness or élan bestowed by nature, laughter, for Bergson, indicates a slight revolt on the surface of social life […] It instantly adopts the changing forms of the disturbance. It is the business of laughter to repress any separatist tendency. Its function is to convert rigidity into plasticity, to readapt the individual to the whole, in short, to round off the corners wherever they are met with.54

Here, the philosopher observes that only human beings have the capacity to laugh and be comical, a quality frequently elicited from viewing humans behave like machines: ‘the attitudes, gestures and movements of the human body are laughable in exactly the same proportion as that body reminds us of a mere machine.’55 Bergson does not explicitly advance the principle of élan vital (a powerful and awe-​inspiring life force, which operates beyond human distinctions of good and evil),56 which he elaborates later in his book Creative Evolution (1907); yet it looms persistently in the background of Laughter.57 In the earlier work Bergson contended that evolution, rather than being the product of blind mutations, is the expression of the élan vital seeking to realise ever-​higher forms of life.58 While the resistance created by the material world would tend to limit its movement, the flow of élan can never be restrained. Like a buoyant, creative artist whose activities redefine the ever-​changing course of the avant-​garde, élan is indomitable. Singling out the medium of caricature, the philosopher believed that the artist’s most important skill lies in his ability to see beneath the apparently harmonious composure of individuals to uncover their profoundly incongruous nature. Bergson’s cartoonist focuses his ridicule on subjects prone to uncontrollable tics, to physical deformities, which convey the individual’s personality by means of contortion and constraint. Such tics or features as are evidenced by a fixed jaw, rolling eyes, or a nez retroussé, offend the very criteria which the individual in question seeks to conform to as a member of that particular society. They confer on the individual a sense of being very ill at ease with his own body. It is this innate sense of discrepancy, of being alive while dead, that

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi the cartoonist dramatises to provoke the spectator’s laughter. Hence as Bergson also underlines, the demoniac permeates the caricaturist’s work. The caricaturist intends for us to deride the circumstances of fellow humans, those who have fallen from grace due to the humiliation of the flesh. While his art is necessarily devilish, it can never rise to the transcendental, but merely exaggerates for our amusement the transgression of existing societal standards. For Bergson, the key to successful caricature lies in the cartoonist’s ability to capitalise upon such transgression. Colonialism and class issues were remote from the concerns of the French philosopher, who had never been subject to imperial domination.59 Bergson was far more engrossed with ‘universal’ human values and foibles, and in Laughter he puts forward a metaphysical theory of this human activity. In his graphic interpretation of Bergson’s theory, Gaganendranath succeeds in infusing life into the philosopher’s writings, sketching out the mechanical habits and quirks assumed by subjects and rulers alike, under conditions of colonialism. Gaganendranath may well have been inspired by Japanese ‘floating world’ ukiyo-​e as well as Kalighat pats, a dying popular form of satire, which had flourished in Calcutta in the early nineteenth century.60 Circulated in the context of the bazaar, the satire of Kalighat pats ridiculed a number of secular themes, including the declining moral standards of the elite and the sensational events taking place in the befuddled contemporary society.61 The characters of Kalighat pats inhabited a topsy-​turvy world, which artists perceived as spiralling into increasing chaos during the defiled, apocalyptic era of Kali Yuga (‘latter day’ or ‘age of vice’). The Bengali poet (and collector of pats) Dinesh Chandra Sen, who relied on the generous patronage of Gaganendranath, observed how they functioned: ‘like a social whip, they helped to open their eyes to the morals of society […] the painters had the superior artistic power to speak through lines.’62 Through laughter, Calcutta’s popular classes sought to triumph over their precarious existence and transform the everyday into a carnival. In the process, they created a ‘second world, a second life outside the official world of the respectable, educated bhadralok classes’; a world of masquerade, scatology, and parade, infused with a sense of cosmic comedy.63 For Bakhtin, carnivalesque laughter was a politically dangerous form of humour; the subversion of official culture and custom was achieved through laughter, chiefly directed at the powerful and smug, when they received the retribution due to them. The source of the comic in Calcutta popular culture

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Art and Emergency was ‘not joy, but sorrow and helplessness in an oppressive environment’64 –​in humanity’s fall there lay always the possibility for renewal, since in laughing one is able to regain one’s ‘indissoluble and essential relation to freedom.’65 By the middle of the nineteenth century, the historian Sumanta Banerjee observes, ‘the lubricating role of humour to keep society running smoothly and contain the dormant antagonisms had exhausted itself.’66 With the escalation of social conflicts, laughter no longer functioned as a social lubricant but became increasingly caustic.67 Gaganendranath refines this critique, pushing it further. The satire conveyed by the simple, bold brushstrokes of Kalighat pats is released as a ‘vital line’ –​ a nervous, rhythmic life-​force. For the artist, mimicry engenders an anxious and devitalising split in the colonial subject. It is not so much the coloniser who is relentlessly scorned, but rather the absurd ‘behaviour’ of the colonised mimic man, which the cartoonist holds up for public ridicule. For this reason, Gaganendranath’s depiction of the babu’s flawed mimesis challenges Bhabha’s account of colonial mimicry, as expounded in his essay ‘Of Mimicry and Man’. Bhabha contends that the discourse of colonialism reveals the inherent irony of Western knowledge.68 He writes that in ‘the discourse of post-​Enlightenment, English colonialism often speaks in a tongue that is forked, not false. If colonialism takes power in the name of history, it repeatedly exercises its authority through the figures of farce.’69 Borrowing the term ‘mimicry’ from the psychoanalyst Lacan, Bhabha explains how the coloniser’s stereotyping of the colonial Other produces a subject recognisably the same as the coloniser, but still different: not quite/​not white.70 Bhabha furnishes as an example the English-​educated Indian who, employed in the civil service, mediates between the imperial power and the colonised people. Although it is to a degree comforting for the coloniser that Indians should become ‘English’, the creation of mimic Englishmen is also unsettling, for ‘mimicry is at once resemblance and menace.’71 The mimic Englishman embodies merely his partial representation as white but not quite. Far from feeling at ease, the coloniser perceives a monstrously displaced image of himself: ‘the familiar transported to distant parts, becomes uncannily transformed, the imitation subverts the identity of that which is being represented, and the relation of power…begins to vacillate.’72 Bhabha writes: [it is] a process by which the look of surveillance returns as the displacing gaze of the disciplined, where the observer becomes the observed and the ‘partial’ representation rearticulates the whole notion of identity and alienates its essence.73

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi The scrutinising eye immediately comes face to face with a returning gaze of otherness and finds that its sameness, its mastery, is revoked. Thus while the coloniser strives to enact certain strategies to secure power, the ambivalence that inevitably accompanies the fixing of the other –​as knowable object –​causes the relation of power to become increasingly equivocal. The Mimic Men ‘emerge as part-​objects of a metonymy of colonial desire which alienates the modality and normality of those dominant discourses in which they emerge as “inappropriate” colonial subjects.’74 The partial vision produced by the Mimic Man undermines the coloniser’s subjectivity and shatters his sovereign centrality. But if control eludes the coloniser, the necessity for mimicry suggests that the colonised, although colluding in the process, subsist as an oblivious agent of menace. At once empowering and disempowering, the process of mimicry produces paranoia in the coloniser, as he struggles to anticipate the intentions of the colonised.75 However Gaganendranath indicates that the process of mimicry holds no empowering value, and merely transforms humans into vulgar, grotesque creatures lacking vital elasticity. What will become apparent in the course of this chapter is that the role attributed to laughter by Gaganendranath is incommensurable with the healing mechanisms of the Bergsonian model. For Bergson, laughter, by marking out what society does not want, shows by implication what it does want: it sketches a societal ideal.76 In the work of Gaganendranath, Bergson’s laughter acquires a dystopian turn: the Nehruvian attaché and writer, Mulk Raj Anand, observed that towards the end of his career Gaganendranath ‘was constrained to protest against almost everything.’77 The laughter elicited by the last series of caricatures, entitled Reform Screams (1921), turned into a ‘very shrill scream’.78

Mechanicalcutta: Town and Country have Become Twins There is a little picture in my room before which visitors stand arrested by its haunting quality.79

Assuming a radical form in 1905, the Swadeshi Movement represented the first systematic campaign undertaken by the Bengali nationalist elite to mobilise the masses. Sparked off in response to Viceroy Lord Curzon’s partitioning of Bengal, the Empire’s largest and most rebellious province, the movement sought to radicalise the economic critique of colonialism through the launching of popular native imaginings. Pioneered by the nationalist elite, swadeshi was an attempt to

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Art and Emergency undermine European hegemony by upholding the ideal of self-​sufficiency and a preference for the indigenous over the exogenous.80 In the realm of the arts, the so-​called ‘Bengal School’ represented the first organised movement to undertake the swadeshi reformation of taste, seeking to subvert European dominance of the arts through the endorsement of a ‘Hinduised’ programme of nativist self-​reliance.81 The Tagores’ pioneering involvement in this movement is familiar terrain. Spurred by the advent of the swadeshi era, the reformist programme occasioned, on one hand, the intertwining of (British) orientalist and nationalist discourses, and on the other, the forging of a common cause with the Japanese aesthetic revival. In the case of Bengal, the implementation of these reforms had been closely steered by the British Principal of the Government School of Art, E. B. Havell, who in 1905 (at the end of his administrative tenure in India) appointed Abanindranath Tagore as his Vice Principal. During his first encounter with the Japanese artists who visited the Jorasanko household in 1903, Abanindranath came to see swadeshi art as ‘Oriental’ rather than merely Indian.82 According to Guha-​Thakurta’s well-​known argument, the so-​called Bengal School contributed to a ‘new visual dimension in its “appeal to imagination”.’83 Furthermore, it was able to ‘shape and fix the image of Indian art in both Western imagination and nationalist perceptions.’84 From the scant material evidence available, Gaganendranath’s involvement with the artistic revival was initially limited to a feverish collecting of everything swadeshi.85 Together with his brothers, he also took part in removing from the Jorasanko household some of the heavy and elaborate Victorian furniture and paintings inherited from Prince Dwarkanath.86 The family procured numerous spinning wheels and everyone, including Gaganendranath, would spin for hours. According to Abanindranath’s diary entries and the writings of the revolutionary figure Abinash Bhattacharya, Gaganendranath unperturbedly divided his time between the designing of oriental-​style furniture and the ‘terrorist’ activities of the Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar.87 These voluntary swadeshi groups were intently planning the violent overthrow of British rule.88 We learn that Gaganendranath was prosecuted in a British court for providing monetary help to the ‘terrorist’ organisation in the Alipore Bomb Case (1908–​9). In the course of the trial, held in Calcutta, the suspects involved, including several members of Jugantar, were accused of the attempted murder of Magistrate Kingsford. A British judge, Kingsford was notorious for doling out particularly harsh sentences to swadeshi nationalists. By this time, the making of bombs had become particularly attractive because of its

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi inherent democratic potential: ‘The formula of the bomb does not at all appear to be a lengthy one and its process also is very short indeed.’89 Portable, simple to make and indigenous, a form of swadeshi technology, the bomb embodied a radical intellectual strategy: a ‘form of knowledge, it is a kind of witchcraft, it is a charm, an amulet.’90 Comparing the witchcraft of the bomb to the destabilising epistemic transformation engendered by the radical potential of the small printing press, Pinney proposes that both the bomb and lithography ‘floated free of earlier infrastructural constraints’, posing a serious threat to the colonial state.91 It was during the interminable succession of ‘legal inanities’ attendant to the court case that Gaganendranath began to make surreptitious caricatures and sketches of all the participants, including ‘the presiding judge, the jurors, the learned counsels, the witnesses in their stand and the accused in the dock.’92 Depicting the gestures of the public, Gaganendranath would catch each ‘with a rapid movement of his pencil […] his searching eyes followed every person and noticed his peculiarities of speech, laughter, and of expressing annoyance. He never copies any picture.’93 Fascinated by the invisible forces that impinge upon the body and shape the flesh, the artist would slightly tease his posers, exciting them into ‘a rage […] at that stage he would move his pencil rapidly and finish a sketch of the victim.’94 From these fragmentary comments, it appears that Gaganendranath was less interested in depicting movement itself than in seeing how the effect of movement deforms the human body. By 1907, confronted with the communal riots spawned by the violent and coercive methods of swadeshi nationalists, many intellectuals, including Gaganendranath, reversed their stand on revivalism and the nationalist cause. The Swadeshi Movement, whilst offering spectacular creative possibilities, was also shown to have undeniably disastrous political limitations for modern Bengal.95 The movement evoked the image of India as a mother figure, spurring all her ‘sons’ to unite in national ‘brotherhood’. But such modern theoretical ideology proved insufficiently powerful to overcome the problems of political representation that loomed between Muslims and Hindus in the emerging national democracy. ‘Brotherhood’, an essentially upper-​caste Hindu discourse, was soon regarded with suspicion by Muslims and became increasingly unacceptable to the lower castes.96 The Swadeshi Movement’s strategy of boycott proved to be an expensive indulgence, appealing only to a small section of the population. The communal clashes engendered in the aftermath of Lord Curzon’s Partition would foreshadow the catastrophic events of 1947 when, at the time of Independence, Bengal would again be divided between Muslims and Hindus.

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Art and Emergency Gaganendranath probably attributed the disastrous collapse of the Swadeshi Movement ‘to a profound moral failure on the part of the Bengali people to live up to the cultural principle that swadeshi discourse had identified as the core rationality of indigenous tradition.’97 The discovery of a Western inclination for self-​ pursuit within the Bengali bhadralok groups, in the aftermath of the movement’s debacle, triggered a deep ideological crisis. For this reason, intellectuals sought to liberate culture from the material realm in ‘the wake of the self-​diagnosed failure of swadeshi and of the triumph of culturalist ideology.’98 The ideal of culture would be freed from the nationalist implications of swadeshi: post-​swadeshi intellectuals channelled culture towards activities conducted within bounded social dimensions, ‘notably the village […] and the aesthetic and literary practices of cosmopolitanism most famously associated with the polymath Rabindranath Tagore.’99 Gandhi – who had emerged on the national scene through the political campaigns conducted in Champaran (1917), the Ahmedabad mill-​workers’ strike and the Khaira struggle (1918) – was propelled to national prominence after the launching of his Satyagraha Campaign, the first all-​India mass campaign against the promulgation of the Rowlatt Act in 1919.100 These campaigns triggered unprecedented levels of popular involvement in political struggles, which were far removed from the elite musings of the Indian National Congress. As an expression of non-​cooperation, satyagraha involved many of the techniques formerly deployed in its Bengali swadeshi avatar of 1905. Gandhi’s non-​combative strategies nonetheless proved more effective and were carried out on a much larger scale: the sustained boycotting of schools and courts, the championing of homemade products (particularly textiles), and the national call for the introduction of two million charkas (spinning wheels) into India. Moreover, Gandhi elevated the status of the Indian village, counterposing it to the modern metropolis set up by the British. While village life symbolised the essence of India, the development of modern cities in the colony was the fruit of Western domination and colonial rule. The city exerted a morally corrupting influence on the village population and embodied alien rule and exploitation.101 Hence Gandhi observed that ‘the village civilisation and the city civilisation are totally different things. One depends on machinery and industrialisation, the other rests on handicrafts.’102 Unlike the emerging Gandhian nationalist leadership, for whom the traditional village and its core social caste system stood for real India, Gaganendranath rejected what he considered to be a false nationalism that ‘relied upon that other body of imperialist scholarship which had taken to idealizing ancient Hindu society.’103 While the artist envisaged the negative effects of urbanisation, he did not

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Figure  3.4 Gaganendranath Tagore, Sleepless City, watercolour on paper, 1915. Courtesy: Sotheby’s Inc. © 2016. 

embrace the myth of the idyllic village as the alternative to modern (Western) culture.104 Little redeems the traditional social order symbolised by the village. Brought up in Calcutta, Gaganendranath ‘plumped for the city entirely. His mood and temper nurtured on the city alone.’105 Historian Ashok Mitra suggests that the ‘nervous’ tension emanating from his paintings is linked to their urban origin.106 These works are the first to provide a subtle critique of mechanisation and colonial industrial exploitation relying on modernist techniques. Gaganendranath’s desire to capture the fleeting, haphazard urbanisation of Calcutta emerges most clearly in those paintings where the artist records the artificial glare of city lights reflected on water surfaces and nocturnal skies. Artificial lighting does not always enhance appreciation of the environment, but rather reinforces a general sense of sickly pollution. Offering no solace, it spotlights the appalling labour conditions of the men working by the murky river at night. For instance, in the painting Sleepless City of 1915 (Figure 3.4), the inclusion of the element of water in the landscape –​as river, sea, mountain stream, or rain –​does not follow the Japanese spiritual scheme of heaven-​man-​earth (Ten Chi Jin). Allegorical perceptions of disease and dirt suggest a nature compromised by human activity. The waters of the Hugli blend with fumes emanating from innumerable factory funnels, engulfing the small figures of fishermen by the riverside. From a vision of beauty, the Hugli is transformed into an unholy drain carrying industrial effluent. Similarly in the painting Bridge (c.1915), urban lights illuminate the harbour and the extensive dockyards, while dense factory fumes contaminate the sky. The geometrical

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Art and Emergency arrangement of forms and details discloses Gaganendranath’s indebtedness to Japanese ukiyo-​e design, whereas the palette dispenses with the Japanese colour scheme and is limited to grimy, subdued colours. Far from implying a communion with nature, we perceive the crushing of the human spirit by mechanisation, with the expanding city trespassing on the countryside, corroding and dissolving its life. Moreover, in the lithograph (Figure 3.5) entitled Funeral Procession of 1915 (conserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum and originally entitled The Coolie’s

Figure  3.5  Gaganendranath Tagore, Funeral Procession, colour lithograph, 1915. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi Funeral), nature is squeezed out entirely to underscore the mechanisation of life (and death). The print displays Gaganendranath’s sophisticated manipulation of Japanese techniques to convey degeneracy in an expressionistic manner: cremation and industrial fumes paint the grimy atmosphere. Surrounded by towering jute factories and chimneys, a funeral procession mourns the death of a coolie –​a factory worker –​on a street. The crowd pours out from the doorway of a prison-​like building, above which the lighting creates the ‘appearance of a monster with bloodshot eyes gorging itself upon the bodies and souls of those who pass within.’107 By no means a cheap, mass-​ reproducible and disposable chromolithograph, this sophisticated image reveals a highly personalised and minutely detailed rendering of the pictorial surface.108 The Marquess of Zetland (former owner of the print Funeral Procession), an intimate friend of the artist, recounts that ‘Gaganendranath experienced almost a physical distress, when brought into contact with the drab and sordid side of existence associated with modern industrial life in great cities.’109 The contradictions vis-​à-​vis colonial modernity and the ensuing urban standardisation of human life would be later explored in the powerful lithographic series he published in the following decades. Notwithstanding this critique, Gaganendranath remained deeply scathing of Gandhi’s Non-​Cooperation Movement; through the print medium the artist would forcefully mock both the nationalist leader and the charka movement pioneered by him. Gandhi’s emergence as a nationalist leader would trigger mounting anti-​colonial protest and insurgency across the country, with increasingly brutal retaliation by the colonial authorities. Moreover, through proscriptive measures the paranoid colonial state sought to control the explosive upsurge of native press and imagery.110

Sly Allegories It was during these turbulent years that Gaganendranath discarded ink and brush. Immediacy and spontaneity –​prized qualities of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy –​ were cast aside for the sake of political expediency. In 1915, Gaganendranath turned to the litho-​press to produce Wry Thunderbolt (Virupa Vajra, also translated as Play of Opposites), which comprises 13 prints; and in 1917, The Realm of the Absurd (Adbhut Lok), containing 17 prints. Both series are jovial in their satire and display Gaganendranath’s appreciation of Bergson’s writings, specifically the philosopher’s so-​called ‘superiority theory of laughter’ (also a popular strategy amongst patua makers in nineteenth-​century Calcutta).111 The prints reveal the artist’s meticulous plotting of sets and interior design adapted from ukiyo-​e, and a careful study and rendering of poses, gestures and facial expressions –​the motions of the élan.

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Art and Emergency Circulation of Gaganendranath’s prints occurred during a period when the colonial state had dramatically intensified control of the press. Surveillance instigated a wide range of allegorical ‘anti-​colonial signifiers’.112 Between 1914 and 1918 in Bengal, around a thousand publications were banned and substantial security measures were implemented. Moreover, 10 per cent of Indian newspapers and printing presses were placed under fiscal restraint.113 Although during the war, the government continued to concede discretionary power to the provinces and granted greater autonomy in local decision ​making, in Bengal it relied heavily on the proscription and security measures in force prior to 1914: the 1910 Press Act.114 Implemented after the Partition of Bengal to control the rise of revolutionary activities, the Press Act stated: Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards Her Majesty, or the Government established by law in British India shall be punished.115

Designed to prevent the publication and dissemination of seditious literature in all its forms, whether locally produced or originating from abroad, these legislative measures increased governmental control over the press and publishers, punishing those who released documents that ‘contained native criticism of British rule in particular those who supported it, including attacks upon Indian princes, or of Western colonialism, religion and culture in general.’116 Mounting anti-​colonial resistance in response to the Rowlatt Act of 1919, particularly Gandhi’s Non-​ Cooperation Movement, occasioned the first mass circulation of seditious collections of nationalist poetry. As a result, many of these were banned. However as Pinney observes, proscription ‘operated within a double-​bind in which every denial was simultaneously a reinscription of representational potency.’117 For this reason, if one were to consider censorship merely a process of silencing and denial, one would lose the productive effects engendered.118 In the case of India, moreover, Raminder Kaur and William Mazzarella identify an intimate ‘correlation between the regulation of cultural production and the proliferation of provocative forms.’119 As will become apparent, the content of Gaganendranath’s prints is not overtly seditious. But one can appreciate a cunning critique of the colonial government at the level of allegory.120 Walter Benjamin suggested that allegory is a singular kind of experience, a practice in which a narrative fiction points to another pattern of events and ideas: a representation which interprets itself.121 This experience arises from a perception of the world as transitory and fragmentary, one in which

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi history is viewed as a process of inescapable decay.122 By 1915 Kalighat pats had become collectable items, souvenirs of a disappearing world. Gaganendranath’s inventive appropriation of Kalighat tropes suggests a strategy of salvage, prompting the viewer to initiate an imaginative reconstruction of the past. This process is morally charged. With deliberately obscure titles, Wry Thunderbolt, The Realm of the Absurd intimate a fictive world rather than pointing to contemporary colonial circumstances.123 The titles can be seen as bypassing colonial measures of proscription, operating in the ‘slippage between civil inscription and colonial address’.124 When providing English and Bengali captions, the artist contracts the former and expands the latter; sometimes translations diverge fundamentally from the Bengali original.125 These strategies disclose Gaganendranath’s ironic juggling of various competing demands and colonial limitations and perhaps, given the Tagore family’s longstanding association with the British, these allegorical devices were a means to circumvent colonial disapproval. Nonetheless, the first collection of prints, Wry Thunderbolt, offers an unabashedly graphic mockery of colonial mimicry and an exploration of the mechanical in the spheres of politics and education.

Wry Thunderbolt Ours has been described as the machine age, because the machine dominates our economy. Now, what is a machine? –​one may ask. In a sense, man is the most wonderful machine in creation. It can neither be duplicated nor copied.126

Anthropologist Helmuth Plessner observes in relation to Bergson’s doctrine: ‘In laughter, the presence of society in us, the social instinct, calls attention to a danger to which man is exposed through his physical existence. Yet while laughter punishes, at the same time it heals the wound, which it inflicts on him: it brings him back to life.’127 For Bergson, laughter as a social instrument is always the laughter of a group directed at one of its members, who is considered incapable of adapting to what is expected of him. Moreover laughter, although a seemingly spontaneous activity, always implies a degree of complicity with other laughers, whether real or imaginary.128 In the following prints, Gaganendranath explores mechanisation in the realms of education and politics by adopting the image of the machine. The Calcutta-​born Sukumar Ray (1887–​1923), illustrator and nonsense-​verse composer, had created humorous images depicting the profound ways in which mechanisation was affecting the culture of the city.129 Largely intended for children,

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Figure 3.6 Gaganendranath Tagore, Autospeechola, lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Author’s collection.

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi these illustrations sought to explain scientific principles such as mechanics and physics, and to promote a rational view of the world. Though absurd inventions and their ludicrous paternal inventors populate Ray’s illustrations, they are always innocuous, the product of humanity’s imagination and infinite creativity. Not so in the case of Gaganendranath; in his work, sinister machines appear to have been purposely devised to replace the human. In the cartoon entitled Autospeechola (Figure 3.6), Gaganendranath follows Bergson’s remarks from Laughter to the letter, illustrating the mechanical gestures of a member of the legislative council: The gestures of a public speaker, no one of which is laughable by itself, excite laughter by their repetition […] wherever there is repetition or complete similarity, we always suspect some mechanism at work behind the living. This deflection of life towards the mechanical is here the real cause of laughter.130

Attached to a noiseless speech-​machine, a puppet holds a copy of a speech; a large can pours oil into its wooden head. The instructions read:  ‘Pour bottle of oil into here before starting machine.’ The machine equips the puppet with a variety of pre-​fabricated speeches including ‘memory speeches’, ‘self-​government speeches’, ‘congress speeches’, ‘foolish speeches’, ‘fiery speeches’, and ‘silly speeches of various duration (from three to six hours) in both English and Bengali’. The Bengali speeches include ‘self aggrandisement’, ‘practice of yoga’, ‘self control’, ‘thanking speech to the pandal designer’, ‘pretence at literary meetings’ and ‘Brahmins need to keep a particular hairstyle called tiki’. Neatly packaged, all speeches are stored inside the self-​run machine. Two switches govern the machine: ‘vox inhumana’ and ‘melodes diabolica’. Gaganendranath satirises the Rajas and Maharajas of Bengal as well as members of the legislative councils, alluding to their chameleon-​like ability as politicians to change the content of their speeches and modulate their voices to suit the occasion. The cartoon can be interpreted as a funny, if disillusioned portrayal of contemporary political culture. In another print, The University Factory (Figure 3.7), mechanical reproduction is conjured up once more, this time to illustrate the commodification of education.131 In front of the university factory, represented by a gigantic steam-​powered printing press, students queue in dhoti-​kurta. The presence of a large clock suggests the normative time of production: forced through the rollers students turn into identical templates of a simplified, generic human figure. In the background beams the sonar chaand or ‘golden moon’, alluding to the Bengali words for ‘obedient son’. On a classical pillar inscribed with the letters ‘B. A.’ stands

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Figure 3.7 Gaganendranath Tagore, The University Factory, lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Author’s collection.

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Figure  3.8 Gaganendranath Tagore, Botanical Cartoon, watercolour on postcard, 1915. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

the statue of a student wearing a topor, the hat traditionally worn by Hindu bridegrooms on their wedding day. Gaganendranath is making a pun here –​for while in English ‘B. A.’ stands for ‘Bachelor of Arts’, in Bengali it phonetically recalls the word for ‘marriage’. The artist alludes to a widely diffused custom, amongst the Western-​ educated Bengali middle class, whereby the dowry to be exacted from any future bride would increase in proportion to the quantity of qualifications gained by the bridegroom. Moreover, this bleak portrayal of the mass standardisation of education brings home the damaging repercussions of colonial bureaucratic control on the calibre of academic scholarship, the compromised destiny of youth, and the future of the ‘nation’. In Botanical Cartoon or Forced Evolution under Artificial Illumination (of which a postcard is conserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum), Gaganendranath engages once more with Bergson to liken colonial education to a force-​fed, mechanically-​staged evolution (Figure 3.8). For Bergson, an intimate interdependence exists between life and matter, between expansion and contraction; the élan vital alienates itself in the material form that it creates and in so doing, loses ‘contact with the rest of itself ’.132 Every species represents the statement of a problem in relation to matter, and the resolution of that problem. Each vital solution thus constitutes

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Art and Emergency a relative success in relation to the conditions of its environment: between mollusc and plant, animal and man, there exist only degrees of difference in perfection.133 Gaganendranath creates a chain of being sequence to illustrate, tongue-​in-​ cheek, the Bergsonian evolution of a mollusc into a student.134 In the first stage we notice an inert mollusc that progressively transforms itself into flower. By the seventh stage, the élan is barely discernible, and Gaganendranath offers the viewer a magnifying lens: an Indian ape dressed in a Western-​style suit puffs a cigarette. What has ensured the evolution of the student is ‘enlightened reason’, represented by the artificial lamp –​the academic light –​bleaching the lab table. Alluding to the work of his intimate friend, the Bengali scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, who discovered that the artificial control of electrical light intensity produced changes in the behaviour of plants, Gaganendranath pursues his critique of the negative effects of colonial education and the pressures exerted on Indian academic circles to conform to Western ideals of scholarship. Two years later, Rabindranath described the adverse repercussions of forced indoctrination in his novel Parrot’s Training (1918), illustrated by Abanindranath. The allegory recounts the story of a Raja’s pet bird, whose force-​fed education slowly and silently kills it off: ‘no sound except the rustling of its inner stuffing of book leaves could be heard.’135 A  glance at the illustrations of Parrot’s Training discloses the stark difference in approach between the two brothers. Abanindranath’s mastery of sumi-​e ink is fully on display. In his lyrical use of ink we perceive an enduring fascination with Japonisme. Deft ink lines trace the beautiful figure of a man clad in an elegant dhoti, contemplating a small book. Minimal brush strokes indicate the presence of a tree, and a small parrot perches on one of its branches. This is not the realm of mechanical reproduction: Abanindranath’s flowing, soothing sumi-​e ink lines are intended as children’s illustrations. This graphic treatment is reinforced later, when the plight of the stuffed parrot is merely hinted at: scattered feathers float in mid-​air. Gaganendranath undoubtedly shared Rabindranath’s views on colonial education. We know that the poet’s founding of Visva Bharati in Santiniketan, amidst the rural plains of Bolpur, was a means to retrieve culture from the brutal impoverishment of metropolitan life and to provide an exclusive –​if sheltered –​ platform for students to engage freely in creative activities. In Rabindranath’s view, removing young students from the discipline and standardising impact of colonial systems was the only way to undermine the production of bureaucrats who oiled the imperial machinery. Gaganendranath, however, sees no redeeming function 150

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Figure 3.9  Gaganendranath Tagore, Hybrid Bengalessis, colour lithograph, from Wry Thunderbolt, 1917. Author’s collection.

in education –​a sense of grinding hopelessness pervades his images. Whether as a factory or a laboratory, the imparting of education is allegorically linked to the manufacturing of an ever-​greater number of bodies. Following Bergson, Gaganendranath reminds the viewer that ‘when deformities grow unchecked but are cherished by blind habit, it becomes the duty of the artist to show that they are ugly and vulgar and therefore abnormal.’136 The function of laughter, Bergson observes, is to ‘convert rigidity into plasticity’, to smooth over hard-​edged corners and readapt the individual to the whole.137 In the image Hybrid Bengalessis (Figure 3.9), Gaganendranath introduces us to the final product of the university machine: a babu half-​clad in a bright yellow dhoti kurta, with a shawl and slipper, the other half in a jacket, trousers, monocle, and one boot. Sporting a fashionable chaari (walking stick), he stands on a surface of brittle bone china, oblivious to the fact that it is about to shatter. The print recalls Bhabha’s definition of the concept of the hybrid as:

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Art and Emergency a problematic of colonial representation […] that reverses the effects of the colonialist disavowal, so that other ‘denied’ knowledges enter upon the dominant discourse and estrange the basis of its authority.138

The fact that colonial power produces ‘hybridisation’ weakens its own authority, reproducing it differently. As a result, other repressed forms of knowledge enter inadvertently and effect a transformation. Hybridity thus names a ‘strategic reversal of the process of domination’, re-​implicating colonial authority ‘in strategies of subversion that turn the gaze of the discriminated back upon the eye of power.’139 Bhabha submits: If the effect of colonial power is seen to be the production of hybridization […] [it] enables a form of subversion […] that turns the discursive conditions of dominance into the grounds of intervention.140

Under this reading, the discursive conditions of colonialism do not merely undo authority but actively encourage resistance. Mocking British pretensions of colonialism along with the ambition to educate and improve, Gaganendranath ridicules this process. His hybrid babu is no subversive creature but the mockery of man: a grotesque puppet. In The Realm of the Absurd, Gaganendranath continues to voice his derision of the flawed mimic man, drawing our attention to the pitiful conditions of his spouse. Contemporary debates on women’s emancipation had become the subject of heated discussions among members of the colonial patriarchy. But let us return to the train station, where we first encountered the gentleman Gaganendranath.

Inside/​Outside: Absurd Heterotopias For colonial officials, the railway had a special role to play in modernising India. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Marx had predicted that ‘modern industry, resulting from the railway system, will dissolve the hereditary division of labour upon which rest the Indian castes, those decisive impediments to Indian progress and Indian power.’141 Marx’s endorsement of this ‘transition narrative’ was shared by railway company officials, who devised carriages with the intention of eradicating caste and gender divisions and eroding the strong hold of tradition.142 This kind of transition narrative, as Chakrabarty suggests, paints India as a place where development and modernity are always

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi flawed or partially enacted. Contrary to Marx’s predictions, the railroad station became one of the most important public venues where caste hierarchy and racial prejudice were reinforced.143 Peculiar ‘othering spaces’ or heterotopias, the railway station and the train compartment became ‘a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture are simultaneously represented, contested and inverted.’144 Moreover, heterotopias can accommodate different sites which are themselves irreconcilable.145 Drawing on the notion of heterotopia allows us to comprehend the contestation of identity discerned by Gaganendranath. Plotting a number of his scenes around the heterotopic site of the railway, the artist’s satirical approach is playful and discloses his personal appreciation of the Bergsonian superiority theory of laughter. For Bergson, laughter at the sudden spectacle of a ‘man falling on the ice’ was based on an ‘unconscious pride’ and a desire to assert one’s superiority over the objects of laughter.146 Charles Baudelaire had famously linked laughter to ‘the accident of an ancient fall from grace’ and had interpreted it as a symbol of man’s inalienable depravity.147 As with the print Courtesy to Countrymen at the beginning of this chapter, Gaganendranath concocts the breakdown of communication between himself and the gross babu in the liminal space between the inside of the carriage and the outside of the station platform. In the following prints, Gaganendranath escorts the viewer into a world from which he distances himself. The artist relentlessly singles out his victims for mockery, and compels the viewer –​he who laughs –​to take sides with him against them; here, laughter creates its own rules of exclusion and inclusion. What is at work is a subtle politics of laughter, as vicious as it is enjoyable: to ‘get’ the joke is to rob the joker of his sovereignty and be part of an audience located in a heterotopic space, that is, a (future) space beyond hegemonic conditions. For example, in Metamorphosis –​Don’t Disturb Me now, I Am about to Become a Sab (Figure 3.10), the viewer is invited to step inside a moving train compartment. In the early twentieth century, train compartments were racially segregated and train guards were usually of mixed British and Indian ancestry, often discriminating against native Indians. Puffing a cigarette, a clownish babu is changing into Western clothes under the reproachful gaze of an Anglo-​Indian guard. Lying on the floor is a suitcase overflowing with various ties and socks. Perhaps this clown is a mockery of revolutionary hero Bhagat Singh, whose perfect mimicry as an English sahib allowed him to carry out violent acts on trains unnoticed.148

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Figure 3.10  Gaganendranath Tagore, Metamorphosis –​Don’t Disturb Me now, I Am about to Become a Sab, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Similarly to the effeminate babu –​a common target of satire by Kalighat artists followed by Gaganendranath in this genealogy –​the artist attaches no revolutionary potential to travesty, the babu is plainly vain (Figure 3.11). The compositional arrangement of the interior suggests the artist’s adaptation of Japanese print designs; the ornamental screens metamorphose into partitioning devices that reinforce class division. In Bergsonian metaphysics, for laughter to be efficient it must make a painful impression on the person against whom it is directed, since it is only through acute scorn that society can be vindicated for liberties it has been denied.149 By marking out what society does not want, laughter shows by implication what it

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Figure  3.11 Kanai Lal Ghosh, untitled, drawing in black paint on paper, c.1920. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

does want: it imagines, anticipates and calls into existence a future community. This utopian ideal does not however stem from a common sense of morality. Nothing that is comical can appeal to our feelings, and the moral can never provoke comical effects. Considered from this point of view, laughter is a purely intellectual affair.150 To perceive a situation as comical, one cannot be emotionally absorbed in it but must rather step back, in the same way that a spectator observes a performance. The suspension of feeling in the viewer and his complete alienation are required to perceive the mechanical in human behaviour: to burst forth, laughter warrants a sudden ‘insensibility’ or ‘a momentary anaesthesia of the heart’.151 Moving on from the intimate space of the train compartment, Gaganendranath guides the viewer to the more public space of the railway platform, where an amusing spectacle is unfolding (Figure 3.12). Clad in a three-​ piece suit with necktie and hat, Gladstone bag and walking stick in hand, a babu

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Figure 3.12  Gaganendranath Tagore, By the Sweat of My Brow I Tried to Be Mistaken for a Saheb but still that Man Called Me Baboo, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

sweats profusely in the sweltering heat of a Calcutta station. The babu mops his brow with a handkerchief, but his struggle to become a sab is not rewarded. Oblivious to his plight is a composed, anglicised train guard waving his flag. The babu utters: ‘by the sweat of my brow I tried to be mistaken for a saheb but still that man called me baboo’. Gaganendranath illustrates the silliness of the babu, whose inappropriate Western clothing causes him to sweat buckets. The expression translated in English as ‘by the sweat’ is rendered as ‘crying all over one’s body’ in Bengali. Poking fun at the hybrid man, Gaganendranath moreover reveals the contempt and derogatory attitude Anglo-Indians have for the mimic man they have created.

