Narrating the "Everyday" in South Asian Popular Visual Culture

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:20 AM
Suffolk Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Sandria Freitag , North Carolina State University, NC
Much interesting work has been done recently in capturing the impact of production and consumption of popular visual-culture of British and independent India, looking at religious themes and arguments; the aspirations of ‘the nation’ in its various ramifications; the treatment of the new nuclear family (and especially the modern wife) as constituents of this nation, etc.  These studies called to our attention new and  re-constructed narratives of the nation and elements of identities of its citizens.  To date, however, very little attention has been paid to the way that aspects of everyday life (in the changing circumstances of the 20th century) have been utilized for new narratives – by either producers or, more importantly, by consumers.  There is a rich visual archive now being preserved and made available that can be examined for this purpose – composed of calendar art (given away each new year by shops and manufacturers for recipients to put on their walls); posters; postcards; and advertising, especially labels on textiles