ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Visual Culture and Art History

Quest for a Shared Domain

India and Its Visual Cultures: Community, Class and Gender in a Symbolic Landscape edited by Uwe Skoda and Birgit Lettmann, New Delhi, California, London and Singapore: Sage Publications, 2018;
pp xli + 379,
 ₹ 1,100.

India and Its Visual Cultures: Community, Class and Gender in a Symbolic Landscape, edited by Uwe Skoa and Birgit Lettmann states its primary intent as “not to offer an overall introduction to visual culture in India in its entirety; [but] to contribute to a more comprehensive anthropological, rather than art-historical mapping of contemporary empirical visual cultures in India, which is still lacking” (p xxi). Within the first couple of pages, the editors partially invoke the key debates between art history and visual culture at the juncture of the “pictorial turn” or the “visual turn” around the 1990s (Mitchell 1992). However, delving into this proclaimed disciplinary separation demands engagement with several older debates presented in the responses to the all-important Visual Culture Questionnaire edited by Hal Foster and Rosalind Krauss in the issue of October (Alpers et al 1996: 25–70); debates that Skoda and Lettmann do not mention. As an outcome of the 1970s–80s crisis in representation (Zerner 1982), visual culture studies had caused much angst in art historical circles, with several seminal figures at institutions of learning responding to a set of four observations/questions circulated by Foster and Krauss, later published in the crucial issue of October. The initiative is referred to as a “baptism of fire” by Dikovitskaya as it “helped proponents of visual culture to articulate their positions and thus contributed to the theoretical growth of the new field” (2005: 18). Following it, a spate of readers and compiled anthologies on visual culture studies by theorists such as Bryson, Ann Holly and Moxey (1994), Bird et al (1996), Mirxoeff (1998), Jenks (1995), Heywood and Sandywell (1999), Burgin (1996), and others debated the older and newer approaches to studying art, the location of aesthetic theory, and issues of ideology and materiality that were gaining ground in studying the visual world. An acknowledgement of one such volume, Visual Culture: The Reader edited by Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall (1999), since it was also published by Sage, may have more accurately positioned Skoda and Lettmann’s work within the continued history of this publishing house.

Reinforcing Boundaries

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Updated On : 11th Sep, 2019
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