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Neither Goddess nor Whore: Machine Wives In the following series of prints the artist’s critique of patriarchy discloses his marked sympathy towards women, who were by this time a major focus of public debate. The women depicted differ considerably from contemporary allegories of Bharat Mata, Mother India. Sumathi Ramaswamy writes that the iconic Bharat Mata is depicted as a warring divinity, devoid of human attributes and feelings. The absence of breasts and babies in such depictions is conspicuous.152 Replacing the ‘mute remoteness’ and ‘emptiness of expression’ characterising nationalist female allegories, Gaganendranath depicts women as subjects burdened with everyday, familial chores.153 A glance at Abanindranath’s ethereal and docile figures reveals his preoccupation with epic heroines. Gaganendranath’s female figures, by contrast, are ungainly and subject to the drudgery of hard labour; neither Bharat Mata nor whores, here women are generally seen as incapable of engendering ­fellow feeling among future citizens. In his book The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Partha Chatterjee proposes that the patriarchal nationalist agenda ignored the political significance of female emancipation with regard to the colonial state.154 By linking female autonomy with the goal of sovereign nationhood, nationalists bound women to ‘a new, and yet entirely legitimate subordination’.155 In this view, for the nationalist project to be consistent with modernity, anti-​colonial nationalists carved out their own peculiar domain of sovereignty before initiating a political battle with imperial power. This realm, according to Chatterjee, was achieved by dividing the world of social institutions into two domains: the material (bahir) and the spiritual (ghar). The material is the domain of the ‘outside’, by which he means statecraft, economy, science and technology –​a realm in which the West had proved its superiority and the East had succumbed. The spiritual domain, by contrast, was an inner one bearing the essential marks of cultural identity and indigenous social life.156 Though the colonial (male) subject suffered constant oppression in the external world through his adaptation to its material exigencies, his inner ‘sphere’ remained ‘uncolonised’ and therefore ‘sovereign, master of its own fate’.157 Thus if the superior accomplishments of the West were to be replicated, the domestic realm remained pivotal for ‘expressing the spiritual quality of the national culture, and women must take the main responsibility for protecting and nurturing this quality.’158 For this reason, in order to shield women from Western influences (including Western education), a fundamental distinction between the social roles of men and women and the worlds they inhabited had to

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Art and Emergency be affirmed.159 Movement beyond the confines of the domestic realm was permitted as long as women’s feminine virtues of self-​sacrifice, along with familial and religious devotion, were not jeopardised.160 Unlike the popular Kalighat pats, Gaganendranath seldom depicts women as already corrupted by Western custom; they are neither sexually promiscuous nor irreligious. Without pondering the more sombre consequences of female enslavement, the artist lightly draws our attention to the drudgery they endure: exaggerated insistence on feminine virtue transforms submissive women into automatons, so that the legitimacy of the female subordination envisaged by the nationalist agenda is seriously questioned. With Reform Screams the issue of female emancipation resurfaces with ever-​growing urgency. Strolling in a leisurely fashion in a busy street is a dhoti-clad babu (Figure 3.13), sporting a waxed moustache and shiny black leather pump shoes. Umbrella in hand, he gazes upward, charmed by the sight of a prostitute leaning from a balcony. Equally taken by the sight of the prostitute are a group of Brahmins and Sannyasi priests –​ascetics revered for their renunciation of worldly pleasures. Galloping centre s​tage are two horses who appear more than charmed by the lady under discussion. The scene is reminiscent of a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, where the senses are compared to horses that need to be restrained. But in this image Gaganendranath intimates the overlapping of human and animal lust. Huddled in the kitchen corner is the babu’s wife. Barefoot, she fries puris enveloped by the chulla’s dense fumes. The cloud of smoke divides the scene into two spatial and temporal worlds, suggesting the incommensurability between the material and profane world inhabited by the cheerful babu on one hand, and the spiritual claustrophobia and domestic isolation of wifehood on the other. Engaging with the genealogy of Kalighat, Gaganendranath elaborates upon a favourite historical theme: the lecherous babu who clandestinely pays visits to courtesans in their private apartments. The artist reveals how the commodification of pleasure has become a public affair. Entitled A Wayside Digression. Strange Women Encountered on the Way Should be Avoided for Obvious Reasons, the print is a cunning graphic adaptation of an ukiyo-​e image by Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro (Utamaro Act VII from the series Chūshingura: The Treasury of the Loyal Retainers).161 Similarly to Utamaro, Gaganendranath presents two contemporaneous events occurring in different places by dividing the compositional frame into compartments. While Wayside Digression depicts bahir and ghar as distinct, in Nuisance of a Wife the polarisation of familial labour confounds the two realms (Figure 3.14).162

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Figure 3.13  Gaganendranath Tagore, A Wayside Digression. Strange Women Encountered on the Way Should Be Avoided for Obvious Reasons, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

Figure 3.14  Gaganendranath Tagore, Nuisance of a Wife, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

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Art and Emergency Handled with a light satirical touch, the print depicts women graphically shouldering the brunt. In the image, an overblown babu with Prince Albert coiffure strolls several paces ahead of his wife and children. Oblivious, the babu leans on a varnished walking stick while smoking a cigarette. Trudging comically along, his wife carries a cumbersome bedroll, a pot of yoghurt, a refillable bottle, a lamp, a Western-​looking handbag, and a screaming child. Three children encircle the mother, suggesting she has sole responsibility in looking after them. They are clad in an odd combination of traditional and Western clothes; the boy dons a navy sailor suit with a bow tie and a waistcoat on top of his dhoti, while one of the girls wears a Western frock with frills, the other a bramika saree topped by a white lace blouse. The babu’s smug look reveals complete indifference to his paternal duties. Although the pervasive mood of both prints is light-​ hearted satire, Gaganendranath hints at the mechanical role of woman in fulfilling maternal duties. The themes of mimicry, caste and colonial oppression come to the fore in subsequent images. Humans are ground, crushed and destroyed by fellow humans. Mockery becomes increasingly mordant, revealing the limits of Bergson’s theory of laughter.

Beyond Laughter In The Offending Shadow, a ‘crisis heterotopia’ violently unfolds (Figure 3.15). A babu clad in a kurta smashes a mirror with a large hammer, scattering sharp fragments all over the floor. Convulsed with frenzy, he seeks to rid himself of his repulsive reflection. Michel Foucault writes: I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward

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Figure  3.15  Gaganendranath Tagore, The Offending Shadow, lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

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Art and Emergency myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I  am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.163

Behind the babu looms a sinister, black shadow that is about to engulf him. Amongst the first to introduce light and shade in his paintings, Gaganendranath was also responsible for creating figures that ‘cast their own shadows on the picture itself, something quite novel in Indian painting.’164 In this image however, the shadow as allegory does not suggest mimesis between body and shadow but underlines the ‘offending’ discrepancy between the babu and his own corrupted psyche. Moreover, the destruction of the mirror is futile and will not restore his freedom; the inseparable shadow pokes fun at him. Heteronomy would never grant the babu the ‘status of an Englishman, and could only reduce him to a pathetic caricature of that notional model of enlightened, virile independence.’165 Far from provoking corrective laughter, the print leaves viewers with a paralysing sense of bleakness regarding the absurd effects that blind mimicry of the West brings about.166 This laughter has no joy;​it is the laughter of bitter resignation. Savagery underlines the print Millstone of the Caste System (Millstone Demon, the Obstruction in Building a Nation) (Figure 3.16). Gaganendranath carries out a radical attack on the caste system by placing a priest and one grinning skeleton (a trope featured in many ukiyo-​e prints) atop a giant millstone.167 The skeleton’s eyes roll gleefully as he grips the shoulder of the priest grinding the lower castes. As the priest continues to chant hymns from the sacred scriptures, he pours ghee into the fire and stirs up a cloud of black smoke. Gaganendranath follows a simple yet powerful colour scheme: red ochre and black create the drama. In Millstone of the Caste System, the artist points his finger at Brahmins, whose role is to enforce hierarchy and perpetuate the sub-​human conditions of the lower castes. His critique of the caste system appears far more scathing than the ambivalent position taken up by both Gandhi and Rabindranath. Notwithstanding Gandhi’s well-​known opposition to the status of untouchability, he often spoke in support of Varna and caste, while drawing a distinction between the two.168 Rabindranath, on the other hand, held a more pragmatic view on the matter and believed that the discriminatory principle, by which some people were allocated to lowly and others to nobler occupations, was highly inefficient and abrogated the freedom of the creative mind.169 When freedom of the mind is destroyed ‘by hereditary pursuit of the 162

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Figure 3.16  Gaganendranath Tagore, Millstone of the Caste System, colour lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Art and Emergency caste advocation, man is reduced to a machine, and cannot but keep on repeating itself.’170 With Gaganendranath, we do not sense the poet’s utilitarian preoccupations, but a rather more searing denunciation of the caste system as perpetuating misery and death. In the print Terribly Sympathetic (re-​named Peace Reigns in Punjab/​Terrible Sympathy in the aftermath of the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre), the misery propagated by the caste system (perceived as an obstruction to the creation of the Indian nation), appears to differ minimally from the brutal enforcement of colonial rule (Figure 3.17). Projected in rapid succession as if onto a motion picture screen, straggling figures disperse frantically, fleeing an ogre (variously identified by historians as Lloyd George, Bampfylde Fuller and General Dyer). Ginger-​haired, wearing a monocle and breeches stretched to bursting point, the monster towers above them. Laocoön-​like, a whip entangles the Governor and his Palace, the seat of Empire; it describes the contours of the British Isles.171 Exploiting a common, colloquial English expression –​‘terribly sympathetic’ –​ Gaganendranath makes a mockery of the ambivalence inherent in the despotic and paternalist nature of colonial rule. Terror and sympathy are mutually exclusive, so too Empire and ethics: in the colony, brute force rules supreme. The artist lampoons the much-​vaunted English tradition of liberty and swaggering lawfulness, upon which the creation of Empire, along with its racialised system of legality, is founded. The Governor appears to be animated less by a sense of moral rectitude than by the frenzy of power. With backward pupils, the display of naked force is far more effective than perseverance and patience, when inculcating the habit of obedience. The awareness of state authority is forever entangled with violence in the reproduction and compulsion of sovereign power. The whip must not cease cracking. With Reform Screams, Gaganendranath continues his graphic exploration of themes considered in The Realm of the Absurd. Before we turn to consider a number of these ‘graphic screams’, the historical circumstances of the time are outlined.

Emergency and the Law’s Violence The toiling people of the colonial and semi-​colonial countries who constituted the overwhelming majority of the world’s population have awakened to political consciousness […] at their head stands India and revolution is becoming impending there. On the one hand, we witness

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Figure  3.17  Gaganendranath Tagore, Terribly Sympathetic, colour lithograph, from The Realm of the Absurd, 1917. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

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Art and Emergency the growth of industries, railways, and the numerical strength of the Proletariat, on the other, we see the increase in the brutal terrorism of the British, who with ever greater frequency resort to massacres (Amritsar).172

While some of the most vicious battles of World War I were being fought in Europe, the shadow of war deepened across Asia. Spurred by what was then the most catastrophic conflict in history, Rabindranath Tagore strongly criticised the jingoistic, self-​destructive forces of nationalism, compiling three literary essays under the title Nationalism (1916): ‘Nationalism in Japan’, ‘Nationalism in the West’, and ‘Nationalism in India’.173 The essays delivered a compelling critique of nationalism and the nation state, whose creation, according to the poet, was engendering ‘the death of humanity in the West’.174 In his view, the ‘carnivorous and cannibalistic’ political civilisation of the West would soon overrun the whole world, swallowing its future like ‘some prolific weed’.175 In the essay ‘Nationalism in India’, Rabindranath suggests that the idea of nation as an organised power, with its fetishisation of boundaries, ‘diverted man’s power of sacrifice from his ultimate object, which is moral, to the maintenance of this organisation which is mechanical.’176 Such mechanical organisation would, in his view, ultimately exhaust humanity’s naturally creative and self-​sacrificing energy. ‘When you borrow things that do not belong to your life, they only serve to crush your life.’177 For Rabindranath, anti-​colonial nationalism incarnated the aspiration to mimic the worst traits of Western civilisation. In the case of India, ‘government by the Nation’ could never yield genuine freedom or human emancipation.178 Ultimately, nonetheless, Rabindranath had faith in the ability of the Raj to establish order under a common law in the vast and diverse land, and continued to value British rule.179 In his view, the deplored forms of anti-​colonial nationalism mimicked the most ill-​conceived aspects of Western civilisation. Rabindranath replaced the ideology of nationhood with an ideal propounded in his earlier ‘Swadeshi Samaj’ address of 1902. Rather than being based on machine-​like bureaucracy and commercial profit, swadeshi samaj would thrive on ‘social relations that are not mechanical and impersonal but based on love and cooperation’.180 Rabindranath’s negative assessment arose in the context of mounting nationalist protest and insurgency in Bengal and the rest of India, as well as the emergence of Gandhi as a national figure. These events triggered brutal retaliation by colonial authorities, offering a powerful intimation of what was to continue for the next three decades, leading up to Independence in 1947. In August 1917, the British

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi Government declared its intention of promoting self-​governance and a ‘responsible government of India’. These expectations of increased autonomy soon plummeted however, after the publication of the meagre Montagu-​Chelmsford Reforms in 1919. The latter proposed a further set of government reforms that, while granting a measure of autonomy, were still far from conceding self-​government. Disappointment with the Montagu-​Chelmsford reforms transformed into outrage with the enforcement of the draconian Rowlatt Act, passed by the Imperial Legislative Council in 1919, which entailed the continuation of wartime measures, undermined basic civil liberties and gave the colonial administration unlimited powers of detention and repression.181 The intimate and anxious relationship between the normativity of law and the singularity of the exception was made explicit, revealing without ambiguity that racial difference was the ‘limit condition of the articulation of both liberal conditions of rule and of positive legality.’182 Race, as the origin of the differentiation structuring the evolutionary narrative of civilisation –​the idea that some races need to be aided toward a civilised rule of law –​ prompted the tutelary justification of colonial rule.183 But as Chatterjee suggests, race also functions as the limit condition, which the colonial state cannot incorporate into its normative ideology.184 For this reason, ‘ambiguity in the function of race corresponds to an ambiguity in the justification of force.’185 The iterability of the violence performed during the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919 represented a dismal attempt on the part of General Reginald Dyer to preserve the colonial state.186 ‘Iterability requires the origin to repeat itself originarily, to alter itself so as to have the value of origin, that is, to conserve itself.’187 Under this reading mythical violence is nothing other than the recursive repetition of the origin, that is, legal violence.188 Martial law not only attempts to restore order but also to re-​affirm the sovereign authority of the state, for it benefits from the lack of normative controls on power, not only to castigate more but to castigate out of a different logic.189 Punishment here is not engendered by transgression and has no rehabilitating or retributive effects. Rather, it is purely non-​mediated and performative; its sole aim is the total manifestation of power itself. General Dyer himself observed that: It was no longer a question of merely dispersing the crowd, but one of producing a sufficient moral effect from a military point of view not only on those present, but more especially throughout the Punjab. There could be no question of undue severity.190

Winston Churchill would declare Dyer’s actions ‘without precedent or parallel in the modern history of the British Empire […] an extraordinary event, a monstrous

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Art and Emergency event, an event which stands out in singular and sinister isolation.’191 The incident, which marked neither the beginning nor the end of martial rule in India, would reinforce the view that British rule in India was coming to an end.192 British rule by law and order, on which Rabindranath had set so much store, would be seriously undermined by the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The event led the outraged poet to renounce his knighthood. In the wake of the massacre, Rabindranath initiated a far more desperate critique of Empire, which Gaganendranath complemented with his graphic art. The artist’s satire is nonetheless at odds with the pronounced lyricism one finds in the poetry and prose of his uncle. Rabindranath’s innate humanism always prevented him from plunging into hopeless sarcasm. When the poet’s unshakeable faith in humanity began to waver, towards the end of his life, he too picked up the brush, setting aside his pen. By linking up and elaborating upon his graphic deletions, Rabindranath created horrific doodles in an attempt to mock his readers’ expectations and evade the tyranny of his own fame. Yet this mockery was never single-​mindedly directed at human failure.193 With the onslaught of World War II, Rabindranath’s understanding of the soothing nature of art was radically transformed. A small, untitled pen-​and-​ink sketch of the mid-​1930s shows the expressionist quality of Rabindranath’s graphic marks (Figure 3.18). The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, whom Rabindranath had earlier met in Italy, is turned into a straw puppet with a hollow, lolling head. Unlike  Rabindranath’s well-​known paintings, whose bright hues and colours bedazzled viewers, Mussolini prompts a different understanding of the power of the graphic line.

Reform Screams To be foolish is human. To laugh at it is more so.194

In Bergson’s metaphysics, creative evolution is committed to a principle of harmony that triumphs over discord. The evolution of life is based on the precarious balance achieved between the resistance of matter and the explosive force of life itself. Adopting the Bergsonian interpretation, Gaganendranath had earlier invested laughter with a redeeming power that could repair the torn fabric of society. Later however, Gaganendranath ridicules the optimistic principle of harmonious equilibrium endorsed by Bergson. In Reform Screams, we perceive the workings of an explosive force which cannot restore the élan of the universe to 168

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Figure 3.18  Rabindranath Tagore, Mussolini, brush and ink on paper, 1935. Courtesy: Rabindra Bharati, Kolkata. 

society. No print provokes laughter in the viewer, but rather chitkaar kora, meaning ‘scream’ in Bengali, which can be translated as a loud screech in response to horror or shock. The demonic sphere of basic human instincts acquires a visible form: colour challenges the sovereignty of the printed line, and the construction of space becomes theatrical; the viewer is confronted with the horrific fantasies of mankind. In Inanimate Scream, Inanimate Nature Responding to the Professor’s Musings, Gaganendranath ponders the politically explosive atmosphere of the time. In the image, scientist and botanist Jagadish Chandra Bose sits atop the Himalayas with

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Art and Emergency a lightning bolt. An anonymous commentator (presumably Gaganendranath himself) writes: Hitherto plants and the ‘Non-​living’ were not wont to speak. But Professor Bose has made them answer his queries. Having found a voice, they now speak even when the Professor has not put them any questions. The Professor was lost in scientific contemplation on the heights of the Himalayas –​little dreaming that the Living and the Non-​living had become extraordinarily responsive to their environments, perfectly imitating all the prevailing human cries and methods –​when he was awakened by the sound of the Thunderbolt […] coming down from the cloudless sky to tell him of the agitation in the world of the Living and the Non-​Living. What was his surprise to find that the Bamboo was shouting “Strike”, “Strike” […] the Lotus, on whom neither Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) nor Saraswati (the Goddess of Knowledge) was any longer enthroned, was ruefully crying “Bande Mataram” […] Mr Frog had begun to harangue in the latest approved demagogic style […] Mr Gaganendranath Tagore, the artist, saw and heard all this in imagination and transferred his vision to paper.195

In this allegorical depiction Gaganendranath praises the discoveries of the scientist (who refused to patent his inventions), published in his books, Response in the Living and Non-​living (1902) and The Nervous Mechanism of Plants (1926). Chandra Bose’s invention of the crescograph, an instrument capable of registering the response to electric stimuli in plants and measure their growth, had led him to establish similarities between animal and plant tissues, and to postulate the capacity of plants to experience feelings such as pain when injured. The image depicts how, in Bose’s absence, the plants he has stimulated have become responsive to their surrounding environment, successfully imitating human revolutionary techniques. The curious image suggests Gaganendranath’s critique of the charged atmosphere of revolutionary agitation. However in a print published alongside Inanimate Scream, Gaganendranath’s misgivings towards the Non-​Cooperation strategies devised by the Mahatma are made apparent. In the image The Charka versus Everything Else: Art, Music, Poetry, Science, Hospitals, Colleges, Shipping, Telegraphs, Railways and Research, an animated charka soars heavenwards and a long thread of cotton unravels.196 Lying in a state of utter neglect below are derailed train carriages, a hospital, telegraph poles, books on a variety of subjects, a sitar and a telescope pointing blindly at the sky.

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi Black spiders spin unperturbed across the page, entangling all structures in a mesh of intricate webs. Conspicuous for his absence is the Mahatma. During the Non-​Cooperation Movement, as we have seen, handlooms became the concrete, material symbols of the imagined simplicity and purity of village life, of a distinctive Indian tradition, and of forms of life removed from the purview of modern capitalism. Home manufactures were invested with a spiritual (national) significance, which could transcend the alienating orbit of colonial exchange. For Gaganendranath these nationalist claims are politically untenable, perhaps even ridiculous. In Hind Swaraj (1909), Gandhi explained that machinery ‘represents a great sin’; that ‘railways, too, have spread the bubonic plague’ and ‘increased the frequency of famines because, owing to facility of means of locomotion, people sell out their grain and it is sent to the dearest markets.’197 Hospitals were ‘institutions for propagating sin. Men take less care of their bodies, and immorality increases.’198 He further lamented that a peasant needs no ‘knowledge of letters’, which could only make him ‘discontented with his cottage or his lot’, neither ‘elementary education or higher education’ being ‘required for the main thing’, to ‘make of us men’.199 What emerges from Gaganendranath’s The Charka versus Everything Else is Gandhi’s denigration not only of all modern infrastructures such as hospitals, the railway system and schooling, but of culture and art. The Mahatma’s identification of colonialism with industrialisation and his emphasis on spinning as the instrument of economic and political liberation is perceived by Gaganendranath as reactionary. The artist singles out the charka as morally and politically treacherous; spinning is equated with the activity of the spider, whose creation of webs is doomed to a mechanical and perpetual conformity, trapping humanity. But in foregrounding ‘art’, Gaganendranath vilifies the authoritarian, sovereign nature of the spinning wheel for its quiescent subordination (and consequent destruction) of the individual’s creativity to monotonous routine for the greater good of the masses.200 The upholding of the charka generates homogeneity, regimentation, and the loss of individual creative thought. The print recalls a series of heated exchanges between Rabindranath and the Mahatma on the theme of the charka. These were published in the pages of the Modern Review and the Mahatma’s own Young India, 1921–5. For Gandhi, the charka was a symbol and a means to achieving swaraj, at once a moral and materialist creed. His call to all Indians to take up the spinning of the charka for 30 minutes every day symbolised solidarity with the poor and the downtrodden. The

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Art and Emergency debate over the charka was at the heart of the disagreement between Rabindranath and Gandhi on nationalism and politics: the issue of compulsion and individual freedom.201 The poet felt that the pursuit of swaraj, which sought the assumption of Western political forms as its final goal, was propelled by negative forces: contempt for the British, the burning of cloth, a rejection of the Western schooling system and education. This was wholly unacceptable to him. On the contrary, Rabindranath was concerned with individual freedom, ‘the final goal of a fully and completely lived human life’.202 In bemoaning the compulsions of instrumental rationality, Rabindranath elevated the inner world of ‘creative impulse’, an inalienable store of creative capacity and emotional energy which placed human self-​realisation beyond any concern with self-​preservation. According to the poet, it is not only the oppressive power inherent in the end goal (the nation state), but the regimentation of individual behaviour during the nationalist struggle (the means) that is hostile to freedom.203 Although the West had clearly failed to impress upon the Indian colony what it could and should achieve politically, Rabindranath now divided his wrath equally between his fellow countrymen and the British rulers. Gaganendranath accompanies Rabindranath’s misgivings graphically. The scathing critique of the Non-​ Cooperation Movement complements Gaganendranath’s mockery of Western political forms and their mimicry in the medium of print. If, in Wry Thunderbolt and The Realm of the Absurd, the babu was a discernible subject of mockery, in Astronomical Scream. The First Bengali Governor. Where is H.E.?, Indian politicians have become identical templates escorted by identically uniformed mascots (Figure 3.19). Gaganendranath places a number of large telescopes pointing towards planet earth, set to pick out the governor. But Lord Sinha, the first Indian to be appointed by the British as Governor of Bihar and Orissa, cannot be found. The scream from space turns into the scream of a lion, Britannia, in Premier Scream, Montford in Labour –​Behold the Outcome (Figure 3.20). Babies are born screaming, yet in the print, we see baby India stillborn, with a stethoscope stuck to its head, being force-​fed from the ‘deficit’ bottle. A large mercurial thermometer is on the brink of exploding. Premier Scream, Montford in Labour is an allegorical depiction inviting the viewer to consider the grim repercussions of the Montagu-​ Chelmsford Act, which had inaugurated a new constitution in a ‘very anaemic condition’.204 The Viceroy and his ministers struggle to keep the baby alive through mechanical means while Annie Besant, head of the Home Rule Movement, looks reproachfully at the new constitution. Gaganendranath castigates the colonial

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Figure  3.19 Gaganendranath Tagore, The First Bengali Governor. Where is H.E.?, watercolour on paper, sketch executed in preparation for Reform Screams, 1921. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

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Figure 3.20  Gaganendranath Tagore, Premier Scream, Montford in Labour –​Behold the Outcome, colour lithograph, from Reform Screams, 1921. Author’s collection. 

administration for seeking to extract their ‘pound of flesh’ and refusing to compensate for the drain on the colony’s economy. Red is smeared all over the image, suggesting a difficult, compromised delivery. The infantilism of Indian politicians is the target of strident derision in the Gift of Self-​Government. Gaganendranath once more makes a mockery of nationalist leaders who, lured by the promise of self-​government, quit the Nationalist Party to join the British Government. On the lower right, the Governor General fondles the large infant, Surendranath Banerjee, while to his left the Secretary rattles

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi the promise of ‘self-​government’. Britannia the lion roars, or perhaps screams. Bergson’s idea of the relative success of each vital solution is seriously queried here. The precarious condition of the baby in both prints intimates the already crippled status of India, embroiled as it is in a permanent state of emergency. The theme of broken childhood surfaces once more in the context of the social ills afflicting the realm of samaj. The viewer senses a sustained concern with child brides, victims of patriarchy and domestic violence.205 In Student Scream  –​Sold per Force, Modern Marriage Market in Bengal, Gaganendranath supports the reformer’s cry that no dowry should be extorted from a bride’s father by the family of a bridegroom. Rather, love alone should be the compelling force behind marriage. Gaganendranath here mocks the Gandhian ‘soul force’ of satyagraha, by likening it to the violence inherent in the arranging of mercenary marriages by greedy families. We see a young boy who has just been widowed, leaning upon a volume of the English tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The wife’s corpse, yet to be cremated, is covered with a sheet and pinned with a butterfly, whose Bengali name prajapati also signifies Brahma, the Hindu god of marriages. The widowed man is being consoled by his mother with the prospect of a new bride, freshly ‘hooked’ from an earthen vessel with a hairpin, alluding to the Bengali custom of storing live fish in pots for later consumption. The new bride is a mere child, holding a Bengali primer in one hand and her abundant dowry in the other. From considering the corpse of a child-​ bride about to be cremated, Gaganendranath turns to a teenage girl about to set herself on fire to escape marriage in Matrimonial Scream –​Marriage Reform.206 The latter cartoon was designed in the context of a notorious incident occurring in Calcutta in the 1920s, when a 14-​ year old girl immolated herself. The girl could not accept that her father was obliged to mortgage the family dwelling to procure her dowry. In the image, a blindfolded bride wearing a bright red wedding saree is about to be ‘wedded’ to a can of kerosene labelled ‘The Rising Sun-​in-​Law of Bengal’. Owned by an Anglo-​Dutch company, ‘Rising Sun’ was a popular brand of kerosene fuel oil used for lamps and cooking in India (‘Illuminate your soul with service and love […] Sun brand oil is the radiance of darkened homes!’). Posters advertising the commodity, which depicted the goddess Lakshmi freely bestowing cans of kerosene from the sky, had circulated in the domestic bazaar from around 1903.207 Marketing techniques exploiting pauranic imagery were a common and successful strategy deployed by both European and Indian firms.208 These strategies capitalised on the ‘Orientalist characterisation of Indians as superstitious’, or simply drew from the large number of existing printed images with proven commercial success.209 In this way a space was created where the sacred and the dynamics of commerce were closely intertwined.210

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Art and Emergency Gaganendranath thus further pursues his critique of the dowry and caste system. Moreover, by inserting the image of the Kerosene can, he extends it to the colonial co-​option of pauranic imagery for commercial exploitation. Curiously, the Rising Sun advertisement reads: ‘Sun brand oil is the radiance of darkened homes’. Allegorically depicted in the background are a skeleton and a jittering priest. Hemmed in on all sides is the bridegroom’s father, who nooses another candidate bride. Radiating from the centre of the image is the sacrificial bride, who ‘illuminates the home’ while rebelling against these social machinations.211 Notwithstanding Gaganendranath’s critique of British rule, the artist confronts the predicament of modernity in a way similar to Rabindranath’s radical humanism. For although the poet condemned the brutality of government in India and the violent backlash it generated in the growing force of militant Indian nationalism, he insisted that ‘we must bring about a compromise between the secret shame of the bureaucracy and our open defiance.’212 Urging in his fellow countrymen the need for mutual understanding, the poet asserted that ‘Europe too has a soul’ and that ‘when we discover Europe’s spiritual core, we will discover its inner reality –​ something that is neither materialistic nor simply of the intellect, but is sheer joy of life.’213 At this crucial juncture, one can interpret Gaganendranath’s embrace of a transnational form of modernism as critiquing Rabindranath’s call for a novel, artistic language, inspired by a European ideal of art. In Gaganendranath’s critical appropriation of cubism, a European art form associated with the destruction of tradition, one does not sense a humanist longing for the poet’s affirmation of the universal flow of life. Gaganendranath’s cubist experiments reveal contempt for the allegedly redeeming capacity of art, becoming a powerful narcotic against the oppressive stimuli of colonial reality. For the artist, ‘cubism’ is not a technique that needs to be mastered: it offers neither rules nor norms, but a purely liberating process.214 Freedom acquires a physical sense: ‘ “to detonate” an explosive, to use it for more and more powerful movements.’215

The Babu’s Grin He took the whole world into himself and then spat it out.216

Gaganendranath at one point laments that much of Calcutta society for him is laughable and absurd, to the extent that little, if any value remains:  laughter has tinged all aspects of life with a wash of devastating pessimism. This may account for why his patterns of inflation and deflation lie uneasily between pathos and 176

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi hysterical laughter, now reminding us less of Bergson and more of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s observations regarding the nature of humour. The two philosophers suggest that laughter is ‘an art of consequences and descents, of suspensions and falls.’217 Although locked into the workings of this process, laughter overturns itself in favour of its absurd, corrosive heart. Comical laughter is the loophole, but the bleakness with which it is so intimately linked comes close to sealing it off completely. Laughter, in Gaganendranath’s subsequent cubist incarnation, formally erupts with a sense of impotence, generating a violent detonation expressed in the blasting of forms. The experience of shock suffered under colonial modernity paralyses perception; ultimately, laughter becomes a numbing shield that protects the individual’s consciousness against a profusion of violent stimuli. This anaesthetic depletes the person’s ability to react politically, even though his own survival is at stake. In this Bergsonian reversal, the body waits to contract into a spasm ‘to approximate the horror of abjection, laughter occurs in spite of itself, convulsing the body and exceeding the bounds of organic activity’.218 According to Mohanlal Gangoly (the artist’s nephew), Gaganendranath’s interest in light refraction was sparked fortuitously in 1921, and in turn brought on his fascination with cubism.219 Following a mysterious explosion, which took place during a visit to the swadeshi mela organised by Gandhi in Calcutta, Gaganendranath came across a large piece of broken glass. The glass had cracked in the fire, creating fantastic light patterns. The spectacle provided by the spinning wheels at the mela had been thoroughly disappointing for the artist: ‘nothing new is ever produced in India.’220 The discovery of this piece of glass pleased Gaganendranath enormously, redeeming the otherwise unalleviated boredom of the mela.221 Holding up broken fragments of crystal against the light, Gaganendranath peered through these prisms to paint the coloured effect of the rainbow on paper.222 For art historian Partha Mitter, this obsession with the ‘prismatic luminosity’ of glass led the artist to search for mechanical devices that accentuated colour patterns, including a kaleidoscope, which broke up objects and images into mesmerising lights and shapes.223 In 1922, Gaganendranath published his cubist paintings anonymously in the magazine Rupam: An Illustrated Quarterly Journal of Oriental Art, Chiefly Indian, alongside an article by the Viennese art historian Stella Kramrisch. The latter, appointed by Rabindranath to teach art history at Kala Bhavana, observed that while cubism was a European phenomenon, it shared the formalist concerns of other (non-​European), non-​illusionist artistic forms. Amongst the works of

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Art and Emergency Gaganendranath described by Kramrisch was a watercolour entitled Laughter (Figure 3.21). This is how the art historian describes the image: In Laughter, at last that great deliberator hurries triumphantly laughing, laughing in all the white nooks, laughing from all the dark peaks out of its shelter, that earnest, composed left portion of the composition, which quivers already with restrained laughter. This composition does not depict a psychological state, just as the previous pictures did not reproduce nature. It is the created form of a smile, which starts clear and acute and rushes full of music towards its end […] Here the cubes do not build up a systematic structure, but they express the radiating, turbulent […] hovering forces of inner experience.224

The black-​and-​white watercolour depicts a glass-​like surface of sharp planes resulting in a luminosity that is fragmented. Suggestive of a vicious detonation expressed through form, the watercolour conveys a kind of laughter turned convulsive: ‘Laughter is many things, of course; it is, among other things, a wordless language spoken by the body when our standard vocabularies desert us.’225 Joyful laughter, Deleuze writes, is not the ‘ambivalent joy of hatred, but the joy of wanting to destroy whatever mutilates life.’226 Deleuze suggests that a war is constantly being waged between those members of society who seek to retain control and those who seek to free action beyond coercion in order to maximise creativity. Hence the fighting path to happiness can also be found in the subversion embedded in minor works.227 There is a humorous watercolour conserved at Visva Bharati (Santiniketan) that might support this interpretation (Figure 3.22). Executed in 1922 by the artist, Flight of the First Indian Cubist evokes the innumerable, imagined flights conducted by Gaganendranath through the medium of print as well as illustration, which had taken him to London, Tokyo, Paris and Moscow. On an empty page, a miniature-​like cube composed of jagged edges, diamond-​shaped planes and multiple light-​refracting facets hovers in space. Inside the cube, sits the figure of Gaganendranath. With distorted proportions, he appears clad in a swirling boku robe, arms and legs folded, reclining on his chair. He dangles his chappals.228 A contradictory figure, aware of his incongruous circumstances, Gaganendranath was bemused at his own historical good fortune, revealing a remarkable capacity for adaptation and survival. His cubist experiments denote a moment of uncertainty in which the future is conceived with a sense of alarm, if only because it is unknown, or not entirely intelligible in terms of familiar categories. Unlike Europe, where artists 178

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Figure 3.21  Bottom left: Gaganendranath Tagore, Laughter, watercolour on paper, 1922. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan.

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Figure 3.22  Gaganendranath Tagore, Flight of the First Indian Cubist, watercolour on paper, 1922. Courtesy: Rabindra Bhavana, Santiniketan. 

carried out a bold destruction of bourgeois ideas and traditions and created new materials from the debris, Gaganendranath’s desire to destroy conventional perception exposed an eroded terrain. To provincialise the legacy of European thought is not enough, writes Rustom Bharucha.229 In a head-​on confrontation with Dipesh Chakrabarty –​a founding figure of subaltern thought –​Bharucha submits that the European conceptual heritage is a burden that the South can happily do without. Of course, to reject gifts breaches diplomatic etiquette, offends the giver and severs links. But this uncivilised gesture

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi is an ethically necessary means to dispute liberal generosity, constituting a refusal to be bought up. Injecting political insurgency into the debate, Bharucha indicts the cool, contemporary collusion of post-​colonial intellectuals in the narrative of globalisation.230 Provincialising is a cowardly pantomime that reeks of neoliberal reconciliation and reaffirms the arrogant power of the West.231 Cosmopolitanism, Craig Calhoun suggests, camouflages privilege and falls short of grasping the importance of solidarity, especially for those deprived of power. For this reason, he underlines the need to endorse a more political and limited form of cosmopolitanism, which can accommodate difference and hybridity, creating a more valuable engine of political and global change.232 Partha Mitter, elaborating Benedict Anderson’s claims with regard to the rise of European nationalism, writes that print culture created imagined communities whose members had no direct contact with one another, but shared a social and intellectual space. Following this line of thought, Mitter suggests that print capitalism during the colonial era ‘helped to introduce ideas of the Enlightenment to regions outside Europe.’233 At a conference in Washington DC (2010), he suggested that during colonialism the transmission of knowledge between centre and periphery occurred in an imagined community, which he described as a happy and fruitful virtual ‘cosmopolis’. In this space, he proposed, the virtual cosmopolitan was able to engage with the printed text in order to generate new forms of knowledge.234 Notwithstanding its widespread usage in cross-​cultural intellectual exchanges, he continued, power does not explain the genuine nature of the cosmopolitan imaginary, namely ‘how ideas cross borders and what happens to them when they begin their afterlives in other cultures.’235 The term ‘cosmopolitanism’, Mitter proposed, would enable him to ‘counter pessimism about the possibility of fruitful cultural exchanges amid the morass of power politics.’236 Gaganendranath’s virtual cosmopolitanism developed in similar circumstances. Through his association with members of the British ruling class, this zamindar was subtly disconcerted by the facility with which he had acquired eminence. His sense of impotence may well have sprung from the painful awareness of his own compromised position, thus making his contribution all the more remarkable.237 Under the experience of colonial modernity, laughter becomes a numbing shield, a prolonged anaesthesia of the heart that protects the individual’s consciousness against a profusion of violent stimuli.238 This same anaesthetic –​which deprived the artist of physical sensation and the power to move –​also depleted Gaganendranath of the ability to take a fully-​fledged political position.

