March 2024

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Room 004, School of Arts and Sciences


Monuments on the Move: Colonial and Postcolonial Journeys across Britain and India

Seminar and Lecture Series
Tapati Guha Thakurta | Speaker at Ahmedabad University

Tapati Guha Thakurta

Centre for Studies in Social Sciences

Monuments, we know, are defined by their permanence and immutability, by their fixity in time and place. Their aura is intrinsically tied to their location in the original setting in which they were built.  But it could also be argued that their propensity to circulate as life-size casts, replicas and remakes during the 19th century becomes crucial to the display value of monuments and their exhibitionary afterlives. The two imperial institutions of the world exhibitions and world museums were at the centre of these wide-ranging travels and circulations. With the travelling monument as its key motif, the paper attempts to critically juxtapose the reversed orders and directions across time of the outflows of large architectural ensembles between the empire and the colony. Positioning itself in contemporary Kolkata, it sets off the massive demand in late 19th century Britain for copies of historical monuments and architectural fabrications of the Indian colony with the radically divergent modes and terms on which the post colony lays claims to Britain’s and the world’s monuments.

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Tapati Guha Thakurta

Tapati Guha Thakurta retired as a Professor of History at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) and was its former Director from 2012 to 2017. She has written widely on the art and cultural history of modern India, and has held several visiting fellowships abroad. Her three main books are The Making of a New 'Indian' Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 1992) and Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India (Columbia University Press, and Permanent Black, 2004), and In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Kolkata (Delhi: Primus Books, 2015). She has also co-edited is also the author of some exhibition monographs – among them, Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal (Calcutta: Seagull, 2002), The Aesthetics of the Popular Print (Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Calcutta, 2006) and The City in the Archive: Calcutta’s Visual Histories (Calcutta: CSSSC, 2011) – and has co-edited three anthologies of essays – Theorising the Present: Essays for Partha Chatterjee (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011) and New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2013), and most recently, How Secular is Art? On the Politics of Art, History and Religion in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2023). Among her recent assignments have been the setting up of the Jadunath Bhavan Museum and Resource, Kolkata (a unit of the CSSSC) in 2017, and the preparation in 2019 of a dossier on the Durga Pujas of Kolkata for the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, which has brought to the festival the coveted UNESCO inscription under its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.