Visual Studies Workshop

All day
Through March 21, 2020
Day 1: St. Stephen's College; Day 2: University of Chicago Center in Delhi

St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi - Sudhir Bose Marg, University Enclave, New Delhi, Delhi 110007

University of Chicago Center in Delhi - Ground Floor, DLF Capitol Point Building, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi 110001

Mar. 20

We live in a world saturated with images. However, the idea of saturation presupposes certain limits upon our capacity to archive, analyse and discipline data. In pedagogical terms, what are the implications of this opposition between the idea of excess that saturation implies and the notion of order ingrained in archiving?

Art historians, media scholars, archivists, and book historians will participate in this two-day event, and address some of the following questions: How do we approach, analyse, archive different kinds of visual material – manuscripts, paintings, photographs, graffiti, the moving image?  How has digitization transformed our understanding of the visual? How do we balance our respective disciplinary protocols with the requirements of working with visual archives? What are the fundamental conceptual issues around which a visually oriented pedagogy may be organized? What are the methods and concepts germane to a transdisciplinary interest in the visual as artefact and as experience? 

Conceptualised and organised by Rochona Majumdar (Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago) and Smita Gandotra (Department of English, St. Stephen’s College) this event will feature panel discussions and lectures by leading scholars in the field of Cinema Studies, Media Studies, Art History and Book History.

Workshop Agenda 

Day 1: Friday, March 20, 2020 | Venue: St. Stephen's College 

Panel Discussion: Concepts in Visual Studies

Time: 12 pm - 1:30 pm 


Abhijit Gupta, Department of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Kaushik Bhoumick, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
Jennifer Wild, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago

Common Sense and The Digital Regime of the Image

Time: 2:30 pm 

Talk by Kara Keeling, Associate Professor, Department of Cinema & Media Studies, University of Chicago

Professor Keeling will present a theory of cinematic images as “images of common sense”, and consider the relevance of this theory for an engagement with digital images. While employing examples from contemporary films and digital media to illustrate her argument, she will explore the questions: to what extent do digital images anchor a shared belief in the world? How might we engage with these images as modes of governance rather than simply as “representations”?

Kara Keeling Bio: 

Kara Keeling is Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Her research has focused on African American film, representations of race, sexuality, and gender in cinema, critical theory, and cultural studies. Keeling’s first monograph, The Witch's Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense (Duke University Press, 2007), explores the role of cinematic images in the construction and maintenance of hegemonic conceptions of the world and interrogates the complex relationships between cinematic visibility, minority politics, and the labor required to create and maintain alternative organizations of social life. Her second monograph, Queer Times, Black Futures (New York University Press, 2019), analyzes selected films, videos, literary works, and musical performances that fall under the rubric of “Afrofuturism.” Keeling is co-editor (with Josh Kun) of Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies and author of several articles that have appeared in the journals GLQ, The Black Scholar, Women and Performance, and elsewhere.

Day 2: Saturday, March 21, 2020 | Venue: University of Chicago Center in Delhi 

A Festival of a Goddess and its Contemporary Artistic Propensities: An Invitation to Visual Studies 

Time: 12 noon

Talk by Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Formerly Professor in History & Director, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC)

As a multi-media popular spectacle, Kolkata’s contemporary Durga Puja festival, in its many visual, performative and political propensities, offers an important invitation to the field of visual studies. Crucial here are the elements of excess and saturation, of reception and spectatorship, of ephemerality and the new compulsions of archiving, that the field is grappling with. Drawing on her book, In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas of contemporary Kolkata, Professor Guha-Thakurta’s lecture will focus on one main theme - the dissembling place of ‘art’ and its avowed secularity within the body of a mass festival, whose central protagonist remains the much adored goddess of Bengal. Professor Guha-Thakurta’s main intention will be to show how today’s Durga, as a mercurial subject of consumer advertising, contemporary art and political critique, offers herself as an ideal figure for visual studies, and how her festival pushes us to think of new forms of the sacred and secular worlding of ‘art’. 

Tapati Guha-Thakurta Bio: 

Tapati Guha-Thakurta has just retired as Professor in History and was the Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) from 2012 to 2017. She has written widely on the art and cultural history of modern India. Her three main books are The Making of a New 'Indian' Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal (Cambridge University Press, 1992); 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 is also the author of the exhibition monographs – such as Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal: An introduction to the documentation archive of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (Seagull, Kolkata, 2002), The Aesthetics of the Popular Print: Lithographs and Oleographs from 19th and 20th Century India (Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata, 2006), The City in the Archive: Calcutta’s Visual Histories (Calcutta: CSSSC, 2011) and has co-edited two anthologies of essays – Theorising the Present: Essays for Partha Chatterjee (Delhi: OUP, 2011) and New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices (Delhi: OUP, 2013).

Roundtable Discussion: Methods in Visual Studies

Time: 2:30 pm 

Ranjani Majumdar, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
Rochona Majumdar, Dept. of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
Kara Keeling, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago
Rahaab Allana, Curator, Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, Delhi

Please click here to register for the workshop.