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Art and Emergency The isolation cultivated by the artist during his lifetime caused the relegation of his legacy to near-​oblivion. Santiniketan-​based artist Nandalal Bose, a former pupil of Abanindranath, commented: ‘we can admire him, even if we would not wish to emulate his manner’.239 Had Gaganendranath been able in some measure to bridge his isolation, things might perhaps have been different. Unsympathetic towards the cubistic deconstruction of the subject, his brother Abanindranath observed that this kind of art ‘had brought anarchy in its train’.240 Here one is reminded of the imperatives of Fanon and Nietzsche: to laugh, to experience ‘an artistic joy that coincides in an untimely fashion with historical struggle […] creative moments that are poised for a moment in history.’241

Conclusion This chapter has offered an analysis of the paintings and lithographs of artist Gaganendranath Tagore, created and circulated during the period stretching from the Partition of Bengal (1905) and the collapse of the Swadeshi Movement to the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919), times punctuated by draconian measures on the part of the colonial state. Viewed against the romantic pictorial gestures that characterised the art of the Bengal School, Gaganendranath did not concern himself with re-​constructing elements from the past to console viewers.242 Forsaking order for experiment, Gaganendranath painted out of a sense of antagonism towards the past. Resonating with Benjamin’s own writings on allegory, Gaganendranath’s figural adaptations emerge in response to a sense of estrangement from tradition. Allegory becomes a model of critique, through which he rewrites primary European literary sources in terms of their figural meanings in the colony. Appropriating European texts and images, Gaganendranath assumes the role of interpreter and radically questions their cultural significance. The various manipulations to which he submits his materials become a means to empty them of their original content, their intrinsic rules and significance, but also of their authoritative claims to meaning.243 To carry out this attack, Gaganendranath operated in the productive space between translation and original to suit his own peculiar ends in the colony. In his initial reading of Bergson, the artist sought by means of laughter to correct the deformities and perilous forms of mimicry afflicting colonial society. In his later engagement with the work of the French philosopher, Gaganendranath attaches few redemptive powers to laughter. In the context of the Amritsar massacre of 1919, with increasing insurgency and brutal colonial reprisals, the power of laughter

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Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi does not so much lie –​as Bergson believed –​in repairing the wounds afflicting society, but in affording a temporary form of resistance, a release of explosive tension under colonialism. To instigate laughter becomes, for Gaganendranath, a means to release a positive and creative force in times of emergency, a way to escape from horror. At once rebellious and submissive to colonial rule, perhaps an insolent masochist, Gaganendranath ruthlessly parodies cubism, seeking to dispel and dismiss Bergsonian myths of flow between past, present and future in the colony. The burst of laughter turns into a moment of struggle that is untimely –​a mysterious, aggressive force that overcomes us. The comic, in a peculiar combination of irony and humour, becomes the only possible mode of subverting and turning the law upside down.244

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This book has explored a series of case studies to show how artists have lived through and negotiated political emergencies by reinventing the conditions for art and its publics in colonial and post-​colonial India. Rooted in the tragic political experiences of the Third World, the works of Nasreen Mohamedi, Sunil Janah and Gaganendranath Tagore critically register resistance by opposing and creatively contesting state-sanctioned violence. Babu Benjamin’s ‘tradition of the oppressed’ suggests that the imposition of colonial rule as such instituted a permanent state of emergency in the colony. What I have tried to show in this book is how artists challenged that ‘state of emergency’, and to identify how art stepped in to do the work of politics in times of extreme violence. This violence, propped up by a colonial ‘rule of law’, generated a jurisprudence of emergency that was later taken up by political leaders under national rule in the post-​colony. Mohamedi, Janah and Gaganendranath Tagore were more in touch with international currents of modernism as a paradigm of cultural discourse, and less invested than their contemporary peers in the national idiom. Their contributions stand in radical and recalcitrant opposition to despotic rule, the state apparatus and the ‘nation’ –​akin to what Deleuze and Guattari term a nomadic ‘war machine’ –​offering revisions and corrections to the more static canon of international modernism.1 Mohamedi’s fugitive abstraction, the horrific famine photography of Communist Janah, and the allegorical imagery of Gaganendranath Tagore singularly position us to confront the catastrophe that is progress. Similarly to Benjamin, the saturnine nomad with his allegories, defiant visions, reveries and indefatigable sense of gloom and hope, these artists took up many positions that placed each at a crossroads, between resistance and submission to the various colonial and post-​colonial incarnations of sovereignty. For Benjamin it was

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Conclusion important to keep all options open: the revelatory, the Communist, the theological and the aesthetic. One position complemented the other. His approach was so fractured because he combined diverging motifs without actually unifying them. To single out one position to the detriment of another spoiled the overall balance. This very vacillation kept everything in place, in a state of suspension.2 Over the years, Geeta Kapur has done much to secure for inspection the ‘anarchy of differential practices’ and the ‘unlogged initiatives’ in the case of India, diverting the hegemonic narrative of modernism.3 Replete with the memory of ‘native transgressions’, Third World traditions of modernism are charged with an energy of revolutionary struggle that must be wrested ‘from the conformism that is about to overpower them’, Kapur writes, borrowing a phrase of Benjamin.4 Art and Emergency has engaged in a similar act of recovery, one that urges us to take a ‘tiger’s leap into the past’, to rescue forgotten artistic practices galvanised by present-​day urgencies.5 Modernism and modernity are no fait accompli. Contrary to Kapur’s teleological narrative, this book has taken the view that the potential to create constellations, linking the present to the past, lies with the act of remembering. These constellations –​monadic moments –​crystallise totalities and resist domination; they can be turned into a source of spiritual energy for those in struggle today.6 Bringing forgotten historical moments to consciousness, Benjamin proposed, made it possible for the past to help us question the present. Historical materialism and the Left have always defined themselves in terms of revolutionary expectations of the future. But looking backwards might be the only way to move forwards, to set up a redemptive relation to the past. Revolutionary hope comes down to ‘waking the dead and piecing together what has been shattered.’7 Art and Emergency is thus premised on a paradox, entwining hope and despair: The way to the origin is, to be sure, a way backwards, but backwards into a future, which although it has gone by in the meantime and its idea has been perverted, still holds more promise than the current image of the future.8

To open up the past is to suggest that so-​called historical judgements are neither irrevocable nor definitive. The future can reconsider archived histories, rescue victims, breathe life back into defeated hopes and aspirations, rediscover forgotten struggles deemed ‘utopian, anachronistic’ or dismissed as ‘running against the grain of progress’.9 Questioning the dominant historiographic categories, saturated with a linear ideology of progress, this book has refrained from idealising these artists. To emphasise the human and social significance of their struggle

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Art and Emergency through the pictured image does not detract from their remarkable contributions to the history of modernism. What their work does is shed light on the limits of the ‘progressist’ and ‘modernising’ ambitions of history and teleological historicism.10 They ask us to keep history open so that other emancipatory and utopian possibilities may emerge. Benjamin and his writings can assist us in giving back to utopia its negative force, rejecting any teleological determinism, along with models of society that maintain the illusion of putting an end to the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live, and hence of history. Benjamin’s criticism of oppression spurs us to view history from the standpoint of the Third World –​thus giving his ‘Theses’ a more universal scope.11 Contrary to the dominant tendency of the historic Left –​shrivelled to its male, white, ‘national’ and ossified role –​Benjamin’s nomadic way of thinking enables us to entertain the possibility of a project that aims at emancipating all of humanity.12 For sure, there is a certain fragility, imbued with a sense of defeat, inherent in his utopian mission. Hence any image in which the totality of the history of the oppressed is summed up, foreshadowing redemption, is always negative. To figuratively imagine what I mean by negative redemption, I seek the assistance of one particular image. The image (Figure C.1) is here used to radically condense my narrative into a single monadic instant –​one in which past, present and future might be brought to life. From within a photographic studio, the half-​portrait of a Bengali babu emerges in fashionable swagger.13 The theatrical pose derives from and deliberately alludes to the paraphernalia of state portraits, fashionable already in Elizabethan times. Ostentation then performed a political function, and sitters commissioned portraits to exalt their personality and affirm their right to rule.14 British sitters sat for large, full-​length portraits celebrating their roles on the imperial stage, costumed suitably and projecting an aura of power. Facing the viewer with heraldic demeanour, the sitter’s theatricality conveyed the majesty of office and was reinforced by elaborate props –​background drapery, furniture and decor.15 By the eighteenth century, the swagger portrait became most popular amongst British elite tourists, determined at all costs to return home with an image of themselves as fashionable and erudite travellers.16 Under Italian painter Pompeo Batoni’s brush, tourists, idlers and debauched playboys of limited learning were all transformed into intrepid and enlightened gentlemen, conveying the flamboyance that a year in Italy could magically impart.17 The silks, satins and taffetas worn by these men and women, the ermine, periwigs and braid that Batoni painted with such finesse, were not clothes so much as costumes, symbols of rank: we

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Figure  C.1 Gaganendranath Tagore, self-​ portrait, photograph, c.1905. Courtesy: Archives of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata and Siddhartha Ghosh. 

are in the realm of theatre –​coded sophisticated fictions. Among Indian elites too, swagger imagery became very fashionable. Sitters adopted Western clothing, modified it, resisted it, or consciously played to Western expectations by retaining their own. A number of written accounts confirm that Gaganendranath was a particularly enthusiastic photographer and sitter, who probed the swagger conventions of the genre with great brio and wit. Self-​fashioning his own adaptive, hybrid cross-​dressing, Gaganendranath made use of the flamboyant oriental designs and dazzling satins, silks and fabrics that he and Rabindranath had amassed with zeal and pride at Jorasanko. Between colonial homeland and imagined imperial centre, Gaganendranath would have his wife and daughter dress up in a variety of costumes, posing to play musical instruments for prolonged periods of time.

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Art and Emergency Although he considered Western clothing clumsy, even tasteless, in this particular studio portrait he sports a thigh-​length smoking jacket, a continental outfit worn by men of leisure, perhaps following the Crimean War (1853–​6). Smoking tobacco for hours was the thing to do.18 In the portrait, babu Gaganendranath seemingly takes up the swagger pose. He leans on a chair and grins; one hand holds a cigarette, the other is clenched, hiding something from view. The portrait offers up no Batoni gentleman for scrutiny –​this impostor denies the attention one expects of him. The sly poser refuses to engage with the viewer, for his gaze is fixed on something that is invisible to all. Further undermining the swagger portrait, Gaganendranath drains the studio of light, embellishing it with odd scraps and dubious, vulgar props: a flower wilts comically and cropped vases fade in the background.19 Drawing from the pleasures of mechanical reproduction, Gaganendranath weaves a critical commentary on the legacy of history and colonialism in India. Exposing the farce embedded in swagger portraiture, he hints at the sham dichotomy between law and violence in the colony. One could picture the swirling, ghostly shadows of the famine enveloping him, as a pile of rubble grows skyward before him; clusters of scratches –​hieroglyphs ready for decipherment appear before his figure. Turning the swagger pose to the side, Gaganendranath fixes this moment –​to stop history. The slanted pose of this sitter figuratively parallels my oblique interpretation of Geeta Kapur’s writings. The colonial jurisprudence of emergency was another sophisticated coded fiction, deployed to dress up the naked violence and might-​makes-​right logic underpinning the ‘rule of law’ in the colony and –​like the swagger portrait –​affirm the legitimacy of the ‘right to rule’. Gaganendranath’s mockery of the swagger portrait also alludes to the farce of progress and the Empire’s civilising mission in the colony. In a loop of bad infinity, the self-​styled rulers perpetuate conditions that engender the ills which they claim to cure. While progress and catastrophe are contained in each instant of time, so too is the potential for salvation from either: all times could be redeemed from somewhere beyond time. Benjamin’s ‘real state of emergency’ could come about in any instant, without giving us any chance to get ready, for ‘every moment is the strait gate of time through which the Messiah might enter.’20 We pass from a time of necessity to a time of possibilities, a random time, open at any moment to the unpredictable interruption of the new. Benjamin’s political messianism envisaged the ‘angel of history’ as a figure that would make the continuum of history explode –​standing at the gate, clutching a homemade bomb.21 Perhaps, clenched unseen in his hand, it is this bomb that Gaganendranath is about to detonate.

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Notes Introduction: Tearing Apart the Storm of Progress 1. ‘History’ is here polemically capitalised to indicate the prototype of linear, progressive and teleological histories. In The Philosophy of History (1837), G. W. Hegel typically differentiated societies in terms of linear, forward-​moving conceptions of the nation-​in-​time, thus proposing novel and normative hierarchies between ‘civilised’ and ‘barbarian’, ‘advanced’ and ‘retrograde’ and ultimately, the West and the non-​West. At the turn of the twentieth century, post-​colonial theorists turned to this interpretation of the latter when exploring the connections between history and the modern nation. Rather than a neutral science for comprehending the past, history was perceived and critiqued for its implied and politically instrumental worldview. 2. Walter Benjamin, IX in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Illuminations (London: Pimlico, 1999), p. 249. 3. Benjamin’s wrenching critique of historical reason prompted him to view progress and civilisation not as the ultimate goals of human achievement but rather as a series of victories in which the oppressor brandishes cultural heritage as spoils. These victors, he continued, have sunk their oppressed victims into oblivion so that the latter may no longer be considered as being part of ‘culture’. See Benjamin, VII in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 247–​8. 4. That is, between 1941–​5. The Frankfurt School was to name this new variant of domination ‘total administration’ while Hannah Arendt called it ‘Totalitarianism’. See Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’ (London: Verso, 2005), p. 59. 5. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth:  Penguin Books, 1969). Originally published in French in 1952. 6. A couple of lines before this passage Benjamin writes: ‘For without exception the cultural treasures he (the historical materialist) surveys have an origin which he cannot contemplate without horror. They owe their existence not only to the efforts of great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil of their contemporaries.’ See VII in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 248. 7. Dipesh Chakrabarty, a founding member of the subaltern studies group, writes: ‘The dominance of “Europe” as the subject of all histories is part of a much more profound theoretical condition under which historical knowledge is produced in the third world.’

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Notes to Pages 2–4 See his ‘Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for “Indian” Pasts?’, in R. Guha (ed.), A Subaltern Studies Reader 1986–​1995 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.  265. See also in this connection, Ranajit Guha, Dominance without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), especially ­Chapter 1 and the work of Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 237. 8. Art historical literature with a focus on imperialism has yet to consider the existence of alternative ontologies with seriousness, a point made by Peter Hallward in Absolutely Postcolonial: Writing Between the Singular and the Specific (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001); and Natasha Eaton in Colour, Art and Empire: Visual Culture and the Nomadism of Representation (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013). 9. Benjamin, VIII in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 248. 10. Homi K.  Bhabha, ‘Remembering Fanon:  Self, Psyche and the Colonial Condition’, in B. Kruger and P. Mariani (eds), Remaking History (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1989), p. 134. 11. Bhabha, ‘Remembering Fanon: Self, Psyche and the Colonial Condition’, p. 134. 12. For literature on the figure of the ‘subaltern’ see R. Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983–​93), vols 1–​6. Later volumes, 7–​10, compiled by editorial teams consisting of Gyanendra Pandey and Partha Chatterjee; David Arnold and David Hardiman; Shahid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarty; and by Susie Tharu, Gautam Bhadra and Gyan Prakash. See also Guha’s Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983). 13. For the genealogy of the word ‘post-​colony’, see Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001). 14. These exploited lives, as Fanon put it, were forced into bare existence when the colonially imposed ‘state of emergency’ overlapped with racialised distinctions and diverse modes of subjectivity. See his Black Skin, White Masks (1952), one of the first books produced by Fanon during his tormented and incessant intellectual transgression of boundaries from Martinique to Paris to Lyon. 15. Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Vivan Sundaram, Memorial: An Installation with Photographs and Sculpture 1993 (New Delhi: AIFACS Galleries, 1993). For a brief discussion of this work see also Geeta Kapur, When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (New Delhi: Tulika, 2000), pp. 351–​2. 16. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) carried out the devastation of the Babri Masjid on the alleged grounds that the sixteenth-​ century Mughal emperor Babur (1483–​1530) had demolished an ancient temple devoted to the Hindu deity Rama, erecting in its stead a mosque in 1528. The spectacular violence, involving an estimated 150,000 Hindutva militants, unfolded under the complicit gaze of UP (Uttar Pradesh) state forces and bureaucrats. Borrowing from a repertoire of affective symbolic practices, the movement related the icon of Rama to a politics of exclusion at once violent and extremely successful

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Notes to Page 4 in terms of the electorate. Riots broke out on 6 December 1992 and continued until 19 January 1993. The Srikrishna Commission, appointed by the State Government to inquire into the causes of the Mumbai riots, determined that the Shiv Sena was responsible. This explicitly anti-​Communist political party, which in 1995 took power along with the BJP in Maharashtra, had consistently targeted minorities in the state, including Gujaratis, Muslims, South Indians and Dalits. But the fierce and deliberate intensity of the attacks was chiefly directed against the urban Muslim population, resulting in mass exodus. The Commission identified two phases to the riots. The first involved a predominantly Muslim retaliation following the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The second phase was a Hindu backlash triggered by the killings of Hindu mathadi kamgar (workers) by Muslim rioters in South Bombay, the stabbing of Hindus in Muslim majority areas and the burning of six Hindus. This phase occurred in January 1993, with most incidents reported between 6 and 20 January. The Report asserted that print media had largely fomented communal tensions, particularly Sena’s Saamana. The paper gave exaggerated accounts of the mathadi murders and the Radhabai Chawl incident, spreading rumours regarding imminent Muslim attacks. The communal violence and rioting triggered by the burning at Dongri and Radhabai Chawl and then the retaliatory violence by Shiv Sena were all exploited for financial gain by figures of the criminal underworld. By the time the Shiv Sena finally realised that enough had been done by way of retaliation, the violence and rioting was already out of control. See Meena Menon, Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation (Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012). The Hindu nationalist movement is led by an array of organisations known as the Sangh Parivar (family of associations), which derive from the militant Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organisation) founded in 1922. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) is restricted to non-​political activities, while the BJP, currently ruling India, is involved in parliamentary politics on a national level. The Shiv Sena, founded in 2006, focuses on Maharashtra, but shares some of the overall aims of the Sangh. See the work of Tapan Basu et al., Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993); as well as S. Gopal (ed.), Anatomy of a Confrontation: The Rise of Communal Politics in India (London: Zed Books, 1993). In Gujarat, merely ten years after the Babri Masjid incident, Hindutva rioters on the rampage killed an estimated 850 to 2,000 Muslims. Men, women and children were set on fire, raped and hacked to pieces, some even buried alive. The orgy of violence continued for three days while the police watched in silence. ‘We have no orders to save you,’ officers responded to the pleas of victims. The phrase was the title of a Human Rights Watch report on the episode, ‘ “We Have No Orders to Save You”: State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat’, April 2002. Available at https://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/india/. (Accessed 5 April 2010.) See also Karin Zitzewitz, The Art of Secularism: The Cultural Politics of Modernist Art in Contemporary India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 100. Clearly the pogrom was tacitly condoned by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, BJP leader Narendra

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Notes to Pages 4–5 Modi (India’s Prime Minister since 2014). These events had nationwide consequences and exposed the complicity of the state in the killings, foregrounding the utter precariousness of contemporary civil society. 17. See Geeta Kapur and Ashish Rajadhyaksha, ‘Bombay/​Mumbai 1992–​2001’, in I. Blazwick (ed.), Century City, Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (London: Tate Publishing, 2001), p. 35. 18. Ibid., pp. 35–​6. 19. Benjamin, IX in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 249. 20. Kapur and Rajadhyaksha, ‘Bombay/​Mumbai 1992–​2001’, pp. 35–​6. 21. See Retort’s Afflicted Powers:  Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (London: Verso, 2005). 22. See Enwezor’s curation of the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), entitled All the World’s Futures. For more on the ‘state of emergency’ and art see the work of T. J. Demos, The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013). 23. T. J. Demos, The Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2013). 24. See also the essay by Rustom Bharucha, ‘Infiltrating Europe: Outside the Borders of Postcolonial Cool’, in S. M. Hassan and I. Dadi (eds), Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2011), p. 119. 25. Howard Caygill, Walter Benjamin: The Colour of Experience (London: Routledge, 1998). See especially ­Chapter 1. 26. Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), p. 59. 27. Said’s testimony to and documentation of the wounded state of Palestinian life deploys a form of writing that engages with scraps and recycled materials, patchy memories and stitched-​up dreams. This kind of writing conveys a fragile sense of national consciousness amid ruins and scattered, exiled populations. See Edward Said and Jean Mohr, After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 149. For more on the fragment see Alan Wright, ‘Sentence Fragments: Elements of Style, Postcolonial Edition’, JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory 18/​1 (1998), pp. 91–​ 4. For the modalities of emergence see Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Postcolonial Authority and Postmodern Guilt’, in L. Grossberg et al. (eds), Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1992); and ‘The Postcolonial and the Postmodern: The Question of Agency’, in The Location of Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 1994), pp. 171–​98. 28. Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation (Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), p. 359. 29. Pandey writes: ‘Part of the importance of the “fragmentary” point of view lies in that it resists the drive for a shallow homogenisation and struggles for other, potentially richer definitions of the “nation” and the future political community.’ See Gyanendra Pandey, ‘In Defense of the Fragment:  Writing about Hindu-​Muslim Riots in India Today’, in Economic and Political Weekly 26/​11–​12 (Annual Number March 1991), pp. 559–​72; and Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments.

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Notes to Pages 5–7 30. Christopher Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (London: Reaktion, 2004); and Kajri Jain, Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007). 31. Kapur, When Was Modernism. Kapur compiled the selection of essays while a ­fellowship beneficiary at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library at Teen Murti in New Delhi. 32. Ibid., p. xiii. 33. Ibid., p. 288. 34. Once the nation-​as-​subject becomes both the foundation and the aspiration of left wing politics, aesthetics, it would seem, will always be re-​colonised by politics. Hence the political is lost, but this is always camouflaged in the interest of buffering sovereignty against postmodernism. Kapur, however, provides a general and prescriptive theory about the arts of India. See Vivek Dhareshwar for more on this particular issue: ‘Post-​Colonial in the Post-​Modern: Or, the Political after Modernity’, Economic and Political Weekly 30/​30 (July 29 1995), p. 107. The critique of art historian Ajay Sinha provides another useful take on Kapur’s search for a national idiom in relation to installation art. He writes: ‘Kapur’s theory of the dialectical synthesis of history is a useful one to pursue against the notion of the Third World as a carnivalesque spectacle of contradictions. But in order to do so one needs to go beyond her search for a representation of national culture and turn to a specific lineage and biography of countercultures.’ (‘Contemporary Indian Art: A Question of Method’, Art Journal 58/​3 (1999), p. 34.) 35. Kapur, ‘National/​Modern: Preliminaries’ in M. Chiu and B. Genocchio (eds), Contemporary Art in Asia: A Critical Reader (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011), p. 22. 36. Kapur’s main grievance about using Benjamin may well stem from her affinity with the work of American Marxist historian Fredric Jameson. For a critique of Jameson’s historicist approach to knowing the past see Esther Leslie’s book Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism (London: Pluto Press, 2000), p. ix. 37. Bhabha, ‘Remembering Fanon: Self, Psyche and the Colonial Condition’, p. 147. 38. Malcolm Bull, Seeing Things Hidden: Apocalypse, Vision and Totality (London; New York, NY: Verso, 1999), pp. 158–​61. See also Löwy, Fire Alarm, pp. 50–​6. 39. Benjamin, IX in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 249. For more on the disruptive etymology of the Latin word perversio see Georges Didi-​Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 87–​90, 182. 40. While the focus of Agamben is the status and treatment of Europe’s oppressed others and the legal anomalies and manifestations of state-​sanctioned violence underpinning repression, his analysis largely concentrates on the internment and systematic extermination of European Jews during World War II. Yet Agamben’s concepts and methodological frameworks offer valuable sources for thinking critically about the political exclusions and abandonment which characterise colonial situations. Two of his works in particular, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1995 onwards) and State of Exception (2003), have been productively ransacked to inform critical analyses of

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Notes to Pages 7–10 colonial situations and the social and political structures they produce and rely upon. See M. Svirsky and S. Bignall (eds), Agamben and Colonialism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), pp. 2–​3. 41. Agamben speculates on whether the origin of the word ‘Muselmann’ derives from the appearance of people bent double due to the effects of malnutrition, like a praying Muslim, or perhaps from a literal translation of the Arabic word ‘Muslim’, that is, someone who submits unconditionally to the will of God. See Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (New York, NY: Zone Books, 2005), p. 34. 42. Let us recall Benjamin’s upholding of the slow in his writings: ‘I came into the world under the sign of Saturn –​the star of the slowest revolution, the planet of detours and delays.’ Quoted in Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn (New  York, NY:  Vintage Books, 1981), p. 111. 43. Amit Chaudhuri, ‘Introduction’, in Walter Benjamin, One-​ Way Street and Other Writings (London: Penguin, 2009), pp. viii–x. 44. Ibid., pp. x–​xi. 45. Chaudhuri engages with Benjamin’s quote ‘Of all the ways of getting hold of books, the most laudable is deemed to be writing them yourself ’ (from the essay ‘Unpacking my Library’) to describe the more performative and imaginative approach of those writers who are placed outside mainstream twentieth-​century literature. Ibid., pp. x–​xi. 46. ‘I feel […] that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.’ Thomas Babington Macaulay, ‘Minute (on Education) (2 February 1835)’, from H. Sharp (ed.), Selections from Educational Records, Part I, 1781–​1839 (New Delhi: National Archives of India, 1965), pp. 107–​17. See also Macaulay, Selected Writings (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1972). 47. Chaudhuri, ‘Introduction’, p. xiii. 48. Nasser Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003), p. 22. 49. Lauren Benton, Law and Colonial Cultures, Legal Regimes in World History, 1400–​1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 261. 50. Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 6. 51. On 13 April 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh (Amritsar, Punjab), Brigadier-​General Reginald Dyer fired upon 1,000 unarmed religious believers, killing an estimated 379 people and injuring many more. 52. Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines:  An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1981), p. 78. 53. Michel Foucault, Society Must be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–​76 (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 241.

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Notes to Pages 10–11 54. See Pandey, Remembering Partition, p. 45. By focusing on the intense and protracted violence that characterised the Partition of India in 1947, Pandey investigates how history, memory and populations have become ‘nationalised’ in its aftermath. Violent events and memories, contends Pandey, are remembered or forgotten by individuals to ensure the continuation and unity of the ‘collective subject’, community or nation. Event and interpretation are inextricably entangled and for this reason, argues Pandey, the critique of history writing and myth-​making nationalist narratives must be carried out to tackle the ongoing question of violence. 55. Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 7. Hussain uses Giorgio Agamben’s ‘relation of exception […] by which something is included solely through its exclusion’ to identify the ‘colonial encounter’ as a formative dimension of modernity and Western legal paradigms, see pp. 20–​1. See also Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998). Hussain argues that the progression from colonial to post-​colonial legal conditions is peculiar to British colonialism –​a progression that, although instigated by prolonged nationalist struggles for independence, was not in substance the outcome of nationalist upsurges and revolutions. Hussain’s interpretation is informed by the writings of Saskia Sassen, specifically Losing Control?: Sovereignty in the Age of Globalisation (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1996). The moment of Indian independence did not radically alter the legal status of the successor state, and in the case of British colonialism, the new legal order derived from the preceding one. The courts still today however, must negotiate claims between the separate executive and legislature, and must be guided by a colonial constitutional structure and a nationalist ideology of popular sovereignty. See ibid., pp. 139–​40. 56. Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, In Pursuit of Lakshmi: The Political Economy of the Indian State (Chicago, IL:  University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 105–​7. See also Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments, p. 204–​5. 57. While Nehru and the Congress Left were anxious lest the judiciary thwart Socialist goals, ‘hard state’ supporters were concerned that the judiciary would obstruct the state’s capacity to maintain law and order. (Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 140). Hence emergency powers were established to guarantee room for administrative detention in Article 22 of the Constitution, and for subsequent acts expanding discretion. In India’s case, recourse to detention expanded greatly after Independence. ‘The detention power of Rule 30 brought in a scheme that largely reproduced the 1939 Defence of India Act and the wartime British Emergency Code.’ See A. W. B. Simpson, ‘Round up the Usual Suspects: The Legacy of British Colonialism and the European Convention on Human Rights’, Loyola Law Review 41/​4 (1996), p. 658. 58. Even as early as the drafting of the Indian republic’s constitution, various efforts were made to create and maintain extensive powers for the central executive. See Rudolph and Rudolph, In Pursuit of Lakshmi, pp. 105–​7. See also P. N. Dhar, Indira Gandhi, the ‘Emergency’, and Indian Democracy (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 260–​3. 59. Hal Foster, Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency (London; New York, NY: Verso, 2015). Foster’s work is inspired by the writings of Judith Butler on precarity and her reflections on the philosopher Levinas and the ‘face’, see her essay entitled ‘Precarious

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Notes to Pages 11–16 Life’, in Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004). Butler conceives of precarity as a shared human vulnerability on the basis of which it is possible to found a community. ‘Precarity’ denotes a politically produced condition, in which populations are made vulnerable and exposed to arbitrary violence. Whether or not it is the state that carries out this violence, the state cannot offer protection. Judith Butler, ‘Performativity, Precarity and Sexual Politics’, AIBR Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana 4/​3 (2009), p. 2. 60. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Nomadology:  The War Machine (New  York, NY: Semiotext(e), 1986). 61. Neo-​colonial sovereignty has infinite reach (always potentially opening out) into a post-​colonial juridico-​political order. For more on this point see Stewart Motha, ‘The Failure of “Postcolonial” Sovereignty in Australia’, The Australian Feminist Law Journal 22/​1 (2005), pp. 107–​25. 62. Roland Barthes, The Neutral:  Lecture Course at the Collège de France, 1977–​1978 (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2005), p. xiii. 63. Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 125. 64. See Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism (New  York, NY; London:  Verso, 1983), p.  87. See also Bainard Cowan, ‘Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Allegory’, New German Critique 22 (1981), p. 115. 65. Bull, Seeing Things Hidden, pp. 158–​61. 66. Amrita Sher-​Gill, ‘Appreciation of Art’, originally published in New Outlook (1973), quoted in Sonal Khullar, Worldly Affiliations:  Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930–​1990 (Oakland, CA:  University of California Press, 2015), p. 56.

Chapter 1 Fugitive Lines of Desire: Nasreen Mohamedi 1947–​77 1. Nasreen Mohamedi, diary entry (1 March 1970, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect (Bombay: Ashraf Mohamedi Trust, 1995), p. 91. 2. Sheila Blair, Islamic Calligraphy (Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press, 2006), pp. 438–​9. On mashq Hammad Nasar writes: ‘The word mashq means practice, exercise, lesson or drill in both Urdu and Farsi (Persian). Its associations and contextual usage can stretch from military exercises to school homework, but in the sphere of visual culture it is most commonly associated with calligraphy.’ Hammad Nasar, ‘Meem is for Mashq’, in Anwar Jalal Shemza (London: Ridinghouse, 2015), p. 181. 3. Nina Sabnani, in conversation with the author (21 April 2012), interview conducted through extensive email correspondence, unpublished. 4. Roland Barthes, The Neutral:  Lecture Course at the Collège de France, 1977–​1978 (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 173–​4. 5. Jean-​Paul Sartre’s nausea is a cogent example of the satori. See Barthes on this point, ibid., p. 117, and the writings of Josephine Donovan, Gnosticism in Modern Literature: A

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Notes to Pages 16–17 Study of the Selected Works of Camus, Sartre, Hesse, and Kafka (New York, NY: Garland, 1990), p. 212. 6. Barthes, The Neutral, p. 174. 7. Donovan, Gnosticism in Modern Literature, pp. 212–​13. 8. Barthes, The Neutral, p. 173. 9. ‘Time erases all. What is the ultimate reality?’ Mohamedi writes in her diary, then quoting Albert Camus: ‘one must live with time, die with it. Or else elude it for a greater life.’ Nasreen Mohamedi, undated diary entry, manuscript in the Collection of Navjot and Sasha Altaf. See Roobina Karode, ‘Waiting is a Part of Intense Living’, in Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting is a Part of Intense Living (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2015), footnote 3, p. 45. 10. This quoted passage (with my emphasis), published by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru two years before Partition, contained a nationalist critique of the exploitative nature of colonialism, and a warning. Urging the reader to remember the man-​made wartime Bengal Famine (1943–4), Nehru prophesied that acceptance of ‘partition’ as a political solution to strife would give rise to something much worse: the possibility of an ‘indefinite number of partitions’ that would jeopardise the unity and freedom of the secular and single India he envisaged. Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India (London: Meridian Books, 1951), p. 596. 11. Mark Godfrey, Abstraction and the Holocaust (New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 11–​12. 12. Nicolas Argenti and Katharina Schramm, Remembering Violence:  Anthropological Perspectives on Intergenerational Transmission (New  York, NY:  Berghahn Books, 2010), p. 13. 13. Godfrey, Abstraction and the Holocaust, p. 13. 14. Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 15. See also Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman:  Jinnah, The Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 1. 15. Pandey, Remembering Partition, pp. 21, 45. See also Argenti and Schramm, Remembering Violence. 16. The Radcliffe line was drawn in July 1947 and ratified a few weeks later in August. The dynamics of the demand for Partition and its implementation were the result of the ongoing tension between India’s diverse communities on one hand, and the search for a ‘moral’ community on the other. Although the colonial state played a huge role in fixing and defining communities, the creation of community in India was linked to processes that appealed to particular identity formations and larger moral communities. See David Gilmartin, ‘Partition, Pakistan, and South Asian History: In Search of a Narrative’, The Journal of Asian Studies 57/​4 (1998). In 1971 the secession of East from West Pakistan and the creation of the independent nation state of Bangladesh shattered the myth of Islam as being the sole justification for the existence of Pakistan. Estimates of the human genocide reached three million victims and between eight and ten million displaced. See Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose, War and

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Notes to Page 17 Secession: Pakistan, India and the Creation of Bangladesh (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990). 17. Pandey, Remembering Partition, p.  34. Although Nehru initially insisted on the necessity of preserving Indian unity, the Congress leader had by March 1947 endorsed the partitioning of the north-​western and eastern regions of Punjab and Bengal. Prior to this, the nationalist Bengali leaders, considered the most articulate among political groups active in northern India, had reached agreement with the League over a united and independent Bengal. But Congress rejected this scheme:  Pakistan would be carved out of the Muslim-​majority districts of these regions, both situated in the northern extremities of the subcontinent and separated by over 1,000 miles of Indian territory. On 2 June, Mountbatten unveiled his Partition plans to the leaders of Congress and the League; Jinnah faced the choice between an undivided India with no guarantee of a Muslim share in power, and a sovereign yet ‘maimed, mutilated and moth-​eaten’ Pakistan. See Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia:  History, Culture, Political Economy (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 180–​4, 198. 18. The British Statute provided the successor states with the constitutional framework of the Government of India Act of 1935, until such time as the two dominions were able to create new constitutions for themselves. The complex modalities of partitioning India effectively precluded its division into two successor states. In the case of India, Congress inherited the unitary central apparatus of the colonial state. Pakistan, by contrast, as a seceding state from a continuing sovereign entity (the Union of India), had to build a central government from scratch in order to control its bifurcated territories. See ibid., pp. 186–​7, 203. 19. Lord Mountbatten quoted in I. Dadi and H. Nasar (eds), Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (London: Green Cardamom, 2012), p. 9. Subject to opposing forces of persuasion and resistance, the drawing of the line became a tortuous exercise with suspicion of betrayal on both sides. Radcliffe himself bemoaned that the equipment supplied was ‘totally inadequate’ and that ‘the information provided on those (official maps) I did have sometimes proved to be wrong.’ In the case of the Punjab’s five rivers, lines displayed ‘an awkward tendency to run several miles away from the beds officially assigned to them by the survey department.’ But rather than ‘walking the land and grasping for themselves the ways in which vast rivers, forests and administrative districts interlocked and could be best separated,’ Radcliffe and his team locked themselves up in a studio and worked from maps, using pen and paper. Radcliffe as quoted in Lucy P. Chester, Borders and Conflict in South Asia: The Radcliffe Boundary Commission and the Partition of Punjab (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009), p. 86. Whatever the rights of the case, all archival documentation regarding the final boundary awards was destroyed by the British before they left India, shrouding the genesis of the line in mystery. On this point see Matthew H. Edney, Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765–​1843 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

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Notes to Pages 17–19 20. Vazira Fazila-​Yacoobali Zamindar, The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 6–​10. 21. Ibid., p. 6. 22. See Gyanendra Pandey, Routine Violence:  Nations, Fragments, Histories (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), pp. 80, 132. 23. Karachi was then a small and active city port, catering to the Sind hinterland and enjoying strong mercantile links with Bombay and the Malabar Coast. Theodore P. Wright, ‘Muslim Kinship and Modernization: The Tyabji Clan of Bombay’, in I. Ahmad (ed.), Family, Kinship and Marriage Among Muslims in India (Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1976), pp. 234–​5. 24. Mohamedi’s paternal and maternal ancestors were based in Bombay and Baroda. In 1932, after marrying Mohamedi’s father, Zainab moved with the children from Baroda to Karachi for the purposes of education. 25. Laeeq Futehally, Badruddin Tyabji (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1994), p. 75. 26. Wright, ‘Muslim Kinship and Modernization’, p. 232. Mohamedi’s great grandfather, Badruddin Tyabji, Bombay’s first Indian barrister, was a prominent social reformer and educator as well as the first Indian Muslim to preside over the Indian National Congress in 1887. Considering himself ‘an Indian first, then a Muslim and finally a citizen of the world,’ Tyabji advocated the secular need to separate religion from politics, confining the observance of religious affairs to the domestic realm. See also Futehally, Badruddin Tyabji, pp. 54, 77. 27. Purdah refers to the Muslim and Hindu household practice of screening women from men or strangers by means of a curtain. 28. Futehally, Badruddin Tyabji, p. 75. Along with ‘ashrafisation’ (the attempt to move up the social ladder through the emulation of the values and lifestyle of a higher class) went ‘Urduisation’, the replacement of the clan’s original Gujarati tongue by the North Indian, and largely Muslim, lingua franca of Urdu. A practice cultivated by educated wives was the organising of zenana parties, to which ladies of different ethnic communities, including Europeans, were invited. In her personal diary, Rukaya Dossal (Nasreen Mohamedi’s sister) expresses her admiration for some of the guests attending one of these important social gatherings in Karachi: ‘The aristocratic Zayanis, the high class Persians, the lovely Arabs’ (Karachi, c.1930). For centuries the elite of Indo-​Muslim society traced their ancestry to Arabia, the Iranian world, or in some cases Central Asia, in order to maintain a well-​defined vision of themselves and their natural status as rulers and aristocrats. Accordingly, they sought to dissociate themselves from all aspects of an alien Indian environment in order to affirm their distinctive identity in a non-​Muslim milieu. Rukaya Dossal to Reena Mohamedi, letter (20 December 2009, Mumbai), in private collection. I am grateful to Reena for sharing with me Rukaya Dossal’s personal archive in London. 29. On this related point see Grant Watson, ‘Nasreen Mohamedi: Passage and Placement’, Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry 21 (2009), pp. 28–​35.

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Notes to Page 19 30. Rukaya Dossal, ‘Watching Your Passing  –​Like Petals from a Flower’, in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 107. 31. Rukaya Dossal to Reena Mohamedi, letter (20 December 2009, Mumbai), in private collection. 32. Mohamedi attended Bandra’s well-​known St Joseph’s Convent School. 33. During the 1950s it was believed that design could make an important contribution to all societal spheres and boost the British economy, which was still reeling from the effects of postwar depression. William Johnstone, Principal of the Central School (1947–​61), appointed teachers who taught design courses and fostered the most important developments in this field. Johnstone was responsible for making the Basic Design module a compulsory component of all courses and appointed numerous individuals influenced by Bauhaus to teach them. Amongst these was A. E. Halliwell, an influential graphic arts teacher (former Vice President at Camberwell), who had devised and pioneered a successful design course based on the work of Bauhaus artists. It was believed that the latter could give students ‘the qualities sought by employers’. See Alan Powers, ‘William Johnstone and the Central School’, in S. Backemeyer (ed.), Making Their Mark: Art, Craft and Design at the Central School 1896–​1966 (London: Herbert Press, 2000), p. 65. See also Victor Pasmore and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Developing Process: New Possibilities in Art Teaching, (London: ICA, 1959), p. 1. 34. The idea behind The Modulor: A Harmonious Measure to the Human Scale Universally Applicable to Architecture and Mechanics was to destroy inherent automatisms of the body, awakening ‘man’ to the sense of rhythm that ‘slumbers in everybody’. This concept was introduced by the Swiss pedagogue and eurhythmics theoriser Émile Jaques-​Dalcroze. 35. Mohamedi’s sustained appreciation of the writer’s literature is evidenced throughout her personal diaries. 36. Bombay, the capitalist and cosmopolitan heart of independent India developed a thriving artistic scene during the years of World War II. A group of Jewish war émigrés and members of the Parsee business elite had mingled to foster a modernist art movement throughout the war and the first decade of Independence. Due to their patronage many artists were able to travel and work in postwar Paris and immersed themselves in European art whilst resisting inherent ideological implications. See Karin Zitzewitz, The Perfect Frame: Presenting Modern Indian Art: Stories and Photographs from the Collection of Kekoo Gandhy (Mumbai: Chemould Publications and Arts, 2003), pp. 41–​ 2. The Bhulabhai Desai Institute, located in Bombay’s Breach Candy bay, was devoted to all performing and fine arts. Ebrahim Alkazi’s Theatre Unit School of Drama, Ravi Shankar’s Kinnara School of Music and several artists’ studios, including those of Bal Chhabda, Tyeb Mehta and M. F. Husain were housed here. See also Geeta Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists (New Delhi: Vikas, 1978). 37. Following a subsequent period of study in Japan, Gaitonde became drawn towards the spiritual ideals of Zen Buddhism and the writings of Doctor Suzuki, John Cage and Alan Watts. The artist was singularly pursuing minimalism and the anti-​epic qualities attached to Japanese art in the aftermath of the Sino-​Indian conflict (1962). Alongside

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Notes to Pages 19–22 Japanese art, which the artist appreciated for its sense of impermanence and spare elegance, the teachings of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky spurred him to challenge the academic realism propounded at the J. J. School of Art. (Nalini Malani, in conversation with the author on 15 July 2012, recorded telephone interview, unpublished.) See also N. Bhagwat (ed.), Sir J. J. School of Art Sesquicentennial Celebration 1857–​2007 (Mumbai: Jjites Association, 2007). Gaitonde placed his canvasses on the floor and used different kinds of Japanese rollers when applying paint. He then removed small areas of paint with crushed newspaper. See D. Nadkarni (ed.), Gaitonde (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1983). 38. Pakistani painter Sadequain Naqqash (1930–​78), who lived in Paris 1960–​4, was also drawn to the space of the desert and its strange vegetation (particularly cacti). The cactus –​metaphor for the resistance and violence of nature and the impotence of man –​ became a crucial metaphor throughout his pictorial career. Naqqash was awarded a commission in 1964 to illustrate a new edition of Albert Camus’ novel L’Étranger, published by Les Bibliophiles de L’Automobile-​Club de France. See: http://​grosvenorgallery.com/​artists/​51-​syed-​sadequain/​overview/​ (visited on 10 January 2017). 39. A mixed-​media painting by Mohamedi, recently brought to my attention, is signed and dated by the artist on the lower right ‘Nasreen Mohamedi, Karachi, 1969’. The painting is currently in the collection of R&S Nanavati Charitable Trust no. 2, Mumbai, India. 40. Partition and emigration rendered more difficult the pre-​ existing endogamous exchange privileged by Sulaymani Bohras. On this point see Wright, ‘Muslim Kinship and Modernization’, p. 235. 41. Mohamedi settled in the old Muslim quarter of Nizamuddin East in New Delhi, close to the Shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin. 42. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, in G. M. Sheikh et al. (eds), Contemporary Art in Baroda (New Delhi: Tulika, 1997), p. 173. 43. Geeta Kapur, ‘Art in These Dark Times’, Economic and Political Weekly 12/​11 (March 12 1977), p. 450. 44. Mohamedi, diary entry (16 April 1976, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 96. 45. Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and other Pieces: Georges Perec (London: Penguin, 1997). 46. Walter Benjamin, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings (New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978), pp. 155–​6. 47. John Berger describes Picasso as a ‘vertical invader’. John Berger, Success and Failure of Picasso (London: Granta in association with Penguin, 1992), pp. 40–​1. In the late 1970s Kapur appropriates the expression to describe the modernist, combative stance adopted by Indian artists. Geeta Kapur, When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (New Delhi: Tulika, 2000), p. 323. 48. Jagdish Swaminathan, ‘Painter with Blow-​flame’, Link (September 1 1962). Reproduced in Lalit Kala Contemporary 40 (1995), p. 28. Jeram Patel was born in the small town of Sojitra in the Kheda district of Gujarat. He studied painting and applied arts and crafts at the J. J. School of Art, Bombay in 1955 and then travelled to England, France and Japan. In 1959 he went on to study typography and publicity design at the Central

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Notes to Pages 22–23 School of Arts and Crafts in London on a scholarship. He was a member of the Baroda Group, and Secretary of the Progressive Painters, Ahmedabad. From 1960 to 1990, he held the position of Professor and later Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda. He taught design at the National Institute of Design and the School of Architecture, both in Ahmedabad. Patel also served as the Deputy Director of the Weavers’ Service Centre of the All India Handloom Board, New Delhi. 49. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, in conversation with the author (21 June 2011, New Delhi), interview conducted in person, unpublished. See also the remarkable essay by Ebrahim Alkazi, Nasreen Mohamedi: Exhibition Catalogue Art Heritage 1986–​87 (New Delhi, 1986). 50. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, ‘Emotions as Tender as Dew’, Loksatta (May 23 1990), not paginated. 51. Sheikh writes that Mohamedi was often mocked for her eccentric, seemingly ‘girly’ love for nature. See ibid. For Mohamedi there was nothing particularly feminine or sentimental about her love for nature and choice of abstraction. She aligned herself with the most macho anti-​figurative tradition. 52. Wassily Kandinsky, Point and Line to Plane (New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1979), p. 62. Point and Line to Plane was originally published in 1926 and then released in an updated English version in 1947. 53. It is possible that Mohamedi shared Le Corbusier’s belief that white paint would make people master themselves by cleansing the home of sentimental kitsch and useless things from the past. Corbusier’s infamous imperative – Law of Ripolin – was named after a brand of opaque white paint. 54. Sheikh, ‘Emotions as Tender as Dew’, not paginated. 55. Malani, in conversation with the author (15 July 2012). 56. Ibid., Malani recounted how Mohamedi hired the exhibition rooms of the Jehangir Art Gallery in Bombay and asked students to help her paint the gallery white. 57. Nina Sabnani, in conversation with the author (July 2012, Mumbai), interview conducted in person, unpublished. 58. Ian Baucom, Out of Place: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1999), pp.  202–​3. In these pages, Baucom discusses migrancy and nomadism in relation to Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses (1992). 59. Anna Singh, in conversation with the author (8 June 2012, London), recorded interview conducted in person, unpublished. 60. Upon her return from Kyoto, Japan (1978), Mohamedi shared with Sabnani her most vivid impression of the country: at a railway station an old man spent hours removing weeds between tiles with a tiny pair of forceps. He would later polish the tiles with a rag and repeat the exercise. In his essay In Praise of Shadows, Japanese writer Jun’ichirō Tanizaki writes: ‘As a general matter we find it hard to be really at home with things that shine and glitter. The Westerner uses silver and steel and nickel tableware, and polishes it to a fine brilliance, but we object to the practice. While we do sometimes indeed use silver for teakettles, decanters, or sake cups, we prefer not to polish it.’ See In Praise of Shadows (New Haven, CT: Leete’s Island Books, 1977), p. 12.

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Notes to Pages 23–25 61. Jyoti Bhatt, in conversation with the author (21 July 2012), interview conducted in person, unpublished. 62. For embroidery as a ‘form of prayer’ in relation to Islamic design, see the work of Labelle Prussin, Hatumere: Islamic Design in West Africa (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1986). 63. Annemarie Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture (New  York, NY:  New  York University Press, 1984), p. 56. 64. Dossal, ‘Watching Your Passing –​Like Petals from a Flower’, p. 108. 65. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Link (15 August 1978), p. 65. 66. Sheikh, ‘Emotions as Tender as Dew’, not paginated. 67. Bhatt, in conversation with the author (21 July 2012). 68. Sheikh, ‘Emotions as Tender as Dew’, not paginated. 69. Ibid. 70. Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, p. 53. 71. Geeta Kapur quoted by Sheikh in Contemporary Art in Baroda, p. 173. 72. Barthes, The Neutral, p. 184. 73. Since 1995, the essay ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved: Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–​ 1990)’ has been reprinted in various texts including Kapur’s When Was Modernism. Kapur has written about Mohamedi in the essay ‘With Frugal Means: Nasreen Mohamedi’ (presented at the Re-​Presenting Histories Workshop at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 2009), available at http://​www.aaa.org. hk/​Collection/​CollectionOnline/​SpecialCollectionItem/​3016. (Accessed 3 September 2012.); and more recently in the essay ‘Again A Difficult Task Begins’ in Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting is a Part of Intense Living. 74. Nehru’s tenure (1947–​64) witnessed a shifting of power away from parliamentary and towards executive authority in the figure of the Prime Minister. With the expansion of the political base through successive elections, newly-​empowered social groups subjected the organisational machinery to ever-​increasing pressure, undermining the centrality and power of Congress. It was clear that the equilibrium between elected and non-​ elected institutions (civil bureaucracy and police) was becoming increasingly precarious. In order to enforce the authority of the central government, Nehru relied heavily on the civil bureaucracy, the police and the armed forces. See also Tariq Ali, The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian Dynasty (London: Picador, 2005), pp. 102–​3; Nasser Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003), p. 140; as well as Bose and Jalal, Modern South Asia, p. 208. 75. Information and Broadcasting Minister Vidya Charan Shukla, quoted in Ali, The Nehrus and the Gandhis, p. 190. 76. Kapur, ‘Art in These Dark Times’, p. 450. 77. James Manor, ‘Anomie in Indian Politics –​Origins and Potential Wider Impact’, Economic and Political Weekly 18/​19–​20–​21 (Annual Number May 1983), pp. 725–​34. Manor adds: ‘it is impossible to speak of a calamitous moment, a sudden gross disruption in India’s political history. (Not even the Emergency qualifies. Had the Emergency not occurred, this problem would have still been present, although the Emergency aggravated it.)’

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Notes to Pages 25–26 78. The Indian balance of payments deficit stood at two billion US dollars in 1974, more than the net amount of aid received from abroad. The massive debt led to restrictions in the importing of raw materials, food shortages and general scarcity of everyday goods. See Sudipta Kaviraj, ‘Indira Gandhi and Indian Politics’, Economic and Political Weekly 21/​38–​39 (20–​27 September 1986), pp. 1697–​1708. 79. Stuart Corbridge and John Harriss, Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism, and Popular Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), p. 73. On the increased reliance on authoritarian rule for maintaining control and the limits of Gandhi’s coercive powers during the Emergency and after see also Atul Kohli, Democracy and Discontent: India’s Growing Crisis of Governability (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 189–​90. 80. P. N. Dhar, Indira Gandhi, the ‘Emergency’, and Indian Democracy (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 260–​3. 81. Ibid. 82. Official propaganda described the Emergency as a triumph against Fascist attempts to overthrow the constitution, likening India to Chile, which had successfully resisted a right-​wing coup. But unlike Salvador Allende, Gandhi implemented none of the radical reforms developed by the Chilean leader. Courting the Soviet Union to gain leverage on capitalistic powers, Indira Gandhi had by the mid-​1970s ensured that the flow of foreign capital dominated the most lucrative sectors of the Indian economy. Indian capitalists turned increasingly to the US. The honeymoon with the Soviet Union was over. See Michael Löwy, The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development: The Theory of Permanent Revolution (London:  New Left Books, 1981), p.  177. See also Andre Gunter Frank, ‘Emergence of Permanent Emergency in India’, Economic and Political Weekly, 12/​11 (March 12 1977), p. 475. 83. Jagdish Swaminathan (1926–​94) was a painter, critic and institution builder influenced by Surrealism. In 1960 Swaminathan wrote: ‘Now we were getting a little fed up with this kind of crap. We already had Raza and Padamsee talking of the centrality of Paris school and Gujral fulminating against easel painting itself and upholding mural art as the only thing after his sojourn in Mexico as a student of Siqueiros. Now New York was being added to the list. Some of us thought that it was time to call a halt to such nonsense and rethink the scene and situation.’ See Swaminathan, ‘The Cygan: An Auto-​ bio Note’, Vadehra Exhibition Catalogue of J. Swaminathan. Reproduced in Lalit Kala Contemporary 40 (1995), p. 10. 84. Geeta Kapur, ‘In Quest of Identity: Art and Indigenism in Postcolonial Culture with Special Reference to Contemporary Indian Painting’, Vrishchik (1973), not paginated. Kapur completed a master’s degree in Art History in 1968 at the Royal College of Art in London, where she studied under the supervision of Marxist artist and art historian Peter De Francia. Shortly afterward she returned to India. 85. ‘Negritude’ was an ideological and literary movement that emerged amongst black francophone intellectuals, writers and politicians in 1930s France. Its founders believed that the common black heritage of the African diaspora was necessary to challenge

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Notes to Pages 26–27 French colonial racism. The realist, literary style they developed was rooted in Marxist ideals. 86. Kapur, ‘In Quest of Identity’, not paginated. 87. Vidya Shivadas, Mapping the Field of Indian Art Criticism (New Delhi: AAA Research Grant 2009–​10, 2010), p. 41. 88. Kapur, ‘In Quest of Identity’, not paginated. 89. Ibid. She continues: ‘At an initial stage it is a means for claiming one’s dignity and one’s liberty; at a more complex level it is an instrument for the reappraisal of the morass of values that survive colonialism, by an understanding of history and tradition in terms of contemporary needs. And finally it is a means of establishing a creative relationship with one’s natural and cultural environment.’ 90. Octavio Paz (1914–​88) was the mentor of the short-​lived artist collective Group 1890, founded by Swaminathan in 1962 in Bhavnagar. The group included artists Jeram Patel, Jyoti Bhatt, and Himmat Shah, as well as artist and poet Gulam Mohammed Sheikh. Patel’s paintings, which displayed scorched pieces of wood and vandalised surfaces, became the emblem for this kind of polemic aesthetics. It was Gulam Sheikh who, while translating the work of Paz into Gujarati, discovered that the poet had been appointed Mexico’s ambassador to India. Their meeting resulted in a long-​lasting friendship between the poet and the collective. In 1963 Paz wrote the catalogue introduction for Group 1890’s first and only exhibition. 91. Both Mexico and Algeria had witnessed violent peasant revolutions. Mexico was unique since the insurgent peasant masses had staged the only democratic revolution prior to February 1917 (the initial democratic overthrow of the Czar in Russia by an alliance of liberals and Socialists). Until 1907 the danger of a proletarian revolution was merely an abstract threat to the native bourgeoisie. In 1910, the immense movement of armed peasants under the leadership of Villa and Zapata had crushed the old rural oligarchy, introducing radical land reforms. Zapata’s assassination (1919) interrupted the popular revolution and marked the beginning of bourgeois consolidation. During the anti-​colonial Algerian Revolution (1954–​62), the peasants constituted the dominant social force in the National Liberation Front (FLN). But the FLN was a heterogeneous coalition in which nationalist, petty bourgeois forces predominated. Following FLN’s victory, a radical wing of the petty bourgeoisie came to power under Ben Bella. Bella set up the mass expropriation and nationalisation of industries and land. His overthrow by Boumédiène (1965) foreclosed the Socialist revolution. The absence of a strong proletarian-​socialist leadership in both Algeria and Mexico led to the interruption of these revolutions. See Löwy, The Politics of Combined and Uneven Development, p. 172. 92. Kapur, ‘In Quest of Identity’, not paginated. See also on this related point, Sonal Khullar, Worldly Affiliations:  Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930–​1990 (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015), p. 196. Lorca had been inspired by myths and experiences rooted in the Spanish psyche, particularly that of Spanish gypsies.

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Notes to Pages 27–31 93. Shivadas, Mapping the Field of Indian Art Criticism, p. 41. Born under French colonial rule, Fanon was living in Algeria when his seminal publication, The Wretched of the Earth (1961) was released. The book confirmed the writer as the leading voice in the struggle for independence against France. In urging fellow countrymen and intellectuals to rediscover their ‘own suppressed culture’, which had been swamped by colonisation, Fanon incited Algerians to revolutionary struggle for freedom. 94. Kapur, ‘In Quest of Identity’, not paginated. 95. Ibid. 96. Ibid. For the embedded passage see Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 170. 97. Geeta Kapur, Pictorial Space:  A  Point of View on Contemporary Indian Art:  An Exhibition; Conceived and Compiled by Geeta Kapur, December 14, 1977 to January 3, 1978 (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1978), not paginated; Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, p. 211. 98. Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, p. xvii. 99. Ibid, p. xiii. 100. Kapur, ‘Art in These Dark Times’, pp. 450–​1. Clement Greenberg’s visit to India and sojourn in New Delhi (1967) in conjunction with the MoMA exhibition Two Decades of American Painting is noteworthy. For an important discussion about the debates on Indianness and abstraction in the twentieth century see Khullar, ‘Paan Shop for the People: Bhupen Khakhar (1934–​2003)’, in Worldly Affiliations, pp. 168–​213. 101. Kapur, ‘Art in These Dark Times’, p. 450. 102. Kapur, ‘The Human Image in Indian Art’, The Times of India (17 December 1972), p. 8. 103. Ibid., [my emphasis]. 104. ‘To what extent an artist needs to speak through an actual human image, to express all the complex aspects of his consciousness, is of course a debatable point.’ Ibid. 105. Krishen Khanna, in conversation with the author (12 October 2011, New Delhi), interview conducted in person, unpublished. 106. Like many Bombay artists of his generation, Gaitonde (1924–​2001) had been awarded a Ford Fellowship in 1965 to study painting in New York. 107. Kapur, Pictorial Space, not paginated. 108. Mohamedi, diary entry (30 September 1970, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 93. 109. Briony Fer, The Infinite Line: Re-​making Art After Modernism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), p. 3. 110. Ibid. 111. Ibid., pp. 3–​4. 112. Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1959), pp. 12–​17. 113. Adorno argued that ‘To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric, and that corrodes also the knowledge which expresses why it has become impossible to write poetry today.’ Theodor W. Adorno, Prisms (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981), p. 30. The philosopher returned to the topic of barbarism and culture on three different occasions. 114. For more on this related point see Godfrey, Abstraction and the Holocaust, pp. 11–​12.

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Notes to Pages 32–33 115. Argenti and Schramm, Remembering Violence, p. 13. 116. A number of writers identify Mohamedi’s early choice of abstraction as a ‘coping mechanism’ to deal with her illness, in particular see the work of Delhi-​based curator Roobina Karode. However, this seems very unlikely. It was only in 1987 that Mohamedi visited a neurologist in Bombay (she had taken one year’s leave from Baroda in 1986 due to her illness). In her letter to her teacher Anna Singh dated 3 July 1987, Mohamedi writes: ‘I was not well + was on leave for a year […] I was in Bombay Hospital in Bombay for general and specific check ups. I am very happy with the doctors (a neurologist + a therapist I am under his treatment.) He has under diagnosed it as Chorea […] I am so relieved that it is not Huntington’s Chorea. The same as Shams + Anni had Huntington. What for years I could not accept it.’ Mohamedi believed that both brothers (Shams died in 1978 and Anwar in 1986), suffered from psychosomatic issues and not from hereditary genetic disorders. Mohamedi did not suspect she was ill until the late 1980s. 117. Jean-​François Lyotard, Discourse, Figure (Minneapolis, MN; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011). 118. Ibid., p. 210. 119. Ibid., pp. 213–​22. See also David Carroll, Paraesthetics: Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida (New York, NY; London: Methuen, 1987), p. 30. 120. Guy Callan and James Williams, ‘A Return to Jean-​François Lyotard’s Discourse, Figure’, Parrhesia 12 (2011), pp. 41–​51. 121. Lyotard, Discourse, Figure, p. 205. 122. Ibid., p. 213. 123. Ibid., p. 212. 124. Ibid. 125. Susan Sontag, ‘The Aesthetics of Silence’, in Styles of Radical Will (New  York, NY: Picador, 2002). 126. Camus writes: ‘Nothing in the world can be felt for its own sake, because a whole series of images of death and despair is bound to each of its moments. No more mornings without deaths, no more evenings without imprisonments and no more noons without dreadful slaughter.’ See his Notebooks, 1942–​1951 (New York, NY: Modern Library, 1970), p. 90. 127. Paul Klee, ‘Trip to Tunisia: 951. (1915)’, in F. Klee (ed.), The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898–​ 1918 (Berkeley, CA; Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1964), p. 315. 128. Mohamedi, diary entry (30 September 1970, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 93. 129. Mehta (1925–​2009), a member of the Dawoodi Bohra minority within the Gujarati Shia community, chose to remain in India after Partition. Mehta grew up in Bombay which, following Partition, became divided according to religious affiliation. Settling in Bhendi Bazaar, an area dominated by Bohras, Mehta worked at a film studio as an apprentice in Tardeo, an area bordering with the Kamathipura red-​light district. 130. Tyeb Mehta and Ranjit Hoskote, ‘Tyeb Mehta:  Images of Transcendence’, in Tyeb Mehta:  Ideas, Images, Exchanges (New Delhi:  Vadehra Art Gallery, 2005), p.  19. Mehta, Gaitonde and Akbar Padamsee were loosely associated with PAG.

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Notes to Pages 34–38 131. Ibid. 132. Mohamedi, diary entry (22 July 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 95. 133. Mohamedi, diary entry (25 November 1971, Delhi), ibid., p. 95 [ellipses in the original]. 134. Kapur, ‘The Human Image in Indian Art’, not paginated. 135. During an interview Mehta recounted how ‘One incident left a deep impression on me. At the time of Partition I was living in Mohammad Ali Road which was virtually a Muslim ghetto. I remember a young man being slaughtered in the street below my window. The crowd beat him to death, smashed his head with stones […] that image still haunts me today. That violence gave me the clue about the emotion I want to paint.’ Tyeb Mehta quoted by Hoskote in Tyeb Mehta: Ideas, Images, Exchanges, p. 164. 136. Surreal in its montage, Koodal is set to the pace of Carnatic Indian classical music. Mehta visually connects in his sequence a series of images including: a Bombay slaughterhouse, the procession to the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai and footage from the Mahatma’s funeral. Moreover, Mehta inserts images of the brothels of Kamathipura that housed Hijras, a community with an ambiguous religious faith who lived among Hindus and Muslims and served both. Sumesh Sharma, ‘Slaughter in the Cinema’, unpublished article (Mumbai, 2011), not paginated. I thank Sumesh for sharing this essay with me. For more on the relationship between the role of abstraction and Partition in post-war India, see Atreyee Gupta, ‘Dwelling in Abstraction: PostPartition Segues into Postwar Art’, Third Text, Special Issue on Partition (forthcoming). 137. Mehta and Hoskote, ‘Tyeb Mehta: Images of Transcendence’, p. 6. 138. Ramchandra Gandhi, quoted by Sheikh in ‘Emotions as Tender as Dew’, not paginated [my emphasis]. 139. Spilling his little bottle of ink, Barthes was desolated to discover that the ink was grey. See The Neutral, p. 49. 140. Ibid., p. 211. 141. Barthes quoted in Scott McLemee, ‘On “The Neutral” by Roland Barthes’, available at http://​www.mclemee.com/​id159.html. (Accessed 20 June 2012.) 142. Ibid. 143. Barthes, The Neutral, p. 43. 144. Ibid., p. 44. 145. McLemee, ‘On “The Neutral” by Roland Barthes’. 146. Barthes, The Neutral, p. 7. 147. Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, p. 17. 148. Roland Barthes, Writing Degree Zero (London: Jonathan Cape, 1967), p. 200. 149. Ibid. 150. Mohamedi, diary entry (November 1968, Bahrain), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 90. 151. Barthes, The Neutral, pp. 8, 80 [my emphasis]. 152. Ibid., p. 202. 153. Ibid., p. 203 [my emphasis]. 154. Ibid, p. 202. 155. Mohamedi, diary entry (17 July 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 94.

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Notes to Pages 38–41 156. Mohamedi, diary entry (1 May 1974, Baroda), ibid. [ellipses in the original]. 157. Mohamedi, diary entry (13 March 1970), ibid., p. 91; and (28 March 1971), ibid., p. 94. 158. The Qur’an 29:41, Surah Al-​’Ankabut (The Chapter of the Spider), refers to a famous incident in Islamic history. The Islamic calendar begins with the year of the Hijrah (migration), when the Prophet Muhammad was forced to flee from persecution in Mecca to the neighbouring city of Medina, where he founded the first Islamic state. During his flight, the Prophet and his friend Abu Bakr al-​Siddiq were almost overtaken by the Meccan cavalry. The two fugitives hid in a cave but the Meccans, following their tracks, were able to corner them. At this point, we read of how God ordered a spider to protect the outlawed prophet and his friend by spinning a complex and thick web at the entrance to the cave. The perfectly intact web deluded the Meccans; believing the cave to be empty, the latter continued their search elsewhere. Ever since, spiders have had a cherished place in Islamic folklore (good Muslims never crush spiders), the web symbolising God’s protection. See the work of Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar, The Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1973). See also Keith Critchlow’s Islamic Patterns: An Analytical and Cosmological Approach (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1999). 159. The web and its unique yet repeated segments echo the central theme of Islamic art: a desire to express the glory of God by showing how complex little geometric objects can be arranged into more complex designs that create ever more overarching and beautiful patterns. See Ardalan and Bakhtiar, The Sense of Unity. 160. Since the 1970s Vivan Sundaram’s work has been described as politically motivated. Securing a Commonwealth Scholarship to study art in England between 1966 and 1968, he initially worked with painting, which he subsequently abandoned to work with film. Returning to India in 1970 he became involved in numerous political activities, including a street exhibition of photographs of the Bangladesh War organised in Delhi (1971), and set up with other founding members the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). The organisation installed the exhibition Artists Alert (1990) and initiated a series of collaborative social events under the banner ‘Artists Against Communalism’ to protest against communal violence in India. These activities manifest the incredible continuum between activism and art in Sundaram’s life. 161. Sundaram’s series Smash Dynastic Ambitions was published in the Communist Party of India (Marxist) newspaper People’s Democracy on 25 November 1979. 162. Sanjay Gandhi had a taste for fast cars. His mother Indira granted him permission (despite protest from Congress) to build a ‘people’s car’ for India (the Maruti, after the Hindu god of the wind). However, Sanjay Gandhi never succeeded in building a single car. Tavleen Singh, Durbar (Gurgaon: Hachette India, 2012), pp. 32–​3. 163. Mohamedi, diary entry (25 November 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 95. 164. Kapur, When Was Modernism, p. xi [my emphasis]. 165. Sontag, ‘The Aesthetics of Silence’, p. 6. 166. Zamindar, The Long Partition, p. 14. 167. Ibid.

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Notes to Pages 41–45 168. Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude (London: Penguin, 1990), p. 195. 169. Ibid., p. 191. 170. Ibid. 171. Mohamedi’s contact with her father when she was a child was minimal, hence my description of her as an orphan. 172. Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude, p. 196. 173. Ibid., p. 197. 174. Nina Sabnani, in conversation with the author (July 2012, Mumbai), interview conducted in person, unpublished. 175. In Khakhar’s delightfully enigmatic painting Janata Watch Repairing (oil paint on canvas, 1972) one observes formal echoes between the hands of the clocks on display, the arms of the ceiling fan and the fingers of the repairer himself. Seemingly hallucinatory, Khakhar achieves this impression through the swift changing of scale, from the distant clocks on the wall to the enlarged watches flanking the scene. The impression of looking through a lens, as the main character is doing, produces an atmosphere suggestive of daylight passing into dusk and ongoing meticulous labour. 176. Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude, p. 197. 177. The labyrinth motif, belonging to ancient traditions and rich in references to hermetic knowledge, represents the difficult pathway that the initiate must follow if he is to gain knowledge. The labyrinth is also the alchemist’s image of the great literary work. 178. Mohamedi, diary entry (3 September 1967, Jaisalmer), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 87. 179. Barthes, Writing Degree Zero, p. 75. 180. Ronald Aronson, Camus & Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It (Chicago, IL; London: University of Chicago Press, 2004), p. 28. 181. Ibid., p. 130. 182. Ibid., pp. 223–​4. 183. Ibid., p. 130. 184. Ibid., p. 29. 185. Anna Singh had gifted a copy of the novel to Mohamedi while a student in London. Anna Singh, in conversation with the author (8 June 2012, London), recorded interview conducted in person, unpublished. 186. Gerald Vincent Banks, Camus, L’Étranger (London: Edward Arnold, 1976), p. 32. 187. Ibid., p. 31. 188. Mohamedi, diary entry (29 May 1971, Bombay), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 94. 189. Mohamedi, diary entry (27 May 1968, Baroda), in Ibid., p. 88. 190. After the assassination of the prominent monarchist and anti-​Popular Front spokesman José Calvo Sotelo at the hands of the Republican Assault Guards, violence escalated in the tense socio-​political climate in Spain, leading to the Civil War (1936–​9). Lorca, known for his openly liberal views, was arrested and allegedly murdered by the Nationalist Militia in Granada in 1936. 191. Camus, Notebooks, 1942–​1951, p. 47. 192. Ibid., p. 88.

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Notes to Pages 46–49 193. Mohamedi, diary entry (20 July 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 94. 194. Camus, Notebooks, 1942–​1951, p. 61. 195. ‘Pour donner aux cris de passion l’ordre d’un langage pur.’ (My translation). From Banks, Camus, L’Étranger, p. 36. 196. ‘L’intelligence est […] un principe d’une merveilleuse économie et d’une sorte de monotonie passionnée. Elle est à la fois créatrice et mécanicienne.’ (My translation). Ibid. 197. Mohamedi, diary entry (22 May 1960), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 85. 198. Mohamedi, diary entry (5 September 1968), ibid., p. 88. 199. Camus, Notebooks, 1942–​1951, p. 84. 200. Jonathan Culler, Barthes: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 19. 201. Adonis, An Introduction to Arab Poetics, (London: Saqi Books, 1990), p. 63. 202. Mohamedi, diary entry (3 June 1968, on the train from Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 88. 203. Mohamedi, diary entry (27 May 1968), ibid. 204. Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 43. 205. Mohamedi, diary entry (1 December 1966, Jailsamer), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 86. 206. See also Camus’ composition entitled ‘The Desert’, from Nuptials (1938). For Laurent Mailhot, the spiritual landscape of the desert underpins the diverse thought systems of Camus, Kierkegaard and Husserl. Laurent Mailhot, Albert Camus: ou, L’Imagination du Désert (Montréal: Presses de L’Université de Montréal, 1973), p. 50. 207. David Carroll, Albert Camus the Algerian: Colonialism, Terrorism, Justice (New York, NY; Chichester, NH: Columbia University Press, 2007), p. 67. 208. Ibid. 209. Ibid., p. 68. 210. Ibid., p. 69. 211. Ibid., p. 68. 212. Ibid., p. 69. 213. Ibid. 214. Mohamedi, diary entry (9 February 1966), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 87. 215. Michael Hardt and Tony Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 360–​1. 216. Nasreen Mohamedi to Anna Singh, letter (20 May 1980), in private collection. At that time, Anwar was in Las Vegas and Mohamedi had joined him there. 217. Camus shares similar thoughts in relation to the radical detachment experienced in the desert. See the work of James W.  Brown, ‘Sensing’, ‘Seeing’, ‘Saying’ in Camus’s Noces: A Meditative Essay (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004), p. 29. 218. Maqbool Fida Husain (1915–​2011) was born in Pandharpur, Maharashtra, in an impoverished community of Sulaymani Bohras. By 1964, the self-​styled gypsy artist had established himself as one of India’s leading and most business-​savvy artists. Richard Bartholomew and Shiv S.  Kapur, Husain (New  York, NY:  H.  N. Abrams, 1971); see also Kapur, ‘Maqbool Fida Husain:  Folklore and Fiesta’, Contemporary

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Notes to Pages 49–53 Indian Artists, pp.  117–​45; and Khullar, ‘Man and Mahabharata, Maqbool Fida Husain (1915–​2011)’, in Worldly Affiliations, pp. 90–​129. 219. M. F. Husain, Through the Eyes of a Painter (1967). The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1967. In 2008 at the International Film Festival in Goa, the film was withdrawn following pressure from Hindu right-​wing groups. In a report to the CEO of the Entertainment Society of Goa, the Hindu right-​ wing exponent Manoj Srivastava urged the organisers not to pay Husain tribute, on the grounds that his nude paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses insulted religious sentiments. For more on the controversial reception of his paintings, see Sumathi Ramaswamy, The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), pp. 3–​11. For more on Husain’s ‘ludic nomadism’, see Ramaswamy (ed.), Barefoot Across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India (New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2011), p. 7. 220. On the magic of village life in this film, see Kapur’s beautiful commentary: Contemporary Indian Artists, p. 127. 221. Khullar offers an insightful and compelling analysis of both film and soundtrack in Worldly Affiliations, pp. 109–​19. 222. Sheikh, ‘Emotions as Tender as Dew’, not paginated. 223. Barthes, The Neutral, p. 51. 224. Ibid., p. 52. 225. Ibid., p. 51. 226. Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, p. 7. 227. Ibid., p. 7. 228. John C.  Welchmann, Invisible Colors:  A  Visual History of Titles (New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 1997). 229. Mohamedi, diary entry (12 March 1971, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 93 [my emphasis]. For a different interpretation of the significance of the desert for Mohamedi and her practice see Kapur, ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved’. Kapur opens the text with a poem by Hélène Cixous on the desert and ‘desert births’ and attributes the ‘rootlessness’ of the artist’s practice to this landscape. See Kapur, When Was Modernism, p. 61. 230. Mohamedi, diary entry (1972, Bahrain), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 93. 231. A man of letters, Babur always carried his diary even during military campaigns, writing whenever he could. He inherited the Timurid devotion to artistic writing. His poetic compositions in Persian metre are landmark works of Chagatai-​Turkish. See Annemarie Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture (London: Reaktion, 2004), p. 26. 232. Mohamedi, diary entry (1 September 1968, Istanbul), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 88. 233. Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals, p. 26. 234. Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, p. 44. 235. Ibid. 236. Ibid. Geeta Kapur had also deployed the analogy of the arrow to describe Mohamedi’s concentrated efforts with the medium of calligraphy. ‘To shoot the arrow Nasreen has

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Notes to Pages 53–55 prepared herself by ordering her space and the object world within it, and by a painful evacuation of her subjectivity which leaves her body shuddering. She has prepared herself through ritual and above all through practice.’ From ‘Humming Discs: The Art of Nasreen’, The Times of India (27 February 1987), p. 6. 237. ‘wāw’ is a letter from Persian, Arabic and other languages. Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, p. 44. 238. Deanna Petherbridge, The Primacy of Drawing: An Artist’s View (London: South Bank Centre, 1991), p. 10. 239. Ibid., p. 18. 240. Ibid., p. 19. 241. Mohamedi, diary entry (4 October 1968, Topkapı), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 89. 242. Ibid. 243. Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, pp. 77–​8. 244. Ibid., p. 78. The illustration of the ‘word’ became more important when the practice of oral transmission was replaced by codification in writing during the early history of Islam. 245. Ibid., p. 113. 246. Ibid., p. 80. 247. Blair, Islamic Calligraphy, pp. 438–​9. 248. Ibid. 249. Iftikhar Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), p. 134–​5. Dadi here engages with the career of Pakistani artist Sadequain Naqqash (1930–​87) who lived in Paris between 1961 and 1967. 250. As in the case of Naqqash for example. See ibid., pp. 134–​76. 251. K. G. Subramanyan, in conversation with the author (21 May 2012), interview conducted through extensive written correspondence, unpublished. 252. Indrapramit Roy, ‘Light Within: The Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore’, in K. Dutta and A.  Robinson (eds), Purabi:  A  Miscellany in Memory of Rabindranath Tagore 1941–​1991 (London: Tagore Centre, 1991), p. 173. 253. Sukanta Chaudhuri, The Metaphysics of Text (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 183. I thank Swapan Chakravorty for sharing with me his unpublished English article ‘Book, Text, Work: Tagore and the Scene of Writing’. See also Swapan Chakravorty, Rabindranath: Silparup, Paatthrup, Grantharup (Kolkata: Ababhash, 2011), p. 4. Abanindranath Tagore writes: ‘[Rabindranath] Tagore painted and scribbled on whatever he could lay his hands on, all kinds of stationery –​his own, his institution’s, that of the ship he sailed on or the hotel he registered in; on all kinds of paper, good and bad, even occasionally unorthodox materials. He was restless to see the results quickly and so used quick-​drying inks.’ 254. The doodles grew numerous, complex and formally meaningful from 1924, when Rabindranath was 63, and continued at least until 1940, the year before his death at the age of 80. For more on the stigma of print see J. W. Saunders, ‘The Stigma of Print: A Note on the Social Bases of Tudor Poetry’, Essays in Criticism I/​2 (1951), pp. 139–​64.

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Notes to Pages 56–58 255. Chaudhuri, The Metaphysics of Text, p. 207. 256. Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Drawings: Jeram Patel (New Delhi: Shridharani Gallery, 1968), not paginated. 257. Swaminathan, ‘Painter with Blow-​flame’, p. 29. 258. Sheikh, Drawings: Jeram Patel, not paginated. 259. Ibid. Years later, in 1983, Swaminathan produced a small book entitled The Magical Script. The book was a loving tribute paid to the ‘magical’ role attributed to writing by the Korwa adivasi community (Madhya Pradesh). The Korwa produced calligraphic rhythms and unknown alphabets on paper, tracings made of figurative forms, half human and half animal, sometimes highlighted with lines or accompanied by militant drawings of arrows and bows. In the words of Swaminathan: “When they write, I think they take their pencil for a bow. They do not write, in fact: they shoot. They fire signs like arrows.” Jagdish Swaminathan, The Magical Script: Drawing by the Hill Korwas of Jashpur, Raigarh, M. P. (Bhopal: Museum of Fine Arts, Bharat Bhawan, 1983). 260. Film maker and writer Roshan Shahani, in conversation with the author (April 2012), interview conducted by telephone, unpublished. 261. Artist Zarina Hashmi, in conversation with the author (August 2012), interview conducted through extensive email correspondence, unpublished. 262. Ibid. 263. Nina Sabnani, in conversation with the author (April 2012), interview conducted through extensive email correspondence, unpublished. 264. Ibid. 265. Sheikh, Link (15 August 1978), p. 65. The writer relates Patel and Mohamedi’s quest for purity to the more surreal work of Swaminathan. 266. Ibid. 267. K. G. Subramanyan, in conversation with the author (21 May 2012), interview conducted through extensive written correspondence, unpublished. 268. Sheikh, ‘Emotions as Tender as Dew’, not paginated. 269. Keshav Malik, ‘The Art of Pure Lines’, The Times of India (20 May 1990), p. 28. 270. Similar strategies were adopted by American painter Morris Louis in the late 1970s, to evoke the catastrophe of the Holocaust. In relation to his Charred Journals, Louis suggested that the context of his fire-​written work (1951) was Picasso’s Guernica (1937). The shock of Guernica, Louis suggested, ‘lies in the very fact that colour is totally absent. The black, grey and white treatment of a particular theme serves to give it great force.’ Louis quoted in Diane Upright, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, NY: Abrams, 1985), p. 11. Morris Louis Bernstein (1912–​62) was an American painter associated with Abstract Expressionism. In the 1930s Louis produced fire-​written works. 271. Sheikh, Link (15 August 1978), p. 65. 272. Jeram Patel and Prayaga Sukla, Jeram Patel (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 2007), p. 9. Patel continues: ‘My work has nothing to do with space, colour, nor does it refer to realities that are relevant and exist outside. The work emerges on its own accord, has its own connotations, and makes, finds, and accommodates its own existence,

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Notes to Pages 58–62 asserting its presence near and around with its radiant flavour like pollen in the air. This fertilising presence establishes a new identity in one who happens to see the work. Nothing happens in this encounter as the work itself is a happening, a self-​encounter.’ From a 1977 catalogue of the artist’s work quoted in Sheikh (ed.), Contemporary Art in Baroda, p. 271. 273. Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), p. 37. 274. Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, p. 19. 275. Ibid., p. 212. 276. Mohamedi, diary entry (16 April 1976, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 97. 277. Walter Benjamin, ‘Short History of Photography’, in One-​Way Street and Other Writings (London: Penguin Books, 2009), p. 176. 278. Hans Belting, Florence and Baghdad: Renaissance Art and Arab Science (Cambridge, MA; London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011). Kapur has recently referred to Belting in her essay on Mohamedi. See Kapur ‘With Frugal Means’. 279. László Moholy-​Nagy, ‘The Future of the Photographic Process’, in Painting, Photography, Film (London: Lund Humphries, 1967), p. 33. 280. Weimar Bauhaus pedagogical methodologies and curricula introduced important notions of design and visual art practice. The full extent to which these theories influenced the practices of teachers and artists at Baroda is to be ascertained. Nilima Sheikh, ‘A Post-​Independence Initiative in Art’, in Sheikh (ed.), Contemporary Art in Baroda, p. 55, p. 267 (footnote 6). For the relevance of Moholy-​Nagy’s essay see Shukla Sawant, ‘Photo-​Fact-​Photo-​Fiction Constructing the Art World’, in P. Mitter, P. D. Mukherji and R. Balaram (eds), Twentieth-​Century Indian Art (New York, NY: Skira Rizzoli, forthcoming). I thank Shukla for sharing this essay with me. 281. Mohamedi to Singh, letter (20 May 1980), [my emphasis]. For an interesting account of Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh as ‘mirage’ and ‘optical phenomenon’ see Atreyee Gupta’s essay ‘In a Postcolonial Diction: Postwar Abstraction and the Aesthetics of Modernization’, Art Journal 72/​3 (2013), pp. 30–​46. 282. Vikramaditya Prakash, Chandigarh’s Le Corbusier:  The Struggle for Modernity in Postcolonial India (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2002), p. 7. 283. Nehru quoted in ibid. A historic decision, the Government of Punjab decided to create its own capital after losing the Mughal city of Lahore to the neighbouring state of Pakistan. By then the main stream of refugees had crossed over to more ‘stable’ states and ancient family ties had been severed. 284. Sunil Khilnani, The Idea of India (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1997), p. 64. Far from offering solace and being a beacon of the future for a progressive modern country, Chandigarh was considered an embarrassment, a sign of India’s inferiority to the West. Mohamedi’s enthrallment with the utopian city occurs precisely when this form of disillusionment with international modernism takes place, when the post-​ colonial challenging of this Partition legacy gathers impetus. Her commitment to this secular project emerges at a time when the blame for Partition is being routinely

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Notes to Pages 62–65 attributed to Indian Muslims, who as a result become the target during later conflicts with Pakistan. 285. Peter Carl, ‘The Tower of Shadows’, in Tim Benton et al., Le Corbusier and the Architecture of Reinvention (London: Architectural Association, 2003), p. 100. 286. Ibid. 287. Ibid., pp. 103–​4. A copy of the book L’Ordre Grec: Essai sur le Temple Dorique written by François Cali and illustrated by Serge Moulinier (published in Paris in 1958) was found in Mohamedi’s studio after her death. Moulinier produced dramatic, high-​ contrast photographs of Greek temple architecture. 288. Nasreen Mohamedi to Krishen Khanna, letter (undated), in private collection. 289. Nasreen Mohamedi to Archana Shastri, letter (10 February 1977, Baroda), in private collection [my emphasis]. I am grateful to Archana for sharing this valuable information with me in New Delhi. 290. Imtiaz Dharker, Leaving Fingerprints (Tarset: Bloodaxe Books, 2009), p. 23. 291. Schimmel, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture, p. 79. 292. Altaf Mohamedi quoted by Kiran Sheikh in ‘Nasreen lived a life of quiet elegance’, The Asian Age (12 May 1995), not paginated. 293. Kapur, ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved’, p. 103. 294. Ibid., pp. 63–​4. 295. Ananda Coomaraswamy encouraged a conscious effacing of the self both in the arts and in furniture design. The art historian reflects upon the anonymity that is crucial to this self-​effacing:  it ‘is by no means only a monastic ideal, but has far-​reaching repercussions in traditional societies, where our distinctions of sacred and profane […] can hardly be found […] we may point out that there is a corresponding anonymity of the artist himself, not only in the field of the so-​called “folk arts” but equally in a more sophisticated environment.’ Coomaraswamy goes on to cite the collective artistic production in Western medieval art and the millennial law of the Shakers. In a number of footnotes, he also lists Shaker furniture and Indian architecture. See his book Art and Swadeshi (Madras: Ganesh and Co., 1911). 296. Art historian Amna Malik expresses similar thoughts in relation to Mohamedi and the legacy of European abstraction. I am grateful to Malik for sharing her paper on Mohamedi with me. The paper entitled ‘Abstract Dis-​connections, Ruptures and Transformations: Nasreen Mohamedi and the Question of Context’ was delivered at the Tate Modern Abstraction Study Day, Part 9, London, 2010. 297. Kapur, ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved’, p. 105 298. Ibid. 299. Lyotard, Discourse, Figure, p. 8. 300. Pandey, Routine Violence, p. 15. 301. More recently, Kapur has attached greater prominence to the value and pertinence of Camus’ existentialist writings for the young Mohamedi. But Kapur goes on to argue that Mohamedi had long known about the nature of the neuromuscular disease affecting her (the same disease which had claimed the lives of her two brothers). As

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Notes to Pages 65–67 previously suggested, this view is unsupported, see n. 115 above. See Kapur’s essay ‘Again A Difficult Task Begins’, in Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting is a Part of Intense Living, p. 161. 302. Kapur, ‘With Frugal Means’, pp. 4, 7. 303. Ibid., pp. 13–​14. 304. Kapur, ‘Again a Difficult Task Begins’, p. 194. 305. Ibid. 306. Nina Sabnani, in conversation with the author (April 2012, Mumbai), interview conducted in person, unpublished. Gossip, writes Zamindar, is situated in the ‘interstices of respectability and it is not only used to negotiate a world of value and behaviour but also constitutes a moral community.’ See Zamindar, The Long Partition, footnote 4, p. 263. 307. Kapur, ‘With Frugal Means’, p. 10. 308. Ibid., p. 150. 309. Edward Said and Jean Mohr, After the Last Sky:  Palestinian Lives (New  York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 129. 310. Ibid., p. 150. 311. Zamindar, The Long Partition, p. 7. 312. Ibid., p. 4. 313. Ibid. 314. Pandey, Routine Violence, p. 44. 315. Specifically, in this regard, see the work of Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York, NY; London: Verso, 1991), and the well-​known critique by Partha Chatterjee, ‘Whose Imagined Community?’, in The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 3–​13; see also Chatterjee, ‘Anderson’s Utopia’, Diacritics 29/​4 (1999), pp. 128–​34. 316. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (London:  André Deutsch, 1986), pp. 230–​1. 317. Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, p. 12. See also Dadi and Nasar (eds), Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space. 318. Kapur, ‘With Frugal Means’, p. 13. 319. Barthes, The Neutral, pp. 45–​6. In a conversation with Gulam Sheikh, Mohamedi’s colleague and friend in Baroda, I  was scolded for using the word ‘abstraction’ in reference to the artist’s work. ‘Too crude!’ exclaimed Sheikh. I was reminded of the fourth rule of Zen and the koan: ‘Do not try to demonstrate with words.’ If one were to follow such rules, it would be impossible to carry on a conversation. To choose between opposing values in order to communicate (what Barthes called the ‘fascism of language’) was not an option. I quietly registered the triumph of the neutral. Gulam Sheikh, in conversation with the author (21 June 2011, New Delhi), interview conducted in person, unpublished. For Barthes on the neutral, communication and the fourth rule of Zen see The Neutral, pp. 117–​18. 320. Mohamedi, diary entry (1976, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 97.

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Notes to Pages 67–71 321. For Barthes, Zen involves rules that are strictly ‘non-​relevant’ and destroy the logic of the pertinent and of the self. He writes:  ‘The Zen satori escapes the competence of language, thus of definition and almost that of description; thus, literally untranslatable, since otherwise we would encounter Christian language:  conversion, illumination, whereas the satori is not the descent in oneself of a truth, of a god, but rather a sudden opening into the void.’ See Barthes, The Neutral, pp. 117, 173–​4. 322. Nasreen Mohamedi to Archana Shastri, letter (10 February 1977), in private collection.

Chapter 2 Beyond or in Emergency? The Emergence of Photography during the 1943 Bengal Famine: Sunil Janah 1. A lakh is a unit in the South Asian numbering system equal to 100,000. In Search of Famine is a film within a film by Bengali director Mrinal Sen (former IPTA member). In the opening scene of the film, a young Calcutta-​based film director arrives in a rural Bengali village with his crew to make a film about the 1943 Bengal Famine. The optimistic director hopes to expose the privations besetting contemporary rural India on the big screen. Following his summary welcome introduction, the jaded crew members participate in a light-​hearted memory quiz, which involves identifying Indian twentieth-​century famines by looking at a variety of famine photographs, including those of the Bengal Famine. 2. The photograph was originally taken by Janah in July 1943 and subsequently captioned by him ‘1944’. These temporal inconsistencies are frequent when assessing Janah’s remarkable portfolio. 3. Twentieth-​century Russian photographers were often compared with the figure of the engineer who designed and built the basic structures of the new revolutionary society. For this reason, the world was no longer merely interpreted so much as radically (re) constructed in the image. Graham Clarke, The Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 191. 4. Smith quoted in Zahid R. Chaudhary, Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-​ Century India (Minneapolis, MN:  University of Minnesota Press, 2012), p.  173. See Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2010), p. 140. 5. Chaudhary, Afterimage of Empire, p. 175. 6. Ibid. 7. Ibid., p. 184. For affectus (translated as emotion or affect –​the composite of perception and mental image), see Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Selected Letters (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1997), p. 119 (II, Prop. 27, proof). 8. Chaudhary, Afterimage of Empire, p. 175.

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Notes to Pages 71–73 9. Ibid., p. 10. 10. Merleau-​Ponty quoted in ibid., p. 25. See Maurice Merleau-​Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception (London; New York, NY: Routledge, 2002), p. 166. 11. Ariella Azoulay, The Civil Contract of Photography (New  York, NY:  Zone Books, 2008), p. 17. 12. Ibid., pp. 17, 85–​135. 13. Ibid., pp. 128–​35. 14. Ibid., p. 17. 15. Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 362. 16. For famine and the visual politics of mobilisation, see Margaret Kelleher, The Feminization of Famine:  Expressions of the Inexpressible? (Cork, Ireland:  Cork University Press, 1997), p. 174. 17. Allen Feldman, ‘On the Actuarial Gaze’, Cultural Studies 19/​2 (2005), p. 216. 18. Lefort quoted in ibid., p. 217. 19. Hal Foster, ‘Death in America: Shocked Subjectivity and Compulsive Visual Repetition’, in R. Krauss (ed.), October: The Second Decade, 1986–​1996 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), p. 336. 20. The subject of famine was foregrounded in the nationalist fashioning of the so-​called ‘drain theory’. The theory advanced the idea that famine was a product of British rule. The destruction of manufacturing industries and trades, obscene land revenue demands, onerous administrative costs, along with the plunder of India’s natural resources by the British, had stripped the once rich colony of its wealth. One of the leading proponents of the ‘drain theory’ was the Parsee Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–​1917). Naoroji frequently referenced the famine phenomenon in his book Poverty and Un-​ British Rule in India (London: S. Sonnenschein & Co., 1901), written at a time when Indians suffered the effects of widespread malnutrition and hunger. While touring England, Naoroji gave lectures to critique and oppose the Malthusian logic (favoured by most administrators) which held that India’s poverty was rooted in over-​population rather than British exploitation and mismanagement. For more on the ‘drain theory’, see Birendranath Ganguli, Dadabhai Naoroji and the Drain Theory (New  York, NY: Asia Publishing House, 1965). The ‘drain theory’ found another crucial advocate in Indian civil servant and economic historian Romesh Chunder Dutt, who retired to write a series of open letters to the Viceroy (1897–​1900), outlining the 22 famines experienced by India between 1770 and 1900. He later produced a number of works with a specific economic focus on famine. See in particular his Indian Famines, Their Causes and Prevention (London: P. S. King, 1901), The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule (London: Kegan Paul & Co., 1906), vol. 1; and The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age (London: Kegan Paul & Co., 1906), vol. 2. In The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule, Dutt argued that the ‘evil of a perpetual economic drain from India’ had turned the country into ‘a land of poverty and famines’. Famines in India, he agreed, were ‘directly due to a deficiency in the annual rainfall’, but the violent destruction of human life they caused was ‘largely due to the chronic poverty of the people’. Had the people been in a more prosperous economic position,

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Notes to Pages 73–75 Dutt argued, they could have purchased grain from neighbouring provinces in times of drought and crop failure, with no loss of life. But the oppressive land revenue debt had made the population so utterly deprived of resources that they were unable to purchase ‘from surrounding tracts, and […] perished in hundreds of thousands, or in millions, whenever there is a local failure of crops.’ Dutt quoted in David Arnold, Famine: Social Crisis and Historical Change (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), pp. 116–​17. 21. Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines:  An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1981), p. 78. 22. Historical accounts concerned with the theme of famine include David Arnold’s Famine: Social Crisis and Historical Change, David Ludden and David Washbrook on the commercialisation of agriculture in India, and David Hardiman’s Feeding the Baniya: Peasants and Usurers in Western India (New Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). These varied historians were attracted to the question of famine because of its centrality to the work of the nationalist economist Dutt. 23. ‘The tragedy of Bengal and the famines of Orissa, Malabar, and other places, are the final judgment on British rule in India.’ Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India (London: Meridian Books, 1951), p. 264. 24. Ibid., pp. 4–​6. 25. Winston Churchill quoted in Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2010), p. 5. 26. Ibid. 27. Achille Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, Public Culture 15/​1 (2003), p. 40. 28. Churchill quoted in Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War, p. 36. 29. Malthusian ideas about population, whereby famine was regarded as a natural check to overpopulation (with the unspoken benefit that it relieved imperial government from the responsibility of expenditure on relief), were commonly held and voiced in the press from the nineteenth century onwards. Supporters included the pioneers of evolutionary biology such as Darwin, as well as numerous British dignitaries and politicians. 30. Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, pp. 12–​17. 31. Ibid., p. 11. Mbembe’s approach builds on Foucault’s critique of the notion of sovereignty and its relation to war and biopower in Society Must be Defended, pp. 240–​1. 32. Ibid., p. 12. Mbembe retrieves Georges Bataille’s conception of death and anchors it in the realm of ‘absolute expenditure’. The latter characteristic is also common to the concept of sovereignty. Contra Hegel, who maintains death within the realm of meaningful and absolute knowledge, Bataille proposes that ‘life beyond utility is the domain of sovereignty’. Hence, death is the extremity at which destruction, suppression and sacrifice become radical and irrevocable expenditure; they can no ‘longer be determined as negativity’. For this reason, death is the defining principle of excess: an anti-​economy. Ibid., p. 15. 33. Ibid., p. 16. 34. Ibid., p. 24. 35. Sven Lindqvist, ‘Exterminate all the Brutes’ (London: Granta, 1997), p. 154.

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Notes to Pages 75–79 36. Arendt quoted in Mbembe, ‘Necropolitics’, p.  23. Mbembe takes up Arendt’s views regarding the imperialist origins of National Socialism, particularly in his case study, Africa. According to Arendt, the events of World War II introduced methods and forms of warfare formerly reserved for ‘savages’ to the ‘civilised’ peoples of Europe. 37. Ibid., p. 17. 38. Sumit Sarkar, Modern India, 1885–​1947 (New Delhi: Macmillan Press, 1983), p. 413. 39. Ian Stephens, Monsoon Morning (A Picture of India in 1942–​44) (London: Ernest Benn, 1966), p. 185 [my emphasis]. 40. Statement made by an English missionary posted at a Madras Famine Relief Camp in 1876. Quoted in Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World (London; New York, NY: Verso, 2001), p. 47. 41. Holocaust survivor Zalmen Gradowski, quoted in Georges Didi-​Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008), p. 182. 42. Zahid Chaudhary, ‘Phantasmagoric Aesthetics: Colonial Violence and the Management of Perception’, Cultural Critique 59/​1 (2005), p. 71. 43. Ibid. 44. Ibid., p. 75. 45. J. W. Kaye and J. F. Watson (eds), The People of India: A Series of Photographic Illustrations, with Descriptive Letterpress, of the Races and Tribes of Hindustan, originally published under the authority of the Government of India, and Reproduced by Order of the Secretary of State for India in Council (London: India Museum, Wm. H. Allen and Co., 1868–​72). The People of India comprised eight volumes, published between 1868 and 1875. The volumes contained nearly 500 albumen print copy photographs, accompanied by detailed letterpresses. The preface of the publication indicated that it was inspired by the amateur work of photographers Lord and Lady Canning. 46. Allan Sekula, ‘The Traffic in Photographs’, Art Journal 41/​1 (1981), p. 16. 47. Ian Baucom, Out of Place: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 200. See also John Frow, ‘Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia’, October 57 (1991), pp. 123–​51. 48. See the caption to the image. Kaye and Watson (eds), The People of India, vol. 4, not paginated. 49. Baucom, Out of Place, pp. 179–​80. Samuel Bourne (1834–​1912), one of the most shrewd and commercially savvy photographers of the nineteenth century (in India and Britain), focused on both ruins and the lofty spectacles of the Indian landscape. Specifically, he selected those ruins associated with the Mutiny of 1857 in Delhi and Agra. For Bourne and many other picturesque photographers, the kind of aesthetic attraction for monuments that immortalised decay did not apply to human figures. Falling between the categories of ethnography and documentary, famine photography did not conform to picturesque aesthetic criteria. Moreover, anxious about the ‘exorbitant’ tenacious propensity of the medium, Bourne sought to exclude human figures at all costs from his photographs. For this reason, it is little surprise that he had no interest in depicting bodies that displayed the destructive effects of famine.

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Notes to Pages 79–80 50. Here I follow Mike Davis’ line of argument. Pinney suggests that images of famine victims were ‘intended to depict objects suitable for reform: this is what British presence will prevent.’ Yet when inserted in official publications, these images begged the question with regard to the Empire’s reformist claims. The ambiguity characterising these claims confirms the inherently equivocal nature of photography’s ‘data ratio’. Taking up the Derridean notion of pharmakon, Pinney argues that the British initially deployed photography with a view to bolstering colonial interests (cure). However the technology was increasingly used by Indians to undermine the Empire (poison). Christopher Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India (London: British Library, 2008), p. 99. 51. Baucom, Out of Place, p. 180. 52. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, p. 34. 53. Wallace Ruddell Aykroyd, The Conquest of Famine (London:  Chatto and Windus, 1974), p. 53. 54. The Famine Codes defined three levels of food insecurity: near-​scarcity, scarcity, and famine. ‘Scarcity’ was defined as three successive years of crop failure, crop yields of one-​third to one-​half of normal, and large populations in distress. ‘Famine’ further included a rise in food prices above 140 per cent, the movement of people in search of food, and widespread mortality. Lance Brennan, ‘The Development of the Indian Famine Codes: Personalities, Politics, and Policies’, in B. Currey and G. Hugo (eds), Famine as a Geographical Phenomenon, (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1984), vol. 1, pp. 91–​110. 55. Ibid., p. 91. 56. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, p. 37. 57. According to Pinney, photographers’ celebration of the Delhi Durbar marked the transition of the camera from the Himalayas to the street. Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India, p.  82. For more, see the book:  Raja Deen Dayal and Clark Worswick, Princely India:  Photographs by Raja Deen Dayal 1884–​1910 (New  York, NY: Knopf, 1980); and Deborah S. Hutton, ‘Raja Deen Dayal and Sons: Photographing Hyderabad’s Famine Relief Efforts’, History of Photography 31/​3 (2007), pp. 260–​75. 58. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, p. 55. 59. Digby returned to England in 1880 to defend Indian grievances in Liberal politics. Ibid., p. 56. 60. Julian Hawthorne, ‘Report of the Cosmopolitan’s Special Commissioner to India: The Horrors of the Plague in India’, Cosmopolitan xxiii/​3 (1897), pp. 231–​46. On the front cover of this issue of Cosmopolitan appear two of Hooper’s famine photographs, juxtaposed with a statue of Queen Victoria. The caption reads: ‘the special commissioner of Cosmopolitan, on his way home from India, heard it conservatively estimated in London that a total of more than one hundred million of dollars would be expended, directly and indirectly, upon the Queen’s Jubilee ceremonies’. 61. George Thomas, History of Photography, India 1840–​ 1980 (Hyderabad:  Andhra Pradesh State Akademi of Photography, 1981), p. 28. 62. Ibid, p. 112. 63. The ‘Great Famine’ spread from the Madras Presidency through Mysore, the Bombay Deccan and into the north-​western provinces. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, p. 38.

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Notes to Pages 81–89 64. Dr Cornish quoted in ibid., pp. 112–​13 [my emphasis]. 65. Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India, p. 99. 66. Christopher Penn, In Pursuit of the Past: The Discovery of the Life and Work of A. T. W.  Penn, Pioneering Photographer of South India (Worplesdon:  C.  F. Penn, 2010); Chaudhary, Afterimage of Empire, p. 155. 67. Hooper in a letter. John Falconer, ‘Willoughby Wallace Hooper:  “A Craze About Photography” ’, The Photographic Collector 4/​3 (1983), p. 277. W. W. Hooper, born in London in 1837, was commissioned into the seventh Regiment of the Light Cavalry of the Madras Army. Initially stationed in Kamptee where he served up until 1862, he moved north with the fourth Regiment to Secunderabad in 1866 and there spent much of his career. It is possible Hooper took up photography around 1860 while acting as Provost Marshal of the Burma Expeditionary Force. His notorious coverage of the execution of Burmese rebels caused much controversy both in London and in India. 68. Pinney borrows the term from Barthes’ Camera Lucida. Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India, p. 78. 69. Chaudhary, ‘Phantasmagoric Aesthetics’, p. 70. 70. Ibid. 71. According to Christopher Penn, the photographer’s customers would have seen him as an artist and a successor to British watercolour landscape and marine painters William and Thomas Daniell, who had worked in India at the end of the previous century. A large part of Penn’s photography falls into the category of picturesque scenes in the wake of Samuel Bourne. Christopher Penn, in conversation with the author (20 July 2012, London), interview conducted in person, unpublished. 72. According to Penn, A. T. W. Penn and the Nicholas Brothers worked like today’s photojournalists, photographing catastrophes shortly after they had occurred. One of these was a dreadful railway accident in Madras (Cheyyar River between Arconum and Cuddapah), which caused considerable loss of life. See Christopher Penn’s The Nicholas Brothers & A.  T. W.  Penn:  Photographers of South India 1855–​1885 (London: Quaritch, 2014). 73. Bangalore Spectator (1 September 1877), p. 4 [my emphasis]. 74. Ibid. 75. William Digby, The Famine Campaign in Southern India (Madras and Bombay Presidencies and Province of Mysore) 1876–​1878 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1878), vol. 1, pp. viii, ix. All references are to vol. 1 unless otherwise stated. 76. Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, p. 39. 77. Digby, The Famine Campaign in Southern India, pp. viii, ix. 78. Ibid., p. 119. Hooper’s image bears an uncanny resemblance to a photograph entitled The Vulture and the Little Girl shot by South African photojournalist Kevin Carter in 1993. In the infamous image, a vulture eyes a collapsed famine-​stricken girl on her way to a UN feeding centre in Ayod (South Sudan). Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography and shortly thereafter took his own life. 79. British Library Board. Photo 430/​25. (10). The photograph most probably depicts the construction of two canals for the creation of a reservoir deploying famine labour at

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Notes to Pages 89–91 Ottu (also known as the Ottu barrage). The works were commissioned by Maharaja Ganga Singh of the princely state of Bikaner and carried out in conjunction with the imperial government 1896–​1900. See Sir William Hunter Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of India (London: India Office, Clarendon Press, 1908). 80. British Library Board. Photo 430/​25. (34). 81. For more on the disciplinary use of photography in archaeological representations in India see Ashish Chadha, ‘Visions of Discipline:  Sir Mortimer Wheeler and the Archaeological Method in India (1944–​1948)’, Journal of Social Archaeology 2/​3 (2002), pp. 378–​401. 82. See Joseph S.  Alter, Gandhi’s Body:  Sex, Diet, and the Politics of Nationalism (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000); Shahid Amin, ‘Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP, 1921–​22’, in R. Guha and G. Chakravorty Spivak (eds), Selected Subaltern Studies (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1988). 83. Alter, Gandhi’ s Body, p. 28. 84. Ibid., pp. 28–​9. 85. Ibid., p. 51. For affective images depicting the leader fasting during the years of the nationalist struggle, see Peter Rühe, Gandhi:  A  Photo Biography (London:  Phaidon Press, 2001), in particular pp. 135, 155–​9, 275–​9. 86. Sabeena Gadihoke, ‘Journeys into Inner and Outer Worlds: Photography’s Encounter with Public Space in India’, in Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Göttingen; London; Winterthur: Steidl, Whitechapel Art Gallery and Fotomuseum Winterthur, 2010), p. 39. 87. Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India, p. 137. 88. A. Arya and I. Kamtekar (eds), History in the Making: The Visual Archives of Kulwant Roy (New Delhi: HarperCollins, 2008). 89. Pictorialism was a photographic style and type of imagery based on the application of the principles of fine art, especially on ideas of beauty and nature related to the picturesque. Although specifically identified in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, pictorialist photography was underpinned by an aesthetic response to the ongoing debate about photography’s scientific and artistic status. For this reason, Henry Peach Robinson defined the term ‘pictorial’ in his Pictorial Effect in Photography (1869), as ‘adherence to the systemised aesthetic of the contemporary painting Salon.’ During World War II, however, Post-​Impressionism pulled avant-​garde photography away from pictorialist concerns and towards abstraction. But the manipulation of photographic media, subjectivity and symbolism which had been crucial to the pictorialist aesthetic tradition remained important principles in photography. Hope Kingsley, ‘Pictorialism’, in The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 739–​40. Amongst the photographers influenced by Pictorialism was the Bombay-​based A. L. Syed (1904–​91). Sophie Gordon cites the work of Shapoor N. Bhedwar, who worked in Bombay from 1890–​1900 and was part of the Brotherhood of the Linked Ring photographic society. Gordon also mentions the important role played by the Photographic Society of India, which reproduced pictorial examples in

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Notes to Pages 91–93 the pages of its journal during the 1920s. Sophie Gordon, ‘The Colonial Project and the Shifting Gaze’, Marg: A Magazine of the Arts 59/​4 (June 2008), pp. 40–​53. 90. Although the Leica (35 mm) camera was first marketed in 1925, appearing in India shortly thereafter, photographers did not use it due to its small format negative. On the other hand the Speedgraphic, first developed in the early twentieth century, was sold in second-​hand markets in the aftermath of World War II, when American soldiers left the country. But the Rolleiflex, with its 12 or 24 exposures, continued to be the most popular camera amongst press photographers until the 1960s. Gadihoke, ‘Journeys into Inner and Outer Worlds’, pp. 39–​40. 91. Pinney mentions the work of commercial studio photographer Nasik Vinayak Virkar (1890–​1968). Virkar, who trained in Lahore, had moved to Bombay where he set up his own private commercial studio. He became a successful film still and studio portrait photographer. In 1919, following the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Virkar moved with his camera beyond the studio to the crime scene to document the forensic traces of ‘the event’ for posterity. Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India, p. 83. 92. Sunil Khilnani, The Idea of India (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1997), pp. 109, 125 [my emphasis]. 93. Pinney cites two examples, which both took place in the 1920s within a few years of each other in Amritsar. The Coming of Photography in India, pp. 83–​95. 94. Dissident political leaders, including Bombay-​based Bal Gangadhar Tilak, brought politics into the street. However it was Gandhi who radicalised this public space for political expediency. By organising mass dawn prayer meetings Gandhi implicitly undermined the rules of colonial public meeting. Ibid., p. 109. 95. Ibid., p. 125. 96. Lisa Trivedi, ‘Visually Mapping the “Nation”: Swadeshi Politics in Nationalist India, 1920–​1930’, The Journal of Asian Studies 62/​1 (2003), pp. 11–​42. 97. Ibid., p. 15. 98. Ibid., pp. 15, 37. 99. Sudipta Kaviraj, ‘Filth and the Public Sphere:  Concepts and Practices about Space in Calcutta’, Public Culture 10/​1 (1997), pp. 83–​113. See also Sumanta Banerjee, The Parlour and the Streets:  Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1989). 100. Khilnani, The Idea of India, p. 126. 101. In 1920, on Gandhi’s advice, the Congress declared that all parades, receptions and celebrations in honour of the Prince of Wales were to be strictly boycotted in view of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and the postponement of Home Rule. As a result, the Prince was greeted with empty streets in all major Indian cities. Sarkar, Modern India, 1885–​1947. Pinney observes that the importance of a sovereign’s public visibility began to fade by 1858, see his The Coming of Photography in India, p. 46. 102. For photographs documenting the mass meetings instigated by Gandhi in 1908 in Durban, as well as the mass campaign he called for in 1913 to challenge the ban on Indian migration, see Rühe, Gandhi: A Photo Biography, pp. 41, 43. For indigenous

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Notes to Pages 93–94 photographic surveillance, see Judith Mara Gutman, Through Indian Eyes (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1982). 103. The Press Act was implemented after the Partition of Bengal (1905) to curb the rise of revolutionary and seditious press. See Christopher Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (London:  Reaktion, 2004), pp.  11, 56, 109–​16, 121, 131. See also R.  Kaur and W.  Mazzarella (eds), Censorship in South Asia:  Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction (Bloomington, IN:  Indiana University Press, 2009). 104. Pinney, The Coming of Photography in India, p. 137. 105. Kanu Gandhi, Gandhi’s great-​nephew, lived on Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram in Ahmedabad and in central India near Wardha. In 1936, he acquired his first camera and a roll of film. He was thus able to document the last ten years of Gandhi’s life. According to Peter Rühe, Gandhi allowed Kanu to photograph him on three conditions: ‘he was not to use flash, the ashram would not finance his photographic equipment and Gandhi would never pose.’ Rühe, Gandhi:  A  Photo Biography, p. 310. 106. William Mazzarella, ‘Branding the Mahatma: The Untimely Provocation of Gandhian Publicity’, Cultural Anthropology 25/​1 (2010), p. 17. 107. Ibid. 108. Mahatma Gandhi, The Gandhi Reader:  A  Source Book of His Life and Writings (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1956), pp. 129–​30. 109. In this connection, see also Claude Markovits, The Un-​Gandhian Gandhi:  The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma (New Delhi:  Permanent Black, 2003); Emma Tarlo, Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India (London: Hurst, 1996); Suchitra, ‘What Moves Masses:  Dandi March as Communication Strategy’, Economic and Political Weekly 30/​14 (April 8 1995), p. 745; and Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘Clothing the Political Man: A Reading of the Use of Khadi/​White in Indian Public Life’, Journal of Human Values, 5/​1 (1999), pp. 3–​14. 110. Naidu quoted in Tariq Ali, The Nehrus and the Gandhis:  An Indian Dynasty (London: Picador, 2005), p. 38. In a print published in the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore on the occasion of Gandhi’s seventieth birthday, the Mahatma is depicted as Mickey Mouse. In a birthday broadcast on the All India Radio, Mrs Sarojini Naidu had referred to the Mahatma as ‘this tiny creature whom once in a mood of loving irreverence I called a Mickey Mouse of a Man’. In the print the Mahatma, mimicking Mickey Mouse, is confronted by the real Mickey Mouse. The latter, arms akimbo, looks reproachfully at the giggling impostor. Durga Das, Gandhi in Cartoons (Ahmedabad: Navjivan Publishing House, 1970), pp. 152–​3. 111. Gandhi used textile as a non-​violent protest tool that had strong economic and semiotic implications during the Independence movement. By 1944, the weaving and wearing of khadi became a powerful instrument of resistance, conveying both identity and status. See Susan S. Bean, ‘Gandhi and Khadi, the Fabric of Indian Independence’, in A. B. Weiner and J. Schneider (eds), Cloth and Human Experience (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989); and Peter Gonsalves, Clothing for Liberation: A

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Notes to Pages 94–95 Communication Analysis of Gandhi’s Swadeshi Revolution (New Delhi: SAGE India, 2010); and Tarlo, Clothing Matters. 112. Rahaab Allana and Pramod Kumar, Painted Photographs:  Coloured Portraiture in India (Ahmedabad: Mapin, 2008), p. 7. 113. Ibid. 114. For a compelling account of khadi as both political symbol and commodity in pre and post-​Independence India, see Lisa Trivedi, Clothing Gandhi’s Nation: Homespun and Modern India (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007), p. 72. For Gandhi’s dislike of colour and his use of white as a source of nationalist redemption see Natasha Eaton, Colour, Art and Empire: Visual Culture and the Nomadism of Representation (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013), pp. 259–​60. Eaton writes: ‘Colour is too heterogeneous, too rebellious (indigo), too traditional and (as anilines) too foreign –​and what’s more it didn’t photograph effectively. Like the modern technologies of the telegraph and the microphone, Gandhi orchestrated his self-​image through black-​and-​white photography, newspapers, film and newsreel –​exemplified by Bourke-​White’s assignment for Life magazine.’ p. 260. 115. This was especially the case during the Salt March to Dandi (1930), an occasion on which thousands of followers wore iconic khadi clothes and topis. The march excited not just the whole of India but also millions of spectators around the world, thanks to the press who reported the daily progress of the march. For photographs of the Salt March, see Rühe, Gandhi: A Photo Biography, pp. 79–​90. 116. Richard Pollard quoted in Vicki Goldberg, Margaret Bourke-​White:  A  Biography (London: Heinemann, 1987), p. 189. For Bourke-​White’s Dust Bowl photographs, see Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-​White, You Have Seen Their Faces (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995). 117. Bourke-​White struggled with many of Gandhi’s ideas on industry and agriculture. She wrote: ‘This conviction of Gandhi’s that machinery was intrinsically evil particularly disturbed me because of my love of the machine and my belief of what it could do for man.’ See Margaret Bourke-​White, Portrait of Myself (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1963), p. 273. 118. Contrary to what Bourke-​White writes in her memoirs, the photographer took several pictures of the Mahatma. This suggests that Bourke-​White moved undisturbed and that the sitter, while paying no attention to her, was co-​operatively motionless. Bourke-​White would later write: ‘Photography demands a high degree of participation’. Bourke-​White, Portrait of Myself, p. 84. 119. Edward Weston, ‘Entry for 10 March 1924’, in The Daybooks of Edward Weston (Millerton, NY: Aperture, 1973), quoted in N. Newhall (ed.), Edward Weston: the Flame of Recognition: His Photographs Accompanied by Excerpts from Daybooks & Letters (Millerton, NY: Aperture, 1975), p. 12. 120. While the ever-​optimistic technophile disagreed with Gandhi over the issue of industrialisation in India, Bourke-​White was sensitive to the leader’s ambivalent behaviour towards machinery. Confessing her difficulty as ‘an American, to hurdle his antiquated ideas on the machine age […] because to me the machine has always been

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Notes to Pages 95–96 a glorious thing’, Bourke-​White observed how Gandhi’s anti-​machine references at prayer meetings were especially disturbing when ‘delivered through a modern microphone’. Hence, she found Gandhi’s professed views on industry at odds with his own lifestyle. For the photographer, the final irony was that at the end of the talk, ‘Gandhi would step off his prayer platform into the milk-​white Packard car belonging to the richest textile manufacturers in India. I was not satisfied by these inconsistencies.’ Bourke-​White, Portrait of Myself, p. 278–​9. 121. Vladimir Lenin quoted in S. I. Morozov and V. Lloyd (eds), Soviet Photography 1917–​ 1940: The New Photojournalism (London: Orbis, 1984), p. 8. In pre-​Soviet Russia, the first Russian photographer to record the suffering under the Tsarist regime was Maxim Dimitriev during the 1881–​2 Volga Basin Famine. Dimitriev documented the terrible conditions of peasants, many of whom were suffering from severe malnutrition, typhoid and cholera. 122. C. Vaughan James, Soviet Socialist Realism: Origins and Theory (London: Macmillan Press, 1973), p.  13. See also Margarita Tupitsyn, Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina: Photography and Montage after Constructivism (New York, NY; Göttingen: International Center of Photography and Steidl, 2004). 123. Goldberg, Margaret Bourke-​White, p. 300. 124. Bipan Chandra, ‘P. C. Joshi and National Politics’, Studies in History 24/​2 (2008), p. 248. 125. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1971), p. 3. 126. Debates on critical realism and the function of art were common in India since 1935 and frequently voiced at the Progressive Writers’ Association. These discussions integrated an anti-​imperialist rhetoric with that of a broader opposition towards the rise of Fascism. From the early 1940s the progressive cultural initiatives of the CPI took over these debates. The Anti-​Fascist Writers’ and Artists’ Association (1941) was resolutely Left-​wing. Sanjukta Sunderason, ‘As “Agitator and Organizer”: Chittaprosad and Art for the Communist Party of India, 1941–​8’, Object 13 (2011), pp. 76–​95. See also Sunderason’s unpublished doctoral thesis, The Nation and the Everyday: The Aesthetics and Politics of Modern Art in India, Bengal c. 1920–c. 1960 (London: University College London, 2012) and Sudhi Pradhan, Marxist Cultural Movement in India: Chronicles and Documents, 1936–​1947 (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1979). 127. Benjamin Francis Bradley (1898–​1957) was a British Communist who was sent to India by the CPGB to promote militant trade unionism in 1927. In 1931 he was sentenced to ten years penal transportation in the infamous Meerut Conspiracy Trial (1929–​33). Among the 32 prisoners was the 22-​year-​old P. C. Joshi. J. M. Bellamy, J. Saville and D. E. Martin (eds), Dictionary of Labour Biography (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000), vol. 10; Jean Jones, Ben Bradley: Fighter for India’s Freedom (London: Socialist History Society, 1994). 128. The strategy of colonial Communists resulted in a significant debate between Mexico-​ based Bengali revolutionary M.  N. Roy and Lenin at the second Congress of the Communist International (1921). While Lenin encouraged the broad support of the bourgeois-​led national movements in the colonies, Roy argued that the Indian masses

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Notes to Page 96 were already disillusioned with bourgeois leaders like Gandhi. See Sarkar, Modern India, 1885–​1947, p. 247. 129. In 1935, the Seventh Congress of the Comintern switched to the line of supporting a united front of all anti-​Fascist forces in capitalist countries and the alliance of Communist and nationalist forces in colonial and semi-​colonial countries. India was thus compelled to adopt the Dutt-​Bradley Thesis, its Communist British authors urging the necessity of working within Congress and converting the latter into an anti-​imperialist people’s front. Joshi implemented this thesis successfully, with Left-​wing Congress members from both the Indian National Congress and the Congress Socialist Party welcoming all Communists. Joshi’s success had been further sustained by Jawaharlal Nehru’s sympathy towards and admiration for the Left, expressed in the 1936 National Congress Presidential address. At this time, Nehru supported the formation of an Anti-​Imperialist People’s Front, criticising the Congress’s isolation from the masses. However Joshi’s theorising began to waver between 1939–​40, when the new pro-​Soviet defection caused the Indian Communist movement to be associated with the Soviet-​German pact and with the People’s War line. Although the about-​turn in Comintern policy after the Soviet-​German Pact represented an embarrassment for European Communists, it represented an asset for their comrades in India, allowing an easy synchronisation of ‘internationalist’ support to Soviet policies with nationalist hostility to Britain’s war. Upon Hitler’s invasion of Russia in 1941, this situation would be exactly reversed. In September 1939, the Viceroy arbitrarily subscribed India to the British declaration of war on Germany as a supporter, without involving any provincial ministries or Indian leaders in the decision. Congress leadership felt the need to support the Allied Powers, but to be able to do so India had to be given effective Independence and the power to mobilise Indian resources for the war effort. For this reason, Congress decided to wait before unleashing a mass movement against the British Government. The CPI, by contrast, initially considered the war to be between two imperialist powers and that India should not interfere. This situation therefore represented an opportunity to intensify the struggle for Independence, uniting both Communists and nationalists. The split occurred when, under the direction of the Comintern, the CPI maintained that Anglo-​French imperialism rather than Fascism was the aggressor. The war provided the perfect occasion for the CPI to discredit British colonial policies and unleash a mass movement. Planning to establish working-​class hegemony over the movement, the CPI set about exposing what it described as the counter-​revolutionary elements of the Gandhian leadership. The CPI endorsed this anti-​British imperialist line until the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. The intervention of the Comintern changed all this: the CPI line switched once more, now extending full support to the war effort and to the British Indian government. Britain, though repressive and reactionary, was now the ally of the world’s only Socialist state. Discouraged, Joshi gave in to the Comintern and took up the anti-​Fascist People’s War line against Nazi Germany, declaring the earlier policy nationalist and bourgeois. Participation in the global Popular Front

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Notes to Pages 96–100 bolstered CPI’s international rhetoric of popular resistance, but alienated the Party from Congress and the nationalist movement. With the failure of the Cripps Mission in March 1942, a new wave of civil mass disobedience unfolded; Gandhi returned to power in Congress. The CPI’s change of line would not have proven so disastrous were it not for its opposition to the Quit India resolution. The controversial policy –​former members used the word ‘suicidal’ to describe it –​would result in the CPI’s fatal expulsion from Congress after the war. For more on the role of the Comintern, Communism and nationalism in India see Chandra, ‘P. C. Joshi and National Politics’, p. 251; Irfan Habib, ‘The Left and the National Movement’, Social Scientist 26/​5–​6 (1998), p. 18; Anil Rajimwale, Life and Works of P. C. Joshi (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 2007), p. 44; John Patrick Haithcox, Communism and Nationalism in India: M. N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920–​1939 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 382; and D. N. Gupta, Communism and Nationalism in Colonial India, 1939–​45 (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2008), p. 56. 130. Rajimwale, Life and Works of P.  C. Joshi, p.  46; Chandra, ‘P. C.  Joshi and National Politics’, p. 251. 131. The All India Kisan Sabha (All India Peasants Union) was formed during the Lucknow and Faizpur Congress sessions in 1930. The movement incarnated the new spirit of unity advocated by the Dutt-​Bradley thesis among Left-​nationalists, Socialists and Communists. The greatest triumph of the Left during this period was represented by the re-​election of Subhas Chandra Bose as Congress President in 1939. This victory signalled the short-​lived high tide of Left influence within Congress. Sarkar, Modern India, 1885–​1947, p. 340. 132. Chandra, ‘P. C. Joshi and National Politics’, p. 249. 133. The CPI became further discredited after adopting the problematic Adhikari thesis on ‘Pakistan and National Unity’ in 1942. While pleading for an agreement between Gandhi and Jinnah, it came very close to endorsing the Pakistan demand as an opportunistic means to strike an alliance with the Muslim League and undermine Congress hegemony. Sarkar, Modern India, 1885–​1947, pp. 411–​12. 134. Habib, ‘The Left and the National Movement’, p. 23. 135. For Gramsci’s influential concept of ‘hegemony’ and the role of the organic intellectual in the context of Fascist Italy, see Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, pp. 12–​13. 136. Sunil Janah, Photographing India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 11. 137. Ibid., p. 12. 138. Ibid. 139. Ibid., p. 8. 140. A. D.  Coleman, Depth of Field:  Essays on Photography, Mass Media, and Lens Culture (Albuquerque, NM:  University of New Mexico Press, 1998), pp.  36–​7. Newspaper photographers in both Europe and the Soviet Union would usually (though not always) go for the single image, while magazine photographers opted for sequences. 141. Janah, in conversation with the author (12 March 2009).

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Notes to Pages 100–101 142. N. Ganguly (ed.), Somnath Hore (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 2010); Sanjoy Kumar Mallik, Chittaprosad: A Retrospective 1915–​1978 (New Delhi: Delhi Art Gallery, 2004). For more on the work of Zainul Abedin see Iftikhar Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); and Mallik’s ‘Responses in the Art of Bengal to the 1943 Famine and the Tebhaga Movement’, paper delivered at the ‘Culture and Democracy’ workshop organised by the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (Kolkata) in Gwalior, 1–​5 February 1997. See also Mallik, ‘Social Realism in the Visual Arts: “Man-​Made” Famine and Political Ferment, Bengal 1943–​1946’, in G. Sinha (ed.), Art and Visual Culture in India, 1857–​2007 (Mumbai; New Delhi: Marg Publications in collaboration with National Cultural Fund, Government of India and Bodhi Art, 2009). 143. See Sunderason, ‘As “Agitator and Organizer” ’. In 1942, at a conference devoted to the role of art and literature during China’s liberation war, Mao had urged Party members ‘to investigate, to observe, to study, and to analyze the various personalities, the different classes, the various social groups, and the various active forms of life and struggle.’ Mao Zedong, Problems of Art and Literature (New York, NY: International Publishers, 1950), pp. 17–​18. 144. Janaki Nair, ‘Cultural Production in an Age of Retreating State Patronage’, unpublished paper delivered at a conference at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 1996, not paginated. I am grateful to Professor Nair for sharing this paper with me in Delhi. 145. Sukanta Bhattacharya, ‘The Full Moon is a Charred Bread’ (1943–7), from his Chharpatra, in S. Ghose (ed.), Contemporary Bengali Literature (Calcutta: Academic Publishers, 1972), p. 89. 146. The beginning and duration of the Bengal Famine are difficult to identify precisely, especially given the official reluctance to acknowledge the famine and delays in response. Although in October 1943 the British Parliament admitted its existence, it was never officially declared a famine. Official recognition, as Amartya Sen observes, would ‘have brought in an obligation to organise work programmes and relief operations specified by the “Famine Code” of 1883.’ However the government’s lack of response and shocking handling of the crisis went completely against the agenda of its Famine Manual for Bengal, which had recently been amended in 1941. See Sen, Poverty and Famines, p. 79. Important studies of the Bengal Famine include Paul R. Greenough, Prosperity and Misery in Modern Bengal: The Famine of 1943–​1944 (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1982); Aykroyd, The Conquest of Famine; Kali Charan Ghosh, Famines in Bengal, 1770–​1943 [With Plates] (Calcutta: Indian Associated Publishing Co., 1944); and J. N. Uppal, Bengal Famine of 1943: A Man-​ made Tragedy (New Delhi: Atma Ram, 1984). 147. For more on the Bengal Famine see Wolfgang Fitzner, ‘The Unknown Famine Holocaust: About the Causes of Mass Starvation’, The Revisionist 1/​1 (2003), pp. 56–​ 87; Tarakchandra Das, Bengal Famine (1943) as Revealed in a Survey of the Destitutes in Calcutta (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1949); John Woodhead, Famine Inquiry Commission: Report on Bengal (New Delhi: Government of India Press, 1944);

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Notes to Pages 101–106 Srimanjari, Through War and Famine: Bengal 1939–45 (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2009). 148. Sunil Janah would later write: ‘It was not so much what the British rulers did, but what they did not do, which precipitated the crisis. The rice traders, our own countrymen, who controlled the distribution and the prices of the essential food grain, hoarded it, letting the price soar up beyond the reach of the poor. The authorities, including the governor of Bengal and the police, did nothing to prevent that. Instead of punishing the profiteers and black-marketeers, they may have concurred with them and shared their gains while two million people starved to death.’ Janah, Photographing India, p.8. See also B. M. Bhatia, Famines in India: A Study in Some Aspects of the Economic History of India 1860–​1965 (Bombay; New York, NY: Asia Publishing House, 1967), p. 324. See also Rakesh Batabyal’s Communalism in Bengal: From Famine to Noakhali, 1943–​47 (New Delhi; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2005). 149. One is here reminded of the extensive caption of the photograph Famine Stricken Group, Delhi included in The People of India, which praised the Empire’s commitment to preventing famines through the setting up of a complex network of railway infrastructures to improve food distribution during famines. 150. Quoted in Sen, Poverty and Famines, p. 79. 151. Churchill in 1944, quoted in Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War, p. 4. 152. Ministry of Information to Cecil Beaton, letter (1944), in the Papers of Cecil Beaton (a1/​191/​2), Saint John’s College Library, Cambridge, [my emphasis]. 153. As in the case of the Irish famine, see the work of Kelleher, The Feminization of Famine, p. 173. 154. Cecil Beaton, India (Bombay: Thacker & Co., 1955), not paginated. 155. Ibid. 156. Ibid. 157. Ibid. 158. Cecil Beaton, Indian Album (London: B. T. Batsford, 1946). 159. The propaganda value of Beaton’s work comes increasingly to the fore when compared to that of Bourke-​White, who was working for the American Life magazine around the same time. Her bold, iconic photographs presented an altogether different perspective on the country for international news readers. These projected and dramatised India’s fight for Independence and functioned as an effective (and affective) form of shorthand, summing up significant events for a public unfamiliar with India and its people. For this reason, they appeared far more dramatic and disconcerting. For Bourke-​White’s powerful images of the exodus in the aftermath of Partition, see Bourke-​White, Portrait of Myself, pp. 287–​8. 160. P. C. Joshi, ‘Who Lives If Bengal Dies?’, People’s War (14 November 1943), p. 17. 161. Janah, Photographing India, p. 10. 162. Natasha Eaton, Mimesis across Empires: Artworks and Networks in India 1765–​1860 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013), p. 236. 163. For a contemporary appraisal of Beato’s photograph and the politics of the archive, that is, the tension between the claim to truth and the ‘ruses’ necessary to the making of this

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Notes to Pages 106–113 claim, see Raqs Media Collective, ‘In the Theatre of Memory: The Work of Contemporary Art in the Photographic Archive’, Lalit Kala Contemporary 52 (2012), pp. 85–​95. 164. Felice Beato (1832–​1909) specialised in the depiction of conflicts, including the Crimean War (1853–​6) and the Second Opium War in China (1856–​60). His aftermath coverage of the 1857 Mutiny catered to the endless craving of the British public for images related to the event. Beato arrived at Sikandar Bagh five months after the revolt. David Harris, ‘Topography and Memory: Felice Beato’s Photographs of India, 1858–​1859’, in Vidya Dehejia et al., India Through the Lens: Photography 1840–​1911 (Washington, DC; Munich; New York, NY: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with Mapin Publishers and Prestel, 2000). 165. In relation to the collapse of governmentality see the work of Chaudhary, ‘Phantasmagoric Aesthetics’, p. 99 and Narayani Gupta, ‘Pictorializing the “Mutiny” of 1857’, in M. A. Pellizzari (ed.), Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation, 1850–​1900 (Montreal; New Haven, CT: Canadian Centre for Architecture, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University Press, 2003), pp. 216–​39. 166. Joshi, ‘Who Lives If Bengal Dies?’, p. 19. 167. Henry Luce, founder and editor-​in-​chief of Life, assured his subscribers that ‘Britain was ready to pass the mantle of leadership to America.’ Quoted in Goldberg, Margaret Bourke-​White, p. 300. 168. Janah, Photographing India, pp. 30–​1. 169. At the end of World War II, Bourke-​White travelled to the liberated camps of Buchenwald, Bergen-​Belsen and others. 170. Bhattacharya Chittaprosad, Hungry Bengal:  A  Tour through Midnapur District in November, 1943 (Bombay, 1944). See also his ‘Midnapur as I  Saw It’, People’s War (2 January 1944), p. 6. 171. Sunderason, ‘As “Agitator and Organizer” ’, p. 81. 172. Chittaprosad, Hungry Bengal, p. 1. Joshi, who had been struck by the artist’s political posters of Chittagong, commissioned the drawings. Joshi writes: ‘My faith comes from Chittaprosad whom I  saw in 1943 making posters and himself pasting them on village walls […] I  get my confidence from the common people whom Chitto sketches and I try to organise them under the banner of my party.’ Joshi quoted in Pradyota Ghosha, Chittaprosad: A Doyen of Art-​World (Calcutta: Shilpayan Artists Society, 1995), p. 11. 173. Chittaprosad, ‘Help Chittagong’, People’s War (27 August 1943), p. 2. 174. Chittaprosad, Chittaprosad: A Retrospective 1915–​1978, p. 29. 175. Chittaprosad adds: ‘sketching him and listening to him I caught the spirit that makes Chittagong the land of heroes.’ From ‘Help Chittagong’, People’s War (27 August 1943), p. 2. 176. Bidyut Chakrabarty, ‘Political Mobilization in the Localities:  The 1942 Quit India Movement in Midnapore’, Modern Asian Studies 26/​4 (1992), pp. 791–​814. 177. Eaton, Colour, Art and Empire, p. 283. 178. Chittaprosad in Ghosha, Chittaprosad: A Doyen of Art-​World, pp. 9, 11.

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Notes to Pages 114–121 179. Ela Sen, Darkening Days: Being a Narrative of Famine-​Stricken Bengal with Drawings from Life by Zainul Abedin (Calcutta: S. Gopta, 1944). 180. Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, p. 102. 181. Ibid., p. 39. 182. Sen, Darkening Days, not paginated. 183. Following Partition, Abedin moved to Eastern Pakistan (Bangladesh) to work at the Normal School in Dhaka. See Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia. 184. Jacques Derrida, ‘The deaths of Roland Barthes’, in H. J. Silverman (ed.), Philosophy and Non-​Philosophy since Merleau-​Ponty (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1997), pp. 266–​7. 185. Janah, in conversation with the author (12 March 2009). 186. Habib, ‘The Left and the National Movement’, p. 25. 187. Ibid., p. 26. 188. Under the (Stalinist) leadership of B. T. Ranadive, Communists resolved to continue fighting for a ‘free India’. Ibid., p. 28. In 1964, the Party split into two: The ‘Communist Party of India (Marxist)’ (CPM) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). See Gupta, Communism and Nationalism in Colonial India, 1939–​45. 189. Janah, Photographing India, pp. 36–​7. 190. Although scholars cite the importance of Janah in the history of photography in India, no substantial study has been published on his work to date. The following essays expound upon particular aspects of Janah’s career: Atreyee Gupta, ‘Developmental Aesthetics: Modernism’s Ocular Economies and Laconic Discontents in the Era of Nehruvian Technocracy’, in S. Ray and V. Maddipati (eds), Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence (New Delhi; London: Routledge, forthcoming) and Ranu Roychoudhuri, ‘Documentary Photography, Decolonization, and the Making of “Secular Icons”: Reading Sunil Janah’s Photographs from the 1940s through the 1950s’, Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies (forthcoming). See also Roychoudhuri’s unpublished doctoral thesis, The Public Lives of Photographs: Aesthetic Conventions and Sociocultural Change in Twentieth-Century India (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 2015). 191. Bourke-​White, Portrait of Myself, p. 33. She writes: ‘To me, fresh from college with my camera over my shoulder, the Flats were a photographic paradise. The smokestacks ringing the horizon were the giants of an unexplored world, guarding the secrets and wonder of the steel mills. When, I wondered, would I get inside those slab-​sided coffin-​black buildings with their mysterious unpredictable flashes of light leaking out the edges?’ 192. For a different reading of this image, see Rebecca M. Brown, Art for a Modern India, 1947–​1980 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), pp. 128–​9. 193. Notable works are Verrier Elwin’s The Muria and their Ghotul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1947); The Tribal World of Verrier Elwin: An Autobiography (London: Oxford University Press, 1964); The Baiga (London: J. Murray, 1939); and Leaves from the Jungle: Life in a Gond Village (London: John Murray, 1936). 194. Photograph originally entitled: Malabar, Kerala, 1940s. Peasant Girl, Malabar Coast, Kerala 1945.

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Notes to Pages 122–126 195. Joshi in Chandra, ‘P. C. Joshi and National Politics’, p. 250. 196. Janah, Photographing India, pp. 10–​11. 197. For a compelling discussion on the relationship between photojournalism and fine art photography in the work of photographer Sebastião Salgado, see Julian Stallabrass’ essay ‘Sebastião Salgado and Fine Art Photojournalism’, New Left Review 223 (1997), p. 131. Stallabrass contends that in the case of Salgado’s photographs of the inhabitants of the Sahel, there is great difficulty in successfully ascribing agency to his subjects, since their sole preoccupation is the need to find food. 198. Joshi in Chandra, ‘P. C. Joshi and National Politics’, p. 263 [my emphasis]. 199. Janah, Photographing India, p. 110 [my emphasis]. Janah is here referring to a passage from Sontag’s Preface to Don McCullin (London: Jonathan Cape, 2001), not paginated [my emphasis]. 200. Stallabrass, ‘Sebastião Salgado and Fine Art Photojournalism’, p. 29 [my emphasis]. 201. See Sunil Janah, The Second Creature: 64 Photographs (Calcutta: Signet Press, 1949), and the posthumous Photographing India. 202. James Clifford, ‘The Others: Beyond the “Salvage” Paradigm’, Third Text 3/​6 (1989), p. 74. 203. Eduardo Cadava, Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997), p.  11. See Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A  Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism (New  York, NY; London:  Verso, 1983), p. 87; and his ‘Trauerspiels’, in Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1972), vol. 2, p. 136.

Chapter 3 Laughing in the Shadow of Swadeshi: Gaganendranath Tagore 1905–​21 1. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth:  Penguin Books, 1969), p. 222 [my emphasis]. 2. Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalisation (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), vol. 1, p. 7. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid., pp. 8–​9. 5. Ibid., p. 35. 6. Iftikhar Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), p. 151. 7. See also Walter Benjamin, ‘The Task of the Translator:  An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens’, in Illuminations (London:  Pimlico, 1999), pp. 70–​82. 8. Andrew Sartori, Bengal in Global Concept History: Culturalism in the Age of Capital (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008). 9. Umberto Eco, Come Si Fa Una Tesi di Laurea (Milano: V. Bompiani, 1977). 10. Abanindranath’s repudiation of Western academic art and development of alternative, ‘indigenous’ painting was supported and encouraged by E. B. Havell from 1897–8 to

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Notes to Pages 126–128 1905. Abanindranath would become the Vice-​Principal of the Government School of Art in Calcutta, shortly before the end of Havell’s own administrative role in India. See Tapati Guha-​Thakurta, Art, Artists and Aesthetics in Bengal, c.1850–​1920: Westernising Trends and Nationalist Concerns in the Making of a New “Indian” Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 149–​50. For more see Partha Mitter, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India 1852–​1922: Occidental Orientations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). For a more recent reappraisal of Abanindranath Tagore as a political figure, see the work of Ananya Vajpeyi, Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); and Debashish Banerji’s The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore (New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 2010). 11. Appadurai, Modernity at Large, pp. 35–​6. 12. See Sumanta Banerjee, The Parlour and the Streets:  Elite and Popular Culture in Nineteenth Century Calcutta (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 1989). 13. Guha-​Thakurta, Art, Artists and Aesthetics in Bengal, p. 12; Lalit Kala Akademi, Nandalal Bose: A Collection of Essays: Centenary Volume (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1983), p. 28. 14. From viewing this particular print, one is reminded of the importance for the Japanese ukiyo-​e artists, whose prints Gaganendranath avidly collected, of the stylised grimaces and expressions of kabuki, which in turn stemmed from the more spiritual Noh theatre and the bunraku puppet drama. See Richard Lane, Images from the Floating World: The Japanese Print: Including an Illustrated Dictionary of Ukiyo-​e (Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky & Konecky, 1978); S. L. Leiter et al. (eds), The Art of Kabuki: Famous Plays in Performance (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1979); Zoë Kincaid, Kabuki: The Popular Stage of Japan (London: Macmillan & Co., 1925). 15. Mikhail M.  Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World (Bloomington, IN:  Indiana University Press, 1984), pp. 316–​17. 16. Michael Camille, ‘Mouths and Meanings: Towards an Anti-​Iconography of Medieval Art’, in B. Cassidy (ed.), Iconography at the Crossroads: Papers from the Colloquium Sponsored by the Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, 23–​24 March 1990 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 50. 17. Georges Bataille, Œuvres Complètes (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), p. 237. 18. Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), p. 34. 19. Georges Bataille, ‘The Mouth’ (entry in Critical Dictionary), in G. Bataille et al. (eds), Encyclopaedia Acephalica: Comprising the Critical Dictionary & Related Texts (London: Atlas Press, 1995), p. 62. 20. Bernard Prusak, ‘Le Rire à Nouveau: Rereading Bergson’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62/​4 (2004), p. 379. 21. Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’, in The Location of Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 1994), p. 92 [my emphasis]. 22. Ibid., p. 87. 23. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincialising Europe:  Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), p. 6.

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Notes to Pages 129–130 24. Ibid., p. 45. 25. Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man’, p. 86. 26. Ibid., p. 88 [my emphasis]. 27. Gandhi quoted in Chakrabarty, Provincialising Europe, p. 45. 28. Used originally with reference to a nationalist movement advocating Indian-​made products, the word swadeshi derives from Sanskrit and is the synthesis of two Sanskrit words. Swa means ‘self ’ or ‘own’ while desh means ‘country’. Thus, the word swadeshi denotes ‘own country’ and in its adjectival form, ‘of my own country’. Other reasons contributed to fomenting the rise of anti-​British feeling, including Curzon’s attempt to reduce concessions previously granted in the realms of education and local government to educated Indians. In this case, laws curtailing the autonomy of educational institutions and local government were passed. While the English-​speaking, educated elite voiced its disaffection with British rule in an organised manner, a small number of industrial labourers raised their concerns through a combination of class and communitarian strategies. See Anil Seal, The Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968); and Sumit Sarkar, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903–​1908 (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1973). 29. Guha-​Thakurta, Art, Artists and Aesthetics in Bengal, p. 7. 30. The term ‘adda’ describes a ‘place’ where ‘careless talk with boon companions’ or friendly, intimate chats can develop. The practice involved the informal gathering of friends for long, non-​purposive conversations. According to Chakrabarty, ‘adda’ has gradually disappeared from the urban life of the city, engendering a wave of acute nostalgia in the Bengali psyche. See his Provincialising Europe, pp. 210–​13. 31. Gaganendranath’s prints exemplify an ambiguous and contracted form of mechanical reproduction hence my use of the term ‘diffusion’. The elegantly bound format of his albums suggests that the context in which they were circulated was not the bazaar. For this reason, the prints are very different from the kind of chromolithographs and popular prints so far considered by scholars in the field. See for example Christopher Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (London: Reaktion, 2004); and Kajri Jain, Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007). 32. Nasser Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003), p. 100. The result was the death of 379 unarmed civilians with a further 1,137 injured. These are the official statistics, unofficial estimates range considerably higher. See Raja Ram, The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: A Premeditated Plan (Chandigarh: Publication Bureau, Panjab University, 1978). 33. Rabindranath Tagore, ‘On Non-​Cooperation Movement’, in Encyclopaedia of Eminent Thinkers, vol. 3:  The Political Thought of Rabindranath Tagore (New Delhi:  Concept Publishing Co., 1998), p. 72 [my emphasis]. 34. Mark Twain quoted by Gaganendranath Tagore in Reform Screams: A Pictorial Review at the Close of the Year 1921 (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1921), not paginated. Twain had written about the barbarous enterprises of King Leopold in the Congo Free State in his pamphlet King Leopold’s Soliloquy (1904).

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Notes to Pages 130–133 35. Jean-​François Lyotard, The Différend: Phrases in Dispute (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), p. xi. 36. Christopher Pinney, ‘The Body and the Bomb: Technologies of Modernity in Colonial India’, in R. H. Davis (ed.), Picturing the Nation: Iconographies of Modern India (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2007), p. 53. In the article, Pinney refers to the revolutionary Bhagat Singh (1907–​31), who in 1929 perfectly mimicked an Englishman and was able to fool an entire police squad at Lahore Railway Station. 37. The Tagore family was one of the most influential Brahmo communities of Calcutta, notwithstanding their unorthodox attitude towards religious affairs and the caste system. The family was among the first social groups to urbanise Calcutta in the early nineteenth century and to collaborate with imperial rule as compradors since the early days of the East India Company. For an interesting account of the Tagores, see the work of John McGuire, The Making of a Colonial Mind: A Quantitative Study of the Bhadralok in Calcutta, 1857–​1885 (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1983), pp. 6–​20. 38. Guha-​Thakurta’s pioneering Art, Artists and Aesthetics in Bengal briefly engages with the work of Gaganendranath. Mitter in his Art and Nationalism in Colonial India devotes his attention to print culture in Bengal but does not engage with the artist’s output at length. His more recent book, The Triumph of Modernism: India’s Artists and the Avant-​garde, 1922–​1947 (London: Reaktion Books, 2007), deals with Gaganendranath’s experimental cubist oeuvre more broadly. More recently, Sanjukta Sunderason has made an important contribution in the article, ‘Arts of Contradiction: Gaganendranath Tagore and the Caricatural Aesthetic of Colonial India’, South Asian Studies 32/​2 (2016), pp. 129–​43. 39. Marquess of Zetland quoted in Kshitis Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1964), p. iv. 40. Purnima Debi, Gagan Thakur of Thakurbari (Calcutta: Punascha, 1999), p. 19. 41. Rathindranath was Rabindranath’s son. Rathindranath Tagore, On the Edges of Time (Calcutta: Visva Bharati, 1981), p. 79. 42. Ibid. 43. Devi, Gagan Thakur, p. 5. 44. Ibid., p. 4. 45. Keith Ansell-​Pearson, Germinal Life:  The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze (New York, NY; London: Routledge, 2000), p. 50. 46. Mohanlal Gangoly, The Southern Veranda (Calcutta: Visva Bharati, 1928), p. 7. 47. Ibid. 48. Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore, p. iv. 49. Rathindranath Tagore, On the Edges of Time, p. 77. 50. Ibid. 51. Mitter writes of Gaganendranath’s later cubist pictures as displaying a heightened sense of the theatrical: ‘their endless corridors, pillars, halls, half-​open doors, screens, illuminated windows, staircases and vaults remind us of Piranesi’s Carceri prints.’ See Mitter, The Triumph of Modernism, p. 23. 52. Bergson’s Laughter was released in 1905, that is, six years after Freud’s Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious.

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Notes to Pages 133–136 53. The work of Bergson reached the British public through his lectures, texts and wider discursive press. Bergson delivered lectures at Oxford in 1912 and was widely read amongst the Bloomsbury Group. For an interesting account of Bergson’s impact on the contemporary British art scene, see Charlotte De Mille’s unpublished doctoral thesis, Bergson in Britain ca. 1890–​1914 (London: Courtauld Institute of Art, 2008). 54. Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (London: Macmillan Press, 1911), p. 177. 55. Ibid., p.  29. For an original critique of the racial politics and racist technopoetics of Bergson’s theory of the comic see the work of Louis Chude-​Sokei, The Sound of Culture:  Disapora and Black Technopoetics (Middletown, CT:  Wesleyan University Press, 2015). 56. The translation of the words ‘élan vital’ as ‘vital impetus’ is not entirely accurate, since it has a much wider gamut of meaning than the English ‘impetus’, from ‘surge’ to ‘vigour’. See Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism (New York, NY: Zone Books, 1988), p. 9. 57. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (London: Macmillan Press, 1964). 58. Prusak, ‘Le Rire à Nouveau’, p. 377. 59. Bergson died in 1941 in occupied Paris. Hence he would have come to experience domination only towards the end of his life. 60. For Kalighat art and artists see William George Archer, Bazaar Paintings of Calcutta: The Style of Kalighat (London: [Published for the Victoria & Albert Museum by] HMSO, 1953); David McCutchion and Suhrid K. Bhowmik, Patuas and Patua Art in Bengal (Calcutta:  Firma KLM, 1999); R.  N. Ganguli, ‘Patas and Patuas of Bengal’, Indian Folklore I/​1 (1956); and Jyotindra Jain, Kalighat Painting:  Images from a Changing World (Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishers, 1999). 61. Crisis was not a common narrative topic of nineteenth-​ century Kalighat art. A renowned scandalous event often illustrated by lower caste artists was the Mahant-​ Elokeshi affair, which shocked Calcutta in the 1870s. The incident revolved around a notorious case of adultery involving a temple priest and a housewife. The discovery of adultery led the husband to murder his wife. See Anindita Ghosh, Power in Print: Popular Publishing and the Politics of Language and Culture in a Colonial Society, 1778–​1905 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 196. See also Jain, Kalighat Painting: Images from a Changing World. 62. Banerjee, The Parlour and the Streets, p. 133 [my emphasis]. 63. Ibid., p. 144. 64. Ibid., p. 146. 65. David Batchelor here refers to the work of Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World, p. 316. See David Batchelor, Chromophobia (London: Reaktion, 2000), p. 104. 66. Banerjee, The Parlour and the Streets, p. 144. 67. Ibid. 68. Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man’, p. 86. 69. Ibid. 70. Ibid., [my emphasis]. 71. Ibid., p. 90.

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Notes to Pages 136–139 72. Robert J. C. Young, ‘The Ambivalence of Bhabha’, in White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 194. 73. Bhabha, ‘Of Mimicry and Man’, p. 93. 74. Ibid. 75. Mimicry, for Bhabha, is a form of agency without a subject, and for this reason is not a form of resistance but functions more along the lines of Lacan’s structure of the unconscious. See Young, ‘The Ambivalence of Bhabha’, p. 194. 76. Charles Baudelaire, ‘On the Essence of Laughter’, in J. Mayne (ed.), The Mirror of Art: Critical Studies by Charles Baudelaire (New York, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1956), pp. 135–​6, 139. 77. Mulk Raj Anand, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’s Realm of the Absurd’, Roopa Lekha: Illustrated Journal of Indian Arts and Crafts, xxxxviii/​1–​2 (1951), p. 181. 78. Ibid. 79. Scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose made this comment [my emphasis] in the introduction to Wry Thunderbolt, with regard to one of Gaganendranath’s paintings. Sadly, he does not mention the title of the painting. Gaganendranath Tagore, Wry Thunderbolt (Calcutta; Simla: Thacker, Spink & Co., 1915), p. 1. 80. Manu Goswami, Producing India: From Colonial Economy to National Space (Chicago, IL; London: University of Chicago Press, 2004). 81. Sartori, Bengal in Global Concept History, p. 278. 82. Mitter, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, p. 262. 83. Guha-​Thakurta, Art, Artists and Aesthetics in Bengal, p. 9. Guha-​Thakurta borrows this expression from historian Sumit Sarkar, who identifies four main techniques in the Swadeshi Movement’s approach to mass communication and organisation: the press and the platform; evolution of new techniques; the appeal to imagination; and the appeal to terrorism and fear. See Sarkar, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903–​1908, pp. 252–​335. 84. Guha-​Thakurta, Art, Artists and Aesthetics in Bengal, p. 148. 85. Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore, p. iv. 86. Revolutionary founding members of Jugantar included: Barin Ghosh, Vilaskar and Kanailal Dutt. 87. Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore, p. iv. 88. Ibid. Notwithstanding the romanticism imbuing some of these swadeshi accounts, Gaganendranath’s participation in these activities is also confirmed by Sarkar and Rathindranath Tagore. See Sarkar, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903–​1908, pp. 500–​1, and Rathindranath Tagore, On the Edges of Time, p. 60. 89. N. C. Kelkar, Full and Authentic Report of the Tilak Trial (1908): Being the Only Authorised Verbatim Account of the Whole Proceedings with Introduction and Character Sketch of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Together with Press Opinion (Bombay: N. C. Kelkar, 1908), p. 19. 90. Ibid. 91. Pinney, ‘The Body and the Bomb: Technologies of Modernity in Colonial India’, p. 55. For more on the legacies of violence and ‘terrorism’ in India see Pinney’s ‘Photos of the Gods’, pp. 121–​2. 92. Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore, p. vi.

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Notes to Pages 139–143 93. Dinesh Chandra Sen quoted in Anand, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’s Realm of the Absurd’, p. 175. 94. Ibid. 95. Chakrabarty, Provincialising Europe, p. 234. 96. Ibid. 97. Sartori, Bengal in Global Concept History, p. 24. Rabindranath, who by 1907 had reversed his ideological stance on the swadeshi question, published the novel Gora (1907–9), where his decisive break with the revivalist and extremist temper of his earlier writings is apparent. 98. Ibid. 99. Ibid., [my emphasis]. 100. Satyagraha can be translated as ‘insistence on satya (truth) and graha (soul force)’. Gandhi developed this idea while theorising the concept of non-​violent civil resistance. The latter was first put into practice during his civil campaigns in South Africa (1893–​1914). Mahatma Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1957). 101. Surinder S. Jodhka, ‘Nation and Village’, Economic and Political Weekly 37/​32 (10 August 2002), p. 3346. 102. Gandhi quoted in ibid. 103. E. M. S. Namboodiripad, Indian Communist theorist and politician (first Chief Minister of Kerala state in 1957–​9 and then again in 1967–​9), quoted in Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures (London: Verso, 1992), p. 239. 104. Gandhi had become preoccupied with the idea of the ‘Indian village’ while in South Africa (1894) and remained so for the rest of his political career and life. Although his ideas on the village, along with his politics, changed over time, in his booklet Hind Swaraj (Indian Self Rule, 1909), Gandhi contrasted village life to that of the city. He endorsed ‘village life’ as a critique of ‘urban life’ and by extension, modern civilisation. Mahatma Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 151. 105. Ashok Mitra, ‘The Forces Behind the Modern Movement’, in Four Painters (Calcutta: New Age Publishers, 1965), p. 38. 106. Ibid. 107. Lawrence Dundas, ‘Memories’, in Gaganendranath Tagore:  Souvenir (Calcutta: Academy of Fine Arts, 1957), vol. 1, p.  4. Lawrence Dundas (1876–​1961) was the Governor of Bengal between 1917 and 1922. Although a member of the Conservative Party, he believed that Indians ought to take increasing responsibility for the government of their country, which would lead to Dominion status. He resigned his position as Secretary of State for India in 1940 on Churchill’s assumption of the role of Prime Minister, due to their politically incompatible views on the colony’s status. 108. For this particular image, see also Sunderason’s account in ‘Arts of Contradiction’, p. 139. 109. Dundas, ‘Memories’, p. 4.

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Notes to Pages 143–145 110. See R. Kaur and W. Mazzarella (eds), Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009). 111. See McCutchion and Bhowmik, Patuas and Patua Art in Bengal; Ganguli, ‘Patas and Patuas of Bengal’; and Jain, Kalighat Painting: Images from a Changing World. 112. Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’, p. 57. 113. Norman Gerald Barrier, Banned; Controversial Literature and Political Control in British India, 1907–​1947 (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1974), p. 71. See also Kaur and Mazzarella (eds), Censorship in South Asia. 114. Ibid. 115. Ibid. The expression ‘disaffection’ includes ‘disloyalty and all feelings of enmity’. See Gouri Kant Roy, Law Relating to Press and Sedition [with the Texts of the Various Acts] (Calcutta: Hare Press, 1922), p. 104. 116. G. Shaw and M.  Lloyd (eds), Publications Proscribed by the Government of India: A Catalogue of the Collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division (London: British Library, 1985), p. 10. 117. Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’, p. 110. 118. Kaur and Mazzarella (eds), Censorship in South Asia, p. 4. 119. Ibid. 120. For a different interpretation of the meaning of allegory and its productive use in the context of Indian nationalism, see Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’, pp.  112–​14. The work of Fredric Jameson has been particularly influential, but controversial. Jameson suggests that Western readers interpret ‘Third World’ literature along the lines of a national allegory. See his well-​known ‘Third-​World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism’, Social Text 15 (1986), pp. 65–​88. 121. J. Clifford and G.  E. Marcus (eds), Writing Culture:  The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley, CA; London: University of California Press, 1986), p. 101. 122. Bainard Cowan, ‘Walter Benjamin’s Theory of Allegory’, New German Critique 22 (1981), p. 110. 123. Colonial proscription acts included two specific particulars: (a) ‘The title of the book and the contents of the title-​page, with a translation into English of such title and contents when the same are not in the English language’ and (b) ‘The subject-​matter’. See Roy, Law Relating to Press and Sedition, p. 14. 124. Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Sly Civility’, in The Location of Culture, p. 99. 125. William Radice, ‘The Humour of Calcutta’, in C. Oesterheld and P. Zoller (eds), Of Clowns and Gods, Brahmans, and Babus:  Humour in South Asian Literature (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 1999), p. 113. 126. Gandhi, ‘Machinery’, in Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, p. 169. 127. Helmuth Plessner, Laughing and Crying: A Study of the Limits of Human Behaviour (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970), p. 82. 128. Bergson, Laughter, p. 6. 129. Debjani Sengupta, ‘Mechanicalcutta:  Industrialisation, New Media in the 19th Century’, in SARAI Reader 02: The Cities of Everyday Life (New Delhi; Amsterdam:

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Notes to Pages 145–153 Sarai –​The New Media Initiative, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and Society for Old and New Media, 2002), pp.  149–​58. See also Mitter, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, pp. 134–​8. 130. Bergson, Laughter, p. 134. 131. The print, The University Factory, features in Mitter’s discussion of colonial education in Bengal. See his Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, p. 253. 132. Deleuze, Bergsonism, p. 104. 133. Ibid., p. 103. 134. By the late eighteenth century, the concept of a ‘Great Chain of Being’, which organised the divine at the head of a universal hierarchy of life forms, had been subsumed into the framework of Enlightenment science. The theory claimed that between any two species there would be ‘an intermediate species, and so on between the next two, until all conceivable gaps in the continuum of Creation are filled.’ Natural historians postulated numerous developmental theories from the eighteenth century onwards, as we see in the thought of Linnaeus, Buffon, Cuvier, Blumenbach and others. They progressed from the old notion of the ‘Chain of Being’ to the ideas proposed by Cuvier and Richard Owen, and towards a greater stress on geographical diversity, as shared by Humboldt, Lyell and Darwin himself. Further, the French biologist Lamarck argued that species inherited acquired characteristics, that is, heredity was externally driven by factors such as climate. See Nancy Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain 1800–​1960 (London: Macmillan, 1982), p. 4. 135. Rabindranath Tagore, The Parrot’s Training (London: Tagore Centre UK, 1993), not paginated. 136. Gaganendranath Tagore, ‘Introduction’, Wry Thunderbolt, not paginated. 137. Bergson, Laughter, p. 177. 138. Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Signs Taken for Wonders’, in The Location of Culture, p. 156. 139. Ibid, p. 154. 140. Ibid. 141. Karl Marx, ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, New York Daily Tribune (8 August 1853). Reprinted in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works vol. 1 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973), pp. 494–​3. 142. Laura Gbah Bear, ‘Miscegenations of Modernity: Constructing European Respectability and Race in the Indian Railway Colony, 1857–​1931’, Women’s History Review 3/​4 (1994), pp.  531–​48. See also Bear, Lines of the Nation:  Indian Railway Workers, Bureaucracy, and the Intimate Historical Self (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007). For more on the colonial space of the railway, see Douglas E. Haynes, Rhetoric and Ritual in Colonial India: The Shaping of a Public Culture in Surat City, 1852–​1928 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991). 143. Ibid, p. 532. 144. Michel Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’, Diacritics 16/​1 (1986), p. 22. 145. Ibid. 146. Prusak, ‘Le Rire à Nouveau’, p. 379. 147. Baudelaire, ‘On the Essence of Laughter’, p. 135.

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Notes to Pages 153–164 148. Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’, p. 127. 149. Bergson, Laughter, p. 197. 150. Prusak, ‘Le Rire à Nouveau’, p. 385. 151. Bergson, Laughter, pp. 9–​11. 152. Sumathi Ramaswamy, The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), p. 70. 153. Ibid., p. 68. 154. Partha Chatterjee, ‘The Nation and its Women’, in The Partha Chatterjee Omnibus: Comprising Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, The Nation and its Fragments, A Possible India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 132. 155. Ibid., p. 130. 156. Ibid., pp. 120–​1. 157. Ibid. 158. Ibid. 159. Ibid. 160. Ibid., p. 130. 161. Kitagawa Utamaro (1754–​1806), Act VII (Shichidanme), set at the Ichiriki teahouse, from the series The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers (Chûshingura), published by Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo), c.1801–​2. See Shugo Asano and Timothy Clark, The Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro (London: British Museum Press, 1995), vols. 1–​2. 162. ‘Nuisance of a Wife’ can also be translated as ‘Avoid Women Whilst Travelling’ or ‘Leave Women at Home When Travelling’. 163. Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’, p. 21. 164. Mitra, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’, in Four Painters, p. 45. 165. Sartori, Bengal in Global Concept History, p. 104. 166. The print design presents an ingenious adaptation of an 1849 lithograph by Kuniyoshi, where we observe a samurai destroying a mirror with a mighty sword. The print is part of the series Koetsu Yusho Den: Biographies of Brave Generals from the Provinces of Kai and Echigo. Published by Sumiyoshiya Masagoro, c.1849. Reprinted (colour illustration) in B. W. Robinson, Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-​Prints (Oxford: Phaidon, 1982). 167. See Kuniyoshi’s 1844 lithograph ‘Triptych of Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre’. 168. Varna was a fourfold division of society into priesthood (Brahmin), a class of rulers and warriors (Kshatriya), a commercial cadre (Vaishya), and manual labourers (Shudra). The law of Varna, Gandhi wrote, ‘is intimately, if not indissolubly connected with birth, and the observance of the law of Varna means the following on the part of us all of the hereditary and traditional calling of our forefathers in a spirit of duty.’ See ‘Harijan (28 September 1934)’, reprinted in Madhav Vittal Kamath, Mahatma Gandhi: A Spiritual Journey (Mumbai: Indus Source Books, 2007), p. 174. 169. Rabindranath Tagore, ‘The Shudra Habit’, The Modern Review 41/​3 (March 1927), pp. 274–​5. 170. Ibid.

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Notes to Pages 164–170 171. The Lieutenant Governor Lord Carmichael registered the seditious irony of the print. See Saumyendranath Tagore, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’, Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art (1972), p. 77. 172. Vladimir Lenin at the 3rd Congress of the Communist International (22 June–12 July 1921), ‘The International Alignment of Class Forces’, from Collected Works, vol. 32: December 1920–August 1921 (Moscow: Progress, 1965), pp. 451–​98. 173. Rabindranath Tagore, Nationalism (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2009). 174. Tagore, ‘Nationalism in the West’, in ibid., pp. 51–​62. 175. Tagore, ‘Nationalism in Japan’, in ibid., p. 8. 176. Tagore, ‘Nationalism in India’, in ibid., p. 73 [my emphasis]. Rabindranath defines the concept of ‘nation’ thus: ‘A nation, in the sense of the political and economic union of a people, is that aspect which a whole population assumes when organised for a mechanical purpose. Society as such has no ulterior purpose. It is an end in itself.’ Tagore, ‘Nationalism in the West’, in ibid., p. 37. 177. ‘Nationalism in India’, in ibid., p. 71. 178. Ibid., p. 82. 179. Tagore, ‘Nationalism in the West’, in ibid., p. 44. 180. Kalyan Sengupta, The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (Aldershot; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005), p. 50. 181. Tariq Ali, The Nehrus and the Gandhis: An Indian Dynasty (London: Picador, 2005), p. 23; and Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (London: Routledge, 2011), pp. 69–​70. 182. Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 125. Hussain’s study of sovereignty and account of ‘mythical violence’ owes much to the work of Benjamin. 183. Ibid., p. 136. 184. Ibid., see Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 14, 16, 19, 21. 185. Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 136. 186. Ibid., p. 100. 187. Jacques Derrida, ‘Force of Law: the “Mystical Foundations of Authority” ’, in P. Osborne (ed.), Walter Benjamin: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory (New York, NY; London: Routledge, 2005), vol. 1, p. 414. 188. Walter Benjamin, ‘Critique of Violence’, in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writing (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1986), pp. 281, 294. 189. Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency, p. 124 [my emphasis]. 190. General Dyer quoted in ibid., p. 100. 191. Churchill quoted in ibid. 192. Ibid. 193. Sukanta Chaudhuri, The Metaphysics of Text (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 183. 194. Gaganendranath Tagore, Reform Screams, not paginated. 195. Anonymous, ‘Our Frontispiece’, The Modern Review 30/​1 (July 1921), pp. 122–​3. 196. Published in ibid., p. 125.

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Notes to Pages 171–176 197. Mahatma Gandhi, ‘The Condition of India (cont.): Railways’, in Revisiting Hind Swaraj (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Co., 2010), p. 76. 198. Gandhi, ‘The Condition of India (cont.): Doctors’, in Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, p. 63. 199. Gandhi, ‘Education’, in ibid., p. 102. 200. For a contrasting print, see Gandhi and Woman Spinning India (All India Congress Khaddar Department, 1922). A  charka ‘spinning’ the nation is celebrated, with the figures of Gandhi and Bharat Mata represented at the centre. See Lisa Trivedi, ‘Visually Mapping the “Nation”: Swadeshi Politics in Nationalist India, 1920–​1930’, The Journal of Asian Studies 62/​1 (2003), p. 17; and Durga Das, Gandhi in Cartoons (Ahmedabad: Navjivan Publishing House, 1970), p. 99. 201. S. Bhattacharya (ed.), The Mahatma and the Poet: Letters and Debates Between Gandhi and Tagore, 1915–​1941 (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1997), pp. 88–​9. 202. Rabindranath Tagore, ‘My interpretation of India’s history: II’, The Modern Review 14/​ 3 (September 1913), pp. 231–​6. 203. Tagore, Nationalism, p.  15. See also Michael Collins, Empire, Nationalism and the Postcolonial World:  Rabindranath Tagore’s Writings on History, Politics and Society (New York, NY; London: Routledge, 2012), p. 34. 204. Gaganendranath Tagore, Reform Screams, not paginated. 205. Gaganendranath’s niece Pratima Tagore had lost her husband at the age of 16. Gaganendranath insisted that she remarry so that her ‘young life would not go wasted’. Pratima was re-​married to Rathindranath. This practice was most unusual for the times, even for the Tagore family. As Rathindranath observes: ‘It was the first time a widow marriage had taken place in our family.’ See his On the Edges of Time, p. 74. 206. The complete title of the print is Matrimonial Scream –​Marriage Reform (the Social Cruelty Perpetrated on the Father of a Marriageable Girl Drives the Sensitive Daughter into the Arms of Mr. Kerosene in Order to Save her Father). 207. Jain, Gods in the Bazaar, pp. 133–​4. 208. Ibid., p. 134. 209. According to Jain, artists such as Raja Ravi Varma (1848–​1906) had initially mimicked European naturalist conventions in order to humanise Hindu epic characters. In turn, Western managing agencies co-​opted these very techniques to market foreign commodities to colonial consumers. Ibid., pp. 132–​4. 210. Ibid., p. 132. For more on Raja Ravi Varma and advertising techniques see Mitter, Art and Nationalism in Colonial India, pp. 179–​218. For more on Ravi Varma’s chromolithographs, see Pinney, ‘Photos of the Gods’, pp. 60–​78. 211. For literature on the practice of sati, see Sakuntala Narasimhan, Sati, a Study of Widow Burning in India (New York, NY; New Delhi: Viking, 1990); and Andrea Major, Sovereignty and Social Reform in India: British Colonialism and the Campaign Against Sati 1830–​60 (New York, NY; London: Routledge, 2011). 212. Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Thou Shalt Obey’, The Modern Review 22/​3 (September 1917), p. 338.

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Notes to Pages 176–180 213. Rabindranath Tagore, Towards Universal Man (Bombay; New York, NY: Asia Publishing House, 1961), p. 162 [my emphasis]. 214. The artist, in conversation with journalist K. Vakil, suggested that cubism is a really ‘wonderful stimulant’. This is the only recorded statement made by Gaganendranath. ‘The Art World: Some Prominent Figures’, The Bombay Chronicle (30 June 1926), not paginated. 215. Deleuze, Bergsonism, p. 107. 216. Anand, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’s Realm of the Absurd’, p. 177. 217. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 5. 218. Deleuze, Francis Bacon, p. 15. 219. Gangoly, The Southern Veranda, pp. 74–​7. 220. Ibid., p. 77. 221. For another fascinating account of glass, distortion and laughter in the context of translation and swaraj see the case of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Tried on charges of sedition by the colonial government for writing articles in the Marathi language in support of nationalist revolutionary violence in Bombay in 1908, Tilak compared the inaccurate translations by colonial translators to the experience of distorting mirrors in the laughing gallery: ‘Many of you here may have visited the laughing gallery that was exhibited in the Exhibition held in Bombay a few years ago. There were displayed in it two mirrors, one containing concave and another convex glasses. On looking into those glasses, on the right and left, one found one’s face distorted in various ways, sometimes like the face of a monkey and sometimes like that of some other hideous being; but it was the self-​same face after all. So long as that laughing gallery was in the Exhibition one really enjoyed the fun of it; but when that laughing gallery, so to say, was placed in the Translator’s department, it was a very serious thing indeed.’ From N. C. Kelkar’s Full and Authentic Report of the Tilak Trial. For a general account of the trial see Soviet historian A. I. Chicherov’s ‘Tilak’s Trial and the Bombay Political Strike of 1908’, in I. M. Reisner and N. M. Goldberg (eds), Tilak and the Struggle for Indian Freedom (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1966), pp. 545–​626. I am grateful to Chris Pinney for bringing this text to my attention. 222. Mitter, The Triumph of Modernism, pp. 23–​4. 223. Ibid., p. 23. 224. Stella Kramrisch, ‘An Indian Cubist’, Rupam:  An Illustrated Quarterly Journal of Oriental Art, Chiefly Indian 11 (July 1922), pp. 109–​10 [my emphasis]. 225. Batchelor, Chromophobia, p. 104. 226. G. Deleuze and S. Hand (eds), Foucault (London: Athlone, 1999), p. 23. 227. See Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, pp. 5–​7. 228. The black-​and-​white painting shows visible signs of ageing, due in part to high humidity, as well as perforation laboriously carried out by diligent teams of silverfish. 229. Rustom Bharucha, ‘Infiltrating Europe:  Outside the Borders of Postcolonial Cool’, in S.  M. Hassan and I.  Dadi (eds), Unpacking Europe:  Towards a Critical Reading (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2011), p. 119.

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Notes to Pages 181–185 230. Ibid, p. 226. 231. Ibid. 232. Craig Calhoun, ‘ “Belonging” in the Cosmopolitan Imaginary’, Ethnicities 3/​4 (2003), p. 536. 233. Partha Mitter, ‘Frameworks for Considering Cultural Exchange:  The Case of India and America’, in C. J. Mills, L. Glazer and A. Goerlitz (eds), East-​West Interchanges in American Art: “A Long and Tumultuous Relationship” (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012), p. 23. 234. Ibid., p. 25. 235. Ibid., p. 24. 236. Ibid., p. 23. 237. Alfred Gell, Art and Agency:  An Anthropological Theory (Oxford; New  York, NY: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 17, 20. 238. Susan Buck-​Morss, ‘Aesthetics and Anaesthetics:  Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered’, October 62 (1992), p. 41. 239. Amina Kar, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore –​A Painter of his Time’, originally published in the Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art IV/​1 (1938), p. 5, and reprinted in Lalit Kala Contemporary 6 (1967), a special issue on Gaganendranath published in commemoration of the artist’s birth centenary. 240. Banerji, The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore, p. 211. 241. Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953–​1974 (Los Angeles, CA; London: Semiotext(e), 2004), p. 130. 242. Kar, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore –​A Painter of his Time’, p. 1. 243. Craig Owens, ‘The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism’, October 12 (1980), pp. 67–​86. 244. Gilles Deleuze, ‘Humour, Irony and the Law, 1967’, in Scott Watson, Diana Thater and Carol J. Clover, Stan Douglas (London: Phaidon, 1998), p. 80.

Conclusion 1. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, ‘1227: Treatise on Nomadology –​The War Machine’, in A Thousand Plateaus:  Capitalism and Schizophrenia (New  York, NY; London: Continuum, 2007), p. 421. 2. Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm:  Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’ (London: Verso, 2005), p. 111. 3. Geeta Kapur, When Was Modernism:  Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (New Delhi: Tulika, 2000). 4. Kapur, ‘Detours from the Contemporary’, in ibid., p. 278. 5. Walter Benjamin, XIV in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Illuminations (London: Pimlico, 1999), p. 253. 6. Benjamin, IV in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 246. 7. Benjamin, IX in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 249.

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Notes to Page 185 8. Peter Szondi, On Textual Understanding, and Other Essays (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 156. 9. Löwy, Fire Alarm, p. 115. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid., p. 111. 12. Ibid., p. 112. 13. The photograph is dated 26 August 1892. 14. Andrew Wilton, The Swagger Portrait: Grand Manner Portraiture in Britain from Van Dyck to Augustus John, 1630–​1930 (London: Tate Gallery, 1992), pp. 17–​19. 15. Ibid. 16. Sarah Kent, ‘Portrait of an Ego’, The Guardian (27 October 1997), p.  7. Quoted in Christopher Pinney, Camera Indica:  The Social Life of Indian Photographs (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1997), p. 74. 17. Ibid., p. 13. 18. Rosemary Crill (former Senior Curator, South and South-​East Asian Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum), in conversation with the author (August 2012, London), interview conducted through extensive email correspondence, unpublished. 19. ‘Quoting an English photography manual of the time Benjamin writes: “In painted portraits the column has a semblance of plausibility, but the way in which it is used in photography is ridiculous; since as a rule it rises from a carpet. Everyone is going to know for a fact that you do not build marble or granite columns on the foundations of a carpet.” It was the era of those studios full of drapery and palm trees, tapestries and easels, those interiors fluctuate so ambiguously between site of pompous display and place of execution, torture chamber and throne room […]’ ” See Walter Benjamin, ‘Short History of Photography’ in One-Way Street and Other Writings (London: Penguin Books, 2009), p.180. 20. Benjamin, XVIII (B) in ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, p. 255. 21. The ‘angel of history’ performs on the one hand the cessation of time, and on the other, a revolutionary destructiveness that is demonic. Benjamin unites these two functions by giving the role of the angel who ends time to those other angels: the revolutionary classes. In his brilliant analysis, Malcolm Bull writes:  ‘The messiah subdues the Antichrist by fighting him, not by working for him. So, for Benjamin, the idea of redemption was interconnected with that of revolutionary destruction, just as it had been for Dostoevsky’s revolutionaries in The Possessed, and for Robespierre, Blanqui and the Spartacists.’ See Malcolm Bull, Seeing Things Hidden: Apocalypse, Vision and Totality (London; New York, NY: Verso, 1999), pp. 156, 161.

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Bibliography Mohamedi, Nasreen, Nasreen in Retrospect (Bombay: Ashraf Mohamedi Trust, 1995). Morozov, S. I. and V. Lloyd (eds), Soviet Photography 1917–​1940: The New Photojournalism (London: Orbis, 1984). Mukerjee, Madhusree, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2010). Nadkarni, D. (ed.), Gaitonde (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1983). Naoroji, Dadabhai, Poverty and Un-​British Rule in India (London:  S. Sonnenschein & Co., 1901). Narasimhan, Sakuntala, Sati, a Study of Widow Burning in India (New  York, NY; New Delhi: Viking, 1990). Nehru, Jawaharlal, The Discovery of India (London: Meridian Books, 1951). Neumann, Franz, The Rule of Law: Political Theory and The Legal System in Modern Society (Leamington Spa: Berg, 1986). Newhall, N., (ed.), Edward Weston: the Flame of Recognition: His Photographs Accompanied by Excerpts from Daybooks & Letters (Millerton, NY: Aperture, 1975). Pandey, Gyanendra, Remembering Partition:  Violence, Nationalism and History in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). ———​ Routine Violence: Nations, Fragments, Histories (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006). Patel, Jeram and Prayaga Sukla, Jeram Patel (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 2007). Paz, Octavio, The Labyrinth of Solitude (London: Penguin, 1990). Penn, Christopher, In Pursuit of the Past: The Discovery of the Life and Work of A. T. W. Penn, Pioneering Photographer of South India (Worplesdon: C. F. Penn, 2010). ———​ The Nicholas Brothers & A.  T. W.  Penn:  Photographers of South India 1855–​1885 (London: Quaritch, 2014). Perec, Georges, Species of Spaces and other Pieces:  Georges Perec (London: Penguin, 1997). Petherbridge, Deanna, The Primacy of Drawing:  An Artist’s View (London:  South Bank Centre, 1991). Pinney, Christopher, Camera Indica:  The Social Life of Indian Photographs (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1997). ———​ ‘Photos of the Gods’:  The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India (London: Reaktion, 2004). ———​ The Coming of Photography in India (London: British Library, 2008). Plessner, Helmuth, Laughing and Crying:  A  Study of the Limits of Human Behaviour (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970). Pradhan, Sudhi, Marxist Cultural Movement in India:  Chronicles and Documents, 1936–​ 1947 (Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1979). Prakash, Vikramaditya, Chandigarh’s Le Corbusier: The Struggle for Modernity in Postcolonial India (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2002). Prussin, Labelle, Hatumere:  Islamic Design in West Africa (Berkeley, CA:  University of California Press, 1986). Rajimwale, Anil, Life and Works of P. C. Joshi (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 2007).

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Bibliography Ram, Raja, The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre: A Premeditated Plan (Chandigarh: Publication Bureau, Panjab University, 1978). Ramaswamy, Sumathi, The Goddess and the Nation:  Mapping Mother India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010). ———​ (ed.), Barefoot Across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India (New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2011). Retort, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (London: Verso, 2005). Robinson, B. W., Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-​Prints (Oxford: Phaidon, 1982). Robinson, Henry Peach, Pictorial Effect in Photography: Being Hints on Composition and Chiaroscuro for Photographers (Pawlet, VT: Helios, 1971). Roy, Gouri Kant, Law Relating to Press and Sedition [with the Texts of the Various Acts] (Calcutta: Hare Press, 1922). Roy, Kshitis, Gaganendranath Tagore (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1964). Roychoudhuri, Ranu, unpublished doctoral thesis, The Public Lives of Photographs: Aesthetic Conventions and Sociocultural Change in Twentieth-Century India (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago, 2015). Rudolph, Lloyd I. and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, In Pursuit of Lakshmi:  The Political Economy of the Indian State (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Rühe, Peter, Gandhi: A Photo Biography (London: Phaidon Press, 2001). Said, Edward and Jean Mohr, After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1986). Sarkar, Sumit, The Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, 1903–​ 1908 (New Delhi:  People’s Publishing House, 1973). ———​ Modern India, 1885–​1947 (New Delhi: Macmillan Press, 1983). Sartori, Andrew, Bengal in Global Concept History:  Culturalism in the Age of Capital (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008). Sassen, Saskia, Losing Control?:  Sovereignty in the Age of Globalisation (New  York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1996). Schimmel, Annemarie, Calligraphy and Islamic Culture (New  York, NY:  New  York University Press, 1984). ———​ The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture (London: Reaktion, 2004). Seal, Anil, The Emergence of Indian Nationalism: Competition and Collaboration in the Later Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968). Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines:  An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1981). Sen, Ela, Darkening Days: Being a Narrative of Famine-​Stricken Bengal with Drawings from Life by Zainul Abedin (Calcutta: S. Gopta, 1944). Sengupta, Kalyan, The Philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore (Aldershot; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005). Shaw, G. and M. Lloyd (eds), Publications Proscribed by the Government of India: A Catalogue of the Collections in the India Office Library and Records and the Department of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books, British Library Reference Division (London:  British Library, 1985).

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Bibliography Sheikh, G. M. et al. (eds), Contemporary Art in Baroda (New Delhi: Tulika, 1997). Singh, Tavleen, Durbar (Gurgaon: Hachette India, 2012). Sisson, Richard and Leo E. Rose, War and Secession:  Pakistan, India and the Creation of Bangladesh (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1990). Smith, Adam, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2010). Sontag, Susan, Under the Sign of Saturn (New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1981). Spinoza, Baruch, The Ethics: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Selected Letters (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1992). Srimanjari, Through War and Famine: Bengal 1939–​45 (New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2009). Stepan, Nancy, The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain 1800–​1960 (London: Macmillan, 1982). Stephens, Ian, Monsoon Morning (A Picture of India in 1942–44) (London: Ernest Benn, 1966). Sunderason, Sanjukta, unpublished doctoral thesis, The Nation and the Everyday: The Aesthetics and Politics of Modern Art in India, Bengal c.1920–c.1960 (London: University College London, 2012). Svirsky, M. and S. Bignall (eds), Agamben and Colonialism (Edinburgh:  Edinburgh University Press, 2012). Swaminathan, Jagdish, The Magical Script: Drawing by the Hill Korwas of Jashpur, Raigarh, M. P. (Bhopal: Museum of Fine Arts, Bharat Bhawan, 1983). Szondi, Peter, On Textual Understanding, and Other Essays (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1986). Tagore, Gaganendranath, Wry Thunderbolt (Calcutta; Simla:  Thacker, Spink & Co., 1915). ———​ Reform Screams: A Pictorial Review at the Close of the Year 1921 (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1921). Tagore, Rabindranath, Towards Universal Man (Bombay; New York, NY: Asia Publishing House, 1961). ———​ The Parrot’s Training (London: Tagore Centre UK, 1993). ———​ Nationalism (New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2009). Tagore, Rathindranath, On the Edges of Time (Calcutta: Visva Bharati, 1981). Tanizaki, Jun’ichirō, In Praise of Shadows (New Haven, CT: Leete’s Island Books, 1977). Tarlo, Emma, Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India (London: Hurst, 1996). Thomas, George, History of Photography, India 1840–​1980 (Hyderabad:  Andhra Pradesh State Akademi of Photography, 1981). Trivedi, Lisa, Clothing Gandhi’s Nation:  Homespun and Modern India (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007). Tupitsyn, Margarita, Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina: Photography and Montage after Constructivism (New York, NY; Göttingen: International Center of Photography and Steidl, 2004). Uppal, J. N., Bengal Famine of 1943: A Man-​made Tragedy (New Delhi: Atma Ram, 1984). Upright, Diane, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York, NY: Abrams, 1985).

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Bibliography Vajpeyi, Ananya, Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). Welchmann, John C., Invisible Colors: A Visual History of Titles (New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 1997). Wilson, Sir William Hunter, Imperial Gazetteer of India (London: India Office, Clarendon Press, 1908). Wilton, Andrew, The Swagger Portrait: Grand Manner Portraiture in Britain from Van Dyck to Augustus John, 1630–​1930 (London: Tate Gallery, 1992). Woodhead, John, Famine Inquiry Commission: Report on Bengal (New Delhi: Government of India Press, 1944). Zamindar, Vazira Fazila-​Yacoobali, The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007). Zedong, Mao, Problems of Art and Literature (New York, NY: International Publishers, 1950). Zitzewitz, Karin, The Perfect Frame: Presenting Modern Indian Art: Stories and Photographs from the Collection of Kekoo Gandhy (Mumbai: Chemould Publications and Arts, 2003). ———​ The Art of Secularism: The Cultural Politics of Modernist Art in Contemporary India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Exhibition Catalogues Chittaprosad and Sanjoy Kumar Mallik, Chittaprosad:  A  Retrospective 1915–​1978 (New Delhi: Delhi Art Gallery, 2004). Catalogue of an exhibition held 9 July to 11 September 2011 at the Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi. Dehejia, Vidya et al., India Through the Lens: Photography 1840–​1911 (Washington, DC; Munich; New York, NY: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with Mapin Publishers and Prestel, 2000). Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries. Kapur, Geeta, Pictorial Space: A Point of View on Contemporary Indian Art: An Exhibition; Conceived and Compiled by Geeta Kapur, December 14, 1977 to January 3, 1978 (New Delhi: Lalit Kala Akademi, 1978). Catalogue of an exhibition held in 1977 at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. Mohamedi, Nasreen, Nasreen Mohamedi: Exhibition Catalogue Art Heritage 1986–​ 87 (New Delhi, 1986). ———​ Nasreen Mohamedi:  Waiting is a Part of Intense Living (Madrid:  Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2015). Catalogue of an exhibition held 22 September 2015 to 11 January 2016 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Pasmore, Victor and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Developing Process:  New Possibilities in Art Teaching, (London: ICA, 1959). Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. Rajadhyaksha, Ashish and Vivan Sundaram, Memorial: An Installation with Photographs and Sculpture 1993 (New Delhi: AIFACS Galleries, 1993). Catalogue of an exhibition held 2 to 20 December 1993 at the All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society, New Delhi.

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Bibliography Sheikh, Gulam Mohammed, Drawings: Jeram Patel (New Delhi: Shridharani Gallery, 1968). Whitechapel Art Gallery and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Where Three Dreams Cross:  150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Göttingen; London; Winterthur:  Steidl, Whitechapel Art Gallery and Fotomuseum Winterthur, 2010). Catalogue of an exhibition held 21 January to 11 April 2010 at the Whitechapel Gallery, London and 12 June to 22 August 2010 at Fotomuseum Winterthur.

Essays, Chapters, Short Works in Books and Edited Volumes Amin, Shahid, ‘Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP, 1921–22’, in R. Guha and G. Chakravorty Spivak (eds), Selected Subaltern Studies (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1988). Bataille, Georges, ‘The Mouth’ (entry in Critical Dictionary), from G. Bataille et al. (eds), Encyclopaedia Acephalica: Comprising the Critical Dictionary & Related Texts (London: Atlas Press, 1995). Baudelaire, Charles, ‘On the Essence of Laughter’, in J. Mayne (ed.), The Mirror of Art: Critical Studies by Charles Baudelaire (New York, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1956). Bean, Susan S., ‘Gandhi and Khadi, the Fabric of Indian Independence’, in A. B. Weiner and J. Schneider (eds), Cloth and Human Experience (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989). Benjamin, Walter, ‘The Task of the Translator:  An Introduction to the Translation of Baudelaire’s Tableaux Parisiens’, in Illuminations (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1969). ———​‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Illuminations (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1969). ———​‘Trauerspiels’, in Gesammelte Schriften (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1972), vol. 2. ———​‘Critique of Violence’, in Reflections:  Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writing (New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1986). ———​‘Short History of Photography’, in One-​Way Street and Other Writings (London: Penguin Books, 2009). Bhabha, Homi K., ‘Remembering Fanon:  Self, Psyche and the Colonial Condition’, in B. Kruger and P. Mariani (eds), Remaking History (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1989). ———​‘Postcolonial Authority and Postmodern Guilt’, in L. Grossberg et al. (eds), Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1992). ———​‘Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’, in The Location of Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 1994). ———​‘Signs Taken for Wonders’, in The Location of Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 1994). ———​‘Sly Civility’, in The Location of Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 1994). ———​‘The Postcolonial and the Postmodern: The Question of Agency’, in The Location of Culture (New York, NY: Routledge, 1994). Bharucha, Rustom, ‘Infiltrating Europe:  Outside the Borders of Postcolonial Cool’, in S.  M.  Hassan and I. Dadi (eds), Unpacking Europe:  Towards a Critical Reading (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2011).

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Bibliography Bhattacharya, Sukanta, ‘The Full Moon is a Charred Bread’ (1943–​ 1947), from his Chharpatra, in S. Ghose (ed.), Contemporary Bengali Literature (Calcutta: Academic Publishers, 1972). Brennan, Lance, ‘The Development of the Indian Famine Codes:  Personalities, Politics, and Policies’, in B. Currey and G. Hugo (eds), Famine as a Geographical Phenomenon, (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1984), vol. 1. Butler, Judith, ‘Precarious Life’, in Precarious Life:  The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004). Camille, Michael, ‘Mouths and Meanings: Towards an Anti-​Iconography of Medieval Art’, in B. Cassidy (ed.), Iconography at the Crossroads: Papers from the Colloquium Sponsored by the Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, 23–​24 March 1990 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993). Carl, Peter, ‘The Tower of Shadows’, in Tim Benton et al., Le Corbusier and the Architecture of Reinvention (London: Architectural Association, 2003). Chakrabarty, Dipesh, ‘Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for “Indian” Pasts?’, in R. Guha (ed.), A Subaltern Studies Reader 1986–​1995 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998). Chatterjee, Partha, ‘Whose Imagined Community?’, in The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993). ———​‘The Nation and its Women’, in The Partha Chatterjee Omnibus:  Comprising Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, The Nation and its Fragments, A Possible India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002). Chaudhuri, Amit, ‘Introduction’, in Walter Benjamin, One-​Way Street and Other Writings (London: Penguin, 2009). Chicherov, A. I., ‘Tilak’s Trial and the Bombay Political Strike of 1908’, in I. M. Reisner and N. M. Goldberg (eds), Tilak and the Struggle for Indian Freedom (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1966). Deleuze, Gilles, ‘Humour, Irony and the Law, 1967’, in Scott Watson, Diana Thater and Carol J. Clover, Stan Douglas (London: Phaidon, 1998). Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari, ‘1227: Treatise on Nomadology –​The War Machine’, in A Thou­sand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (New York, NY; London: Continuum, 2007). Derrida, Jacques, ‘The deaths of Roland Barthes’, in H. J. Silverman (ed.), Philosophy and Non-​Philosophy since Merleau-​Ponty (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1997). ———​‘Force of Law: the “Mystical Foundations of Authority”’, in P. Osborne (ed.), Walter Benjamin: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory (New York, NY; London: Routledge, 2005), vol. 1. Foster, Hal, ‘Death in America: Shocked Subjectivity and Compulsive Visual Repetition’, in Rosalind Krauss (ed.), October: The Second Decade, 1986–​1996 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997). Gadihoke, Sabeena, ‘Journeys into Inner and Outer Worlds: Photography’s Encounter with Public Space in India’, in Where Three Dreams Cross:  150 Years of Photography from

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Bibliography India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (Göttingen; London; Winterthur: Steidl, Whitechapel Art Gallery and Fotomuseum Winterthur, 2010). Gandhi, Mahatma, ‘Education’, in Hind Swaraj and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). ———​‘Machinery’, in Hind Swaraj and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). ———​‘The Condition of India (cont):  Doctors’, in Hind Swaraj and Other Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). ———​‘The Condition of India (cont):  Railways’, in Revisiting Hind Swaraj (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Co., 2010). Gupta, Atreyee, ‘Developmental Aesthetics: Modernism’s Ocular Economies and Laconic Discontents in the Era of Nehruvian Technocracy’, in S. Ray and V. Maddipati (eds), Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence (New Delhi; London: Routledge, forthcoming) Gupta, Narayani, ‘Pictorializing the “Mutiny” of 1857’, in M. A. Pellizzari (ed.), Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation, 1850–​ 1900 (Montreal, QC; New Haven, CT: Canadian Centre for Architecture, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University Press, 2003). Hand, Richard J., ‘History, Tradition and Japanese Horror Cinema: Aesthetics of Cruelty: Traditional Japanese Theatre and the Horror Film’, in J. McRoy (ed.), Japanese Horror Cinema (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2005). Harris, David, ‘Topography and Memory: Felice Beato’s Photographs of India, 1858–​1859’, in Dehejia, Vidya et al., India Through the Lens: Photography 1840–​1911 (Washington, DC; Munich; New  York, NY:  Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M.  Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with Mapin Publishers and Prestel, 2000). Hoskote, Ranjit and Tyeb Mehta, ‘Tyeb Mehta:  Images of Transcendence’, in Tyeb Mehta: Ideas, Images, Exchanges (New Delhi: Vadehra Art Gallery, 2005). Kapur, Geeta, ‘Maqbool Fida Husain: Folklore and Fiesta’, in Contemporary Indian Artists (New Delhi: Vikas, 1978). ———​‘Detours from the Contemporary’, in When Was Modernism: Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (New Delhi: Tulika, 2000). ———​‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved:  Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–​ 1990)’, in When Was Modernism:  Essays on Contemporary Cultural Practice in India (New Delhi: Tulika, 2000). ———​‘National/​Modern: Preliminaries’ in M. Chiu and B. Genocchio (eds), Contemporary Art in Asia: A Critical Reader (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011). ———​‘Again A Difficult Task Begins’, in Nasreen Mohamedi: Waiting is a Part of Intense Living (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2015). Kapur, Geeta and Ashish Rajadhyaksha, ‘Bombay/​Mumbai 1992–​2001’, in I. Blazwick (ed.), Century City, Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis (London: Tate Publishing, 2001). Karode, Roobina, ‘Waiting is a Part of Intense Living’, in Nasreen Mohamedi:  Waiting is a Part of Intense Living (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2015).

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Bibliography Khullar, Sonal, ‘Man and Mahabharata, Maqbool Fida Husain (1915–​2011)’, in Worldly Affiliations:  Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930–​1990 (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015). ———​ ‘Paan Shop for the People: Bhupen Khakhar (1934–​2003)’, in Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930–​1990 (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015). Kingsley, Hope, ‘Pictorialism’, in The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Klee, Paul, ‘Trip to Tunisia: 951. (1915)’, in F. Klee (ed.), The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898–​1918 (Berkeley, CA; Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1964). Lenin, Vladimir, ‘The International Alignment of Class Forces’, from Collected Works, vol. 32: December 1920 –​August 1921 (Moscow: Progress, 1965). Macaulay, Thomas Babington, ‘Minute (on Education) (2 February 1835)’, from H. Sharp (ed.), Selections from Educational Records, Part I, 1781–​1839 (New Delhi: National Archives of India, 1965). Mallik, Sanjoy Kumar, ‘Social Realism in the Visual Arts: “Man-​Made” Famine and Political Ferment, Bengal 1943–​1946’, in G. Sinha (ed.), Art and Visual Culture in India, 1857–​ 2007 (Mumbai; New Delhi: Marg Publications in collaboration with National Cultural Fund, Government of India and Bodhi Art, 2009). Marx, Karl, ‘The Future Results of British Rule in India’, New York Daily Tribune (8 August 1853), pp. 494–​3. Reprinted in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Collected Works vol. 1 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973). Mitra, Ashok, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’, in Four Painters (Calcutta: New Age Publishers, 1965). ———​‘The Forces Behind the Modern Movement’, in Four Painters (Calcutta: New Age Publishers, 1965). Mitter, Partha, ‘Frameworks for Considering Cultural Exchange:  The Case of India and America’, in C. J. Mills, L. Glazer and A. Goerlitz (eds), East-​West Interchanges in American Art: “A Long and Tumultuous Relationship” (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2012). Moholy-​Nagy, László, ‘The Future of the Photographic Process’, in Painting, Photography, Film (London: Lund Humphries, 1967). Nasar, Hammad, ‘Meem is for Mashq’, in Anwar Jalal Shemza (London: Ridinghouse, 2015). Pinney, Christopher, ‘The Body and the Bomb: Technologies of Modernity in Colonial India’, in R. H. Davis (ed.), Picturing the Nation: Iconographies of Modern India (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2007). Powers, Alan, ‘William Johnstone and the Central School’, in S. Backemeyer (ed.), Making Their Mark: Art, Craft and Design at the Central School 1896–​1966 (London: Herbert Press, 2000). Radice, William, ‘The Humour of Calcutta’, in C. Oesterheld and P. Zoller (eds), Of Clowns and Gods, Brahmans, and Babus:  Humour in South Asian Literature (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 1999). Roy, Indrapramit, ‘Light Within: The Paintings of Rabindranath Tagore’, in K. Dutta and A. Robinson (eds), Purabi: A Miscellany in Memory of Rabindranath Tagore 1941–​1991 (London: Tagore Centre, 1991).

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Bibliography Sawant, Shukla, ‘Photo-​ Fact-​ Photo-​ Fiction Constructing the Art World’, in P. Mitter, P.  D.  Mukherji and R. Balaram (eds), Twentieth-​Century Indian Art (New  York:  Skira Rizzoli, forthcoming). Sengupta, Debjani, ‘Mechanicalcutta: Industrialisation, New Media in the 19th Century’, in SARAI Reader 02: The Cities of Everyday Life (New Delhi; Amsterdam: Sarai –​The New Media Initiative, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and Society for Old and New Media, 2002). Sheikh, Nilima, ‘A Post-​Independence Initiative in Art’, in G. M. Sheikh et al. (eds), Contemporary Art in Baroda (New Delhi: Tulika, 1997). Sontag, Susan, ‘Preface’, in Don McCullin (London: Jonathan Cape, 2001). ———​‘The Aesthetics of Silence’, in Styles of Radical Will (New York, NY: Picador, 2002). Tagore, Rabindranath, ‘On Non-​Cooperation Movement’, in Encyclopaedia of Eminent Thinkers, vol. 3:  The Political Thought of Rabindranath Tagore (New Delhi:  Concept Publishing Co., 1998). Weston, Edward, ‘Entry for 10 March 1924’, in The Daybooks of Edward Weston (Millerton, NY: Aperture, 1973), quoted in N. Newhall (ed.), Edward Weston: the Flame of Recognition: His Photographs Accompanied by Excerpts from Daybooks & Letters (Millerton, NY: Aperture, 1975). Wright, Theodore P., ‘Muslim Kinship and Modernization: The Tyabji Clan of Bombay’, in I. Ahmad (ed.), Family, Kinship and Marriage Among Muslims in India (Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1976). Young, Robert J. C., ‘The Ambivalence of Bhabha’, in White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (London: Routledge, 2003).

Journal Articles Ahmad, Aziz, ‘Cultural and Intellectual Trends in Pakistan’, Middle East Journal 19/​1 (1965), pp. 35–​44. Anand, Mulk Raj, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’s Realm of the Absurd’, Roopa Lekha: Illustrated Journal of Indian Arts and Crafts, xxxxviii/​1–​2 (1951), pp. 168–​81. Bear, Laura Gbah, ‘Miscegenations of Modernity:  Constructing European Respectability and Race in the Indian Railway Colony, 1857–​1931’, Women’s History Review 3/​4 (1994), pp. 531–​48. Buck-​ Morss, Susan, ‘Aesthetics and Anaesthetics:  Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered’, October 62 (1992), pp. 3–​41. Butler, Judith, ‘Performativity, Precarity and Sexual Politics’, AIBR Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana 4/​3 (2009), pp. 1–​13. Calhoun, Craig, ‘“Belonging” in the Cosmopolitan Imaginary’, Ethnicities 3/​4 (2003), pp. 531–​53. Callan, Guy and James Williams, ‘A Return to Jean-​François Lyotard’s Discourse, Figure’, Parrhesia 12 (2011), pp. 41–​51. Chadha, Ashish, ‘Visions of Discipline:  Sir Mortimer Wheeler and the Archaeological Method in India (1944–​1948)’, Journal of Social Archaeology 2/​3 (2002), pp. 378–​401.

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Bibliography Suchitra, ‘What Moves Masses: Dandi March as Communication Strategy’, Economic and Political Weekly 30/​14 (1995), pp. 743–​6. Sunderason, Sanjukta, ‘As “Agitator and Organizer”:  Chittaprosad and Art for the Communist Party of India, 1941–​8’, Object 13 (2011), pp. 76–​95. ———​‘Arts of Contradiction:  Gaganendranath Tagore and the Caricatural Aesthetic of Colonial India’, South Asian Studies 32/​2 (2016), pp. 129–​43. Swaminathan, Jagdish, ‘Painter with Blow-​flame’, Link (September 1 1962). Reproduced in Lalit Kala Contemporary 40 (1995), pp. 28–​9. ———​‘The Cygan: An Auto-​bio Note’, Vadehra Exhibition Catalogue of J. Swaminathan. Reproduced in Lalit Kala Contemporary 40 (1995), pp. 7–​13. Tagore, Saumyendranath, ‘Gaganendranath Tagore’, Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art (1972), p. 77. Trivedi, Lisa, ‘Visually Mapping the “Nation”: Swadeshi Politics in Nationalist India, 1920–​ 1930’, The Journal of Asian Studies 62/​1 (2003), pp. 11–​42. Watson, Grant, ‘Nasreen Mohamedi:  Passage and Placement’, Afterall:  A  Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry 21 (2009), pp. 28–​35. Wright, Alan, ‘Sentence Fragments: Elements of Style, Postcolonial Edition’, JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory 18/​1 (1998), pp. 91–​103.

Unpublished Articles, Conference Papers, Reports, Blogs Chakravorty, Swapan, unpublished article, ‘Book, Text, Work:  Tagore and the Scene of Writing’. Human Rights Watch, ‘ “We Have No Orders to Save You”: State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat’, April 2002. Available at: https://www. hrw.org/reports/2002/india/. (Accessed 5 April 2010.) Kapur, Geeta, ‘With Frugal Means: Nasreen Mohamedi’ (presented at the Re-​Presenting Histories Workshop at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 2009), available at http://​www.aaa.org.hk/​Collection/​CollectionOnline/​ SpecialCollectionItem/​3016. (Accessed 3 September 2012.) Malik, Amna, ‘Abstract Dis-​ connections, Ruptures and Transformations:  Nasreen Mohamedi and the Question of Context’, paper delivered at the Tate Modern Abstraction Study Day, Part 9, London, 2010. Mallik, Sanjoy Kumar, ‘Responses in the Art of Bengal to the 1943 Famine and the Tebhaga Movement’, paper delivered at the ‘Culture and Democracy’ workshop organised by the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (Kolkata), Gwalior, 1–​5 February 1997. McLemee, Scott, ‘On “The Neutral” by Roland Barthes’, available at http://​www.mclemee. com/​id159.html. (Accessed 20 June 2012.) Nair, Janaki, ‘Cultural Production in an Age of Retreating State Patronage’, unpublished paper delivered at a conference at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 1996. Sharma, Sumesh, ‘Slaughter in the Cinema’, unpublished article (Mumbai, 2011).

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Newspaper Articles Anonymous, ‘Our Frontispiece’, The Modern Review 30/​1 (July 1921), pp. 122–​4. Kapur, Geeta, ‘The Human Image in Indian Art’, The Times of India (17 December 1972). ———​‘Humming Discs: The Art of Nasreen’, The Times of India (27 February 1987). Kent, Sarah, ‘Portrait of an Ego’, The Guardian (27 October 1997). Malik, Keshav, ‘The Art of Pure Lines’, The Times of India (20 May 1990). Sheikh, Gulam Mohammed, Link (15 August 1978). Sheikh, Kiran, ‘Nasreen lived a life of quiet elegance’, The Asian Age (12 May 1995). Tagore, Gaganendranath, ‘The Art World: Some Prominent Figures’, The Bombay Chronicle (30 June 1926). Tagore, Rabindranath, ‘My interpretation of India’s history:  II’, The Modern Review 14/​3 (September 1913). ———​‘Thou Shalt Obey’, The Modern Review 22/​3 (September 1917). ———​‘The Shudra Habit’, The Modern Review 41/​3 (March 1927). Chittaprosad, Bhattacharya, ‘Help Chittagong’, People’s War (27 August 1943). ———​‘Midnapur as I Saw It’, People’s War (2 January 1944). Joshi, P. C., ‘Who Lives If Bengal Dies?’, People’s War (14 November 1943).

Diary Entries, Letters, Documents from Personal Archives Dossal, Rukaya to Reena Mohamedi, letter (20 December 2009, Mumbai), in private collection. ———​‘Watching Your Passing –​Like Petals from a Flower’, in Nasreen Mohamedi, Nasreen in Retrospect (Bombay: Ashraf Mohamedi Trust, 1995). Ministry of Information to Cecil Beaton, letter (1944), in the Papers of Cecil Beaton (a1/​ 191/​2), Saint John’s College Library, Cambridge. Mohamedi, Nasreen, diary entry (22 May 1960), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 85. ———​diary entry (9 February 1966), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 87. ———​diary entry (1 December 1966, Jailsamer), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 86. ———​diary entry (3 September 1967, Jaisalmer), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 87. ———​diary entry (27 May 1968, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 88. ———​diary entry (3 June 1968, on the train from Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 88. ———​diary entry (1 September 1968, Istanbul), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 88. ———​diary entry (5 September 1968), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 88. ———​diary entry (4 October 1968, Topkapı), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 89. ———​diary entry (November 1968, Bahrain), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 90. ———​diary entry (1 March 1970, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 91. ———​diary entry (13 March 1970), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 91. ———​diary entry (30 September 1970, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 93. ———​diary entry (28 March 1971), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 94. ———​diary entry (29 May 1971, Bombay), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 94.

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Bibliography ———​diary entry (17 July 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 94. ———​diary entry (20 July 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 94. ———​diary entry (22 July 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 95. ———​diary entry (25 November 1971, Delhi), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 95. ———​diary entry (1972, Bahrain), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 93. ———​diary entry (1 May 1974, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 96. ———​diary entry (1976, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 97. ———​diary entry (16 April 1976, Baroda), in Nasreen in Retrospect, p. 97. ———​diary entry (undated), manuscript in the Collection of Navjot and Sasha Altaf. ———​to Archana Shastri, letter (10 February 1977, Baroda), in private collection. ———​to Anna Singh, letter (20 May 1980), in private collection. ———​to Krishen Khanna, letter (undated), in private collection.

Interviews Bhatt, Jyoti, in conversation with the author (21 July 2012), interview conducted in person, unpublished. Crill, Rosemary, in conversation with the author (August 2012, London), interview conducted through extensive email correspondence, unpublished. Hashmi, Zarina, in conversation with the author (August 2012), interview conducted through extensive email correspondence, unpublished. Janah, Sunil, in conversation with the author (12 March 2009, Berkeley, CA), interview conducted in person, unpublished. Khanna, Krishen, in conversation with the author (12 October 2011, New Delhi), interview conducted in person, unpublished. Malani, Nalini, in conversation with the author (15 July 2012), recorded telephone interview, unpublished. Penn, Christopher, in conversation with the author (20 July 2012, London), interview conducted in person, unpublished. Sabnani, Nina, in conversation with the author (21 April 2012), interview conducted through extensive email correspondence, unpublished. ———​in conversation with the author (April 2012, Mumbai), interview conducted in person, unpublished. ———​in conversation with the author (July 2012, Mumbai), interview conducted in person, unpublished. Shahani, Roshan, in conversation with the author (April 2012), interview conducted by telephone, unpublished. Sheikh, Gulam Mohammed, in conversation with the author (21 June 2011, New Delhi), interview conducted in person, unpublished. Singh, Anna, in conversation with the author (8 June 2012, London), recorded interview conducted in person, unpublished. Subramanyan, K. G., in conversation with the author (21 May 2012), interview conducted through extensive written correspondence, unpublished.

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Index 9/​11 4, 11 ‘A New Instrument of Vision’ 58, 60 Abedin, Zainul 100, 113–​6 see also Bengal Famine Absurd, the 42, 45–​6 see also Camus adda 129, 132 adivasi (tribals) 118–​20, 124 Adorno, Theodor 31, 72 After the Last Sky 66 Afterimage of Empire 71 Agamben, Giorgio 5, 7 see also bare life Ahmedabad 140 Akbar, Emperor 61 Akimcanna: Self Naughting 64 Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) 19, 43 see also Camus; Fanon; Sartre Algiers 47 Alhazen 58 Ali Khan, Sir Mahbub 79 Alipore Bomb Case (1908–​9) 138 Allahabad High Court 26 allegory 7, 13, 125, 144, 150, 162, 182 allusive neutral 35, 67–​8 see also Neutral Amritsar 166, 182 Anderson, Benedict 181 angel of history (Angelus Novus) 1–​4, 188 see also Benjamin Angelus Novus see angel of history Anushilan Samiti 138 Appadurai, Arjun 125 Arendt, Hannah 67, 75 Ash, Gobardhan 100, 116 see also Bengal Famine Auschwitz 31 see also trauma

avant-​garde 6, 8, 64, 134 see also Benjamin; Kapur Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh 4 Azoulay, Ariella 71–​2, 75, 83 see also civil contract of photography Babri Masjid 4 babu (anglicised Indian) 8, 128–​9, 131, 136, 151–​6, 158, 160–​2, 172, 176, 186, 188 see also badhralok; Benjamin; Bhabha, Homi K.; bureaucracy Babur 52–​3 badhralok 8, 135, 140 see also babu Bahrain 18–​19, 23, 50, 65 see also desert Bakhtin, Mikhail 128, 135 see also Kalighat; laughter Banerjee, Sumanta 136 see also Kalighat Bangalore 83–​5 see also Great Famine Bangalore Spectator 84 Bangladesh War (1971) 33 bare life 5, 7, 11–​12, 117 Baroda 16, 18–​20, 22, 24–​6, 42, 55, 60 see also Vadodara Barthes, Roland 12, 35–​7, 43, 46, 51 see also Camus; Neutral; Sartre Bataille, Georges 128 Batliwala, S. S. 105 Batoni, Pompei 186, 188 Baucom, Ian 23 see also nomadism Baudelaire, Charles 153 Beato, Felice 105–​6 Beaton, Cecil 102–​4 see also World War II Bengal Famine (1943) 10, 12, 16, 69–​73, 75–​7, 106–​9, 112, 114–​15

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Index Bengal School of Painting 13, 138, 182 see also Tagore, Abanindranath Benjamin, Walter allegory 13, 144, 182 bhadralok (babu) 8 civilisation 2–​3 Communist 185 conformism 185 emergency 1–​5, 7–​8, 10, 184–​8 fragment 5, 185 illumination 12 magic 58 mythical violence 14, 130, 164, 167 Nazism 1, 13 nomad 184–​6 Paul Klee 1–​2 phantasmagoria 13, 76 photography 58, 72, 91 progress and catastrophe 1, 3, 7–​8, 11, 14, 184–​6, 188 Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings 22, 130, 164, 167–​8 retrospection 4, 7, 185 revelation 185 ruins 5, 12, 77 Short History of Photography 58, 186–​8 spectres 13, 124 theological 185, 188 Theses on the Philosophy of History 1–​4, 188 Third World 186 traces 22 tradition of the oppressed 2, 184 see also angel of history Bergson, Henri 13, 130, 132–​5, 137, 143, 145, 147, 149–​51, 153–​4, 160, 168, 175, 177, 182–​3 Besant, Annie 172 Bhabha, Homi K. 2, 8, 129, 136, 151–​2

bhadralok 8, 135, 140 see also babu; Benjamin Bhagavad Gita 158 Bharucha, Rustom 180–​1 Bhatt, Jyoti 21, 23–​4 see also Baroda Bhattacharya, Abinash 138 Bhattacharya, Chittaprosad 100, 111–​12 Bhulabhai Desai Institute 19 Bichitra Studio 126 Bihar 25, 118–​21, 172 Bikaner 89 Birla, G. D. 118 Blanchot, Maurice 36–​7, 52 Bodas de Sangre 45 Boer War (1899–​1902) 80 bolshevik 113 Bombay 3, 18–​20, 33, 87, 93, 101, 105, 110 see also Mumbai Bombay Riots (1992-​3) see Babri Masjid bombs 69, 76, 101, 138–​9, 188 see also railway; terrorism Bose, Jagadish Chandra 150, 169–​70 Bose, Nandalal 182 Bourke-​White, Margaret 94–​6, 108, 110, 118 see also charka; Gandhi, Mahatma Bradley, Ben 96 see Comintern; Communist Party of Great Britain Brahma 175 Brahmin priest 127–​9, 147, 158, 162 bureaucracy 8, 17, 75, 149–​50, 166, 176 Burma 101 see also World War II Calcutta 69–​70, 74–​5, 99, 101–​3, 105, 110–​12, 114, 116, 118, 126, 129–​32, 135, 137–​8, 141–​3, 145, 156, 175–​7 Calhoun, Craig 181 calligraphy 19, 23–​4, 53–​5, 57–​8, 143 Camus, Albert 16, 19, 33, 35, 37, 43–​7, 52, 65, 67

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Index caricature 134–​5, 137, 139, 162 see also laughter Carnets 45 caste system 81, 90, 139–​40, 152–​3, 160, 162–​4, 176 see also Gandhi, Mahatma; Tagore, Rabindranath censorship 12, 26, 39, 75, 93, 103, 111, 114, 144 see also allegory; Emergency; Gandhi, Indira; Pinney; Press Act; Rowlatt Act Central School of Arts and Crafts 19, 56 Century City see Tate Modern Chakrabarty, Dipesh 2, 128–​9, 152, 180 Champaran 140 Chandigarh 62 charka 94–​5, 140, 143, 170–​2 see also khadi Chatterjee, Partha 157, 167 Chaudhary, Zahid 71 see also phantasmagoria Chaudhuri, Amit 8 see also bhadralok China 36, 117 chitkaar kora see scream Chittagong 101 see also World War II choreography 13, 22, 81, 83, 93, 106, 118 see also theatre chromolithography 143 chromophobia 23, 57 see also Le Corbusier chronos (profane time) 16 see also Emergency; revelation; satori Churchill, Winston 73–​4, 101, 167 see also Bengal Famine civil contract of photography 71, 75, 83 Clark, Sir Kenneth 102 Clifford, James 124 Comintern 96–​7 see also Soviet Union Communist Party of Great Britain 96 Communist Party of India (CPI) 12, 70, 72, 75, 90, 95–​7, 100, 105, 110, 113–​14, 116–​17, 122–​4 Congress 25, 92–​3, 97, 140

Congress of Soviet Writers 96–​7 see also Joshi Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. 64 cosmopolitanism 6, 18, 20, 65–​6, 126, 132, 140, 181 Creative Evolution 134, 168 crescograph 170 see also Bose, Jagadish Chandra Crimean War (1853-​6) 188 cubism 133, 176–​7, 180, 183 see also glass; laughter Cuddapah district 80 Curzon, Viceroy Lord 7, 10, 79, 129, 137, 139 see also Partition of Bengal; Partition of India Da Vinci, Leonardo 58 Dadi, Iftikhar 55, 125 Dandi Salt March (1930) 93 Darkening Days: Being a Narrative of Famine-​Stricken Bengal with Drawings from Life by Zainul Abedin 114–​15 De Francia, Peter 19 see also Le Corbusier Debi, Purnima 132 decolonisation 17, 27, 29, 55 Deen Dayal, Raja 79 degree zero 22, 46, 52, 64 Deleuze, Gilles 177–​8, 184 see also humour Delhi Durbar 79 Demos, T. J. 4 see also post-​colony desert 19, 42, 45, 47–​9, 52, 57, 62, 66–​7 de-​territorialisation 65, 128 see also nomadism Dey, Bishnu 97 Differend 130 Digby, William 87–​8 see also Great Famine Discourse, Figure 32 Doctor Cornish 80 see also Great Famine Dossal, Rukaya 23

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Index Drain Theory 73 Dyer, Reginald 129, 164, 167 see also Jallianwala Bagh Massacre ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved: Nasreen Mohamedi 1937–​1990’ 24–​5, 64 see also Kapur Eco, Umberto 126 écriture blanche 37, 46 see also Barthes; Camus; silence education, colonial 96, 145, 147–​51, 157, 171–​2 see also babu; bureaucracy; Minute on Indian Education eidos 81 élan vital (vital spirit) 13, 134, 149 see also laughter Elwin, Verrier 119 Emergency (1975-​7) 7, 10, 29, 33, 35, 39, 57, 67 see also Gandhi, Indira Enwezor, Okwui 4 Étranger, L’ 44 see also Camus; desert existentialism 16, 19, 65 see also Camus; Sartre Faiz, Faiz Ahmad 97 Famine Code 79 see also Bengal Famine Fanon, Frantz 2, 4–​6, 27, 42, 44, 125, 182 see also Kapur Fascism 13, 117 Fatehpur Sikri 61–​2, 66 see also Le Corbusier Femme Adultère 47 see also Camus; desert Fer, Briony 31 figural 20, 32 figuration 12, 35, 56 Ford 29 Foster, Hal 11 see also 9/​11 Foucault, Michel 160 see also heterotopia fragment 5, 7 Freud, Sigmund 31

Gaitonde, V. S. 19, 29, 30 see also Klee; Zen Gandhi, Indira 7, 11, 25–​6, 33, 39 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Mahatma’ 13, 90–​5, 129, 140, 143–​4, 162, 166, 170–​2, 175, 177 Gandhi, Sanjay 39 Gangoly, Mohanlal 177 Garcia Lorca, Federico 45 Ghose, Aurobindo 93 Ghose, Gopal 100 Gide, André Paul Guillaume  35 see also Camus; Sartre glass 161, 177–​8 see also cubism Gramsci, Antonio 96 see also Joshi Graphic 87 grisaille 51 see also Barthes; Neutral Guattari, Félix 177, 184 Guha-​Thakurta, Tapati 138 Great Depression (1933-​4) 94 Great Famine (1876-​8) 82, 84–​9 globalisation 6, 25, 181 Gujarat 23, 25, 42 see also Babri Masjid Hamdullah, Shaykh 53 see also calligraphy Hammamet 33 Harral, Horace 87–​9 Hassan, Quamrul 100 Havell, E. B. 126, 138 hegemony 5–​6, 29 heterotopia 160–​2 Hind Swaraj 171 see also Gandhi, Mahatma; swaraj Hindu metaphysics 29 Hindustan Times 93 historicism 6, 126, 186 see also teleology Holocaust 10, 16–​7, 31 see also Benjamin home rule 73, 80, 172 homo sacer 7 see also bare life Hooper, Wallace Willoughby 81–​9 Hore, Somnath 100 Hoskote, Ranjit 33 see also Mehta

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Index Hugh, Francis 103 humour 14, 125–​6, 130, 135–​6, 177, 183 see also laughter Husain, M. F. 49 see also desert Hussain, Nasser 9 hybridity 151–​2, 156, 181, 187 see also Bhabha Hyderabad 18, 79 ‘In Quest of Identity Art and Indigenism in Postcolonial Culture with Special Reference to Contemporary Indian Painting’ 26–​7 see also Kapur; Vrishchik Ibn Muqla 58 Illustrated Weekly 91 imperialism 9, 30, 79, 83, 96 Indian Society of Oriental Art 126 Indo–​Pakistani War (1965) 33, 45 Iran 20, 65 Istanbul 53 Jain, Kajri 5 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919) 10, 92, 129, 164, 165, 168, 182 Japan 18, 64, 101, 105, 108, 166 see also ukiyo-​e Japonisme 126, 129, 135, 138, 141–​3, 150, 154, 158 Jinnah, Muhammad Ali 93 see also Pakistan; Partition of India Johannesburg 93 Jorasanko 132–​3, 138, 187 Joshi, P. C. 95–​7, 100, 105, 108, 117, 122–​3 Jugantar 138 Jurisprudence of Emergency 9 Kafka, Franz 8 kairos (sacred time) 16 see also Emergency; revelation; satori

Kalighat 135–​6, 145, 154, 158 see also Bakhtin Kandinsky, Wassily 22, 30, 33 Kapur, Geeta 4–​6, 20, 24–​9, 32, 40–​2, 64–​7, 185, 188 Karachi 12, 18–​20, 65 Kaur, Raminder 144 see also censorship khadi 94 Khaira struggle (1918) 140 Khakhar, Bhupen 42–​3 khatt-​i-​baburi 53 Kingsford, Magistrate 138 kitsch 42 Klee, Paul 1–​3, 19, 30, 32–​3 see also angel of history; Benjamin Koodal 35 Kramrisch, Stella 177–​8 Kuwait 20, 23, 65 Labyrinth of Solitude 27, 41 labyrinths 20, 40, 42, 66, 68 Lacan, Jacques 136 Lalit Kala Akademi 29 laughter 13, 125–​8, 136–​9, 143, 145, 147, 151, 153–​5, 160, 162, 168–​9, 176–​9, 181–​3 see also mockery; scream Laughter 130–​1, 133–​5, 147 Le Corbusier 19, 62–​3 Leader 93 Lebensraum 75 Lefort, Claude 72 Left 185 Lenin, Vladimir 13, 95–​6 Life 96, 108, 110 London 87, 101–​3, 134, 178 Lyotard, Jean-​François 17, 20, 31–​2, 58, 64, 130 Lytton, Viceroy Lord 87–​8 see also Great Famine

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Index Macaulay, Thomas Babington 8 machine 118, 120, 134, 140, 145, 147–​8, 150–​1, 164, 166, 171 see also laughter; nomadism Madras Famine (1876–7) see Great Famine magic 41–​2, 50, 52, 56–​8, 60, 186 see also Swaminathan Mahalanobis, P. C. 97 Maharaja Sayajirao University, Faculty of Fine Arts 20 Mains Sales, Les 43 see also Barthes; Camus; Sartre Malani, Nalini 23 Malik, Keshav 57 Mallarmé, Stephane 63 Malthusian theories 74 see also Churchill Marquess of Zetland 132, 143 Martin, Agnes 30, 49 Maruti see Gandhi, Sanjay Marx, Karl 152–​3 Marxism 64, 97 mashq 16, 55 see also calligraphy Mazzarella, William 144 see also Gandhi, Mahatma Mbembe, Achille 74–​5 see also necropolitics mechanical, 128, 134–​6, 140, 145–​51, 155, 157, 160, 164, 166, 171 see also Bergson; caricature; laughter; Tagore, Rabindranath Mehta, Tyeb 33–​5 mela 177 memento mori 81, 85, 124, 136, 162 messianism 188 Midnapore district (Tamluk and Contai subdivisions) 101, 111, 113 mimesis 71, 83, 128 mimicry 92, 126, 129, 136–​7, 145, 153, 160–​2, 172–​3, 182 see also Bhabha minimalism 30

Minute on Indian Education 8 see also babu mirror 160, 162 Mitra, Ashok 141 Mitter, Partha 177, 181 mockery 55, 129, 145, 152–​3, 160, 164, 168, 172, 174, 188 modernism 4, 6, 8, 20, 25, 31, 35, 40–​1, 55, 67, 125, 176 see also Kapur Mohamedi, Rukaya 23 Mohamedi, Saleha 19 Mohamedi, Zainab 19 Moholy-​Nagy, László 60–​1 Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms (1919) 167, 172 Moscow 96, 178 Mountbatten, Lord Louis 17 Muhammad (Prophet) 42, 54 see also Sufism muhandis (builder with engineering skills) 38 Mulk Raj, Anand 137 Mumbai 4 Muselmann 7 see also Agamben; bare life Mussolini, Benito 168–​9 Mutiny (1857) 106 Naidu, Sarojini 93 Nair, Janaki 100 Naqqash, Sadequain 19, 125 Narayan, Jayaprakash 25 see also Emergency Nation and its Fragments 157 nation state 5–​6, 17, 25, 66–​7, 72, 166, 172 nationalism 6, 73, 97, 126, 140, 166, 172, 176, 181 Nationalism see Tagore, Rabindranath nature morte 81 see also memento mori Nazism 13 see also Holocaust necropolitics 100

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Index negritude 26 see also Fanon Nehru, Jawaharlal 25, 62, 73, 118, 120, 124, 137 neo-​colonialism 2 see also Demos; Fanon Nervous Mechanism of Plants 170 see also Bose, Jagadish Chandra Neutral, the 35–​8, 43, 51–​2, 67 New Delhi 20, 29 New Mexico 49 new temples of modern India 118–​21 see also adivasi; Nehru Nietzsche, Friedrich 182 Niffari 55 Nizam 79–​80 nomadism 6, 8, 11, 20, 23, 48, 65–​7, 184, 186 Non-​Cooperation Movement 91–​2, 140, 143–​4, 170–​2 Ootacamund 86 see also Great Famine Orissa 105–​9, 118, 172 Padamsee, Akbar 19 padayatras 92 Pakistan 17–​8, 33, 65–​6 see also Partition of India Pandey, Gyanendra 17, 64, 67 Paris 19, 35–​6, 41, 44, 65–​6, 178 Partition of Bengal (1905) 7, 10, 13, 129, 137, 139, 144, 182 Partition of India (1947) 10, 12, 17–​20, 34–​5, 41, 62, 66–​8, 117, 124, 129 Patel, Jeram 20, 22, 56–​8 see also Swaminathan pauranic 175–​6 Paz, Octavio 27, 41–​2 Penn, A. T. W. 81, 83–​7 Penn, Christopher 85 People of India 77–​8 People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) 97–​8, 107

People’s War 70, 97–​8, 104–​8, 109, 111, 117, 122 Perec, Georges 22 Persian Gulf 18 perversion 7, 27, 185 phantasmagoria 13, 76 Pictorial Space (exhibition) 29 see also Camus pied-​noir see Camus Pinney, Christopher 5, 81, 139, 144 Plessner, Helmuth 145 populism 25, 116 see also Emergency post-​colonial 4–​5, 10–​11, 14, 20, 25–​7, 42, 65–​6, 68, 118, 120, 181, 184 post-​colony 3–​5, 12, 184 Prague Spring (1968) 44 precarity 11 see also Foster Press Act (1910) 93, 144 see also censorship print capitalism 181 progress 1–​3, 7–​8, 11, 14, 71, 79, 94, 152, 184–​5, 188 see also Benjamin Progressive Artists’ Group 19 Progressive Writers’ Association 97 prosthetic 60, 71, 106, 126 provincialise 2, 5, 14, 180–​1 purdah 18 see also Sulaymani Bohras Quit India campaign 92, 101 see also Gandhi, Mahatma Qur’an 20, 54 see also Sufism railway 92, 101, 110, 116, 131, 152–​6, 166, 170–​1 see also heterotopia Rajasthan 49, 50 see also desert Ramaswamy, Sumathi 157 Rangoon 101 see also World War II Ray, Sukumar 9, 145 see also laughter Rayalseema Famine (1945) 110–​11 Raza, S. H. 19 redemption 12, 77, 102, 186 revelation 16, 47–​8, 63, 185

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Index revolutionary 2, 6, 27, 37, 44, 64, 123, 138, 144, 153–​4, 164, 170, 185 Rilke, Rainer Maria 47 see also silence risus sardonicus 13 see also allegory; Benjamin; laughter Rowlatt Act (1919) 93, 140, 144, 167 see also censorship Rūmī, Jalāl al-​Dīn 55, 64 see also Sufism Rupam: An Illustrated Quarterly Journal of Oriental Art, Chiefly Indian 177 Russia see Soviet Union Russian Constructivism 30, 64 Sabnani, Nina 16, 23, 57, 65 Said, Edward 66 samaj 166, 175 see also swadeshi Sanā’ī 55 Santiniketan 150, 178, 182 Sardar, Jafri 97 Sartre, Jean-​Paul 35, 37, 43–​4 see also Camus; Fanon satire 135–​6, 143, 147, 153–​4, 160, 168 see also Kalighat; laughter satori 16, 47 see also Barthes; Zen satyagraha 90, 92, 140, 175 see also Gandhi, Mahatma; Johannesburg Schimmel, Annemarie 53 see also calligraphy Schmitt, Carl 2, 4 see also Benjamin scream (chitkaar kora) 13, 128, 137, 160, 164, 169, 172, 173–​5 secularism 12, 17–​8, 63, 65–​6, 93, 135 Sen, Amartya 73 Sen, Dinesh Chandra 135 Sen, Ela 115–​6 Sen, Mrinal 69 Shantiniketan 150, 178, 182 Sheikh, Gulam Mohammed 22–​3, 39, 41, 57 Shiite 18 shimmer 24, 51 see also Neutral

Sikanderbagh 105 see also Mutiny; phantasmagoria silence 32, 35, 37, 40, 42, 46–​7, 52–​3, 62, 67 see also Barthes; Camus Singh, Anna 19, 23, 62 Singh, Bhagat 153 see also bombs; railway Smith, Adam 71 Socialism 64, 96, 99 Sontag, Susan 40, 123 see also Benjamin Soviet Union 64, 96 spiders 16, 20, 38, 171 see also Gandhi, Mahatma; muhandis Spinoza, Barucha 71 Stalin, Joseph 96, 123 see also Lenin Stallabrass, Julian 124 Statesman 75, 102 see also Bengal Famine Stephens, Ian 75 subaltern 3–​5, 180 Subramanyan, K. G. 55 see also Patel; Tagore, Rabindranath Sufism 20, 32, 38, 54–​5, 64–​5 see also calligraphy; Muhammad; silence; Zen Sulaymani Bohras 18 see also Partition; Shiite Sundaram, Vivan 3–​5, 7, 38–​40 see also angel of history; Bombay Riots; Emergency; subaltern surrealism 41 swadeshi 92, 125, 137–​40, 166, 177 Swadeshi Movement 94, 13, 129, 137, 139–​40, 182 swagger 164, 186–​8 Swaminathan, Jagdish 26, 28, 56 swaraj 13, 171–​2 sympathy 13, 69, 71, 74, 83, 88, 157, 164–​5, 182 Tabriz 53 Tagore, Abanindranath 126, 138, 150, 157, 182 see also Bengal School

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Index Tagore, Prince Dwarkanath 138 Tagore, Rabindranath 55–​7, 132–​4, 140, 150, 162, 166, 168–​9, 171–​2, 176–​7, 187 see also Gandhi, Mahatma; mechanical; nationalism Tagore, Rathindranath 132 Tamil Nadu 81 see also Great Famine Tao 24, 32 Taos 49 Tata, J. R. D. 118 Tate Modern 4 tathata 16 see also Zen teleology 2, 185–​6 terrorism 11, 26, 39, 92, 125, 138, 153, 164, 166 theatre 69, 75, 83, 92, 97, 105–​6, 113, 132–​3, 169, 186–​7 Theory of Moral Sentiments 71 Third World 2, 8, 26–​7, 184–​6 see also Benjamin; Bhabha Through the Eyes of a Painter 49–​50 see also desert; Rajasthan Tilak, Bal Gangadhar 93 see also bombs; glass Tokyo 178 Topkapı Palace 53 Totenraum 72 see also necropolitics train station see railway translation 125–​6, 133, 145, 182 trauma 4, 6, 16–​19, 31–​2, 65–​6, 105 see also Adorno Triumph and Tragedy 73 Turkey 20 see also calligraphy; Topkapı Palace Tyabji clan see Sulaymani Bohras

ukiyo-​e 135, 142–​3, 158, 162 see also Japonisme ummi 54 see also Sufism Utamaro, Kitagawa 158 Vadodara 22 see also Baroda Varna 162 see also caste system Victoria and Albert Museum 142, 149 Visva Bharati see Santiniketan vitalism see élan vital Vrishchik 26 see also Baroda; Kapur war machine see nomadism Washington, DC 181 Wavell, Lord 101 Weston, Edward 94 When Was Modernism 5–​6, 64, 22 see also ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved’; Kapur ‘With Frugal Means: Nasreen Mohamedi’ 65 see also ‘Elegy for an Unclaimed Beloved’; Kapur women 128, 149, 152, 157–​60, 175 see also machine; scream (chitkaar kora) World War I 31 Wretched of the Earth 44, 125 see also Bhabha; Fanon World War II 10, 12, 16, 69, 74, 102, 117, 122, 168 see also Bengal Famine War on Terror 11 see also 9/​11 Zamindar, Vazira Fazila-​Yacoobali 40, 66, 181 see also Partition of India Zero Group see Patel Zen 16, 19, 24, 49, 64 see also Barthes; satori; Tao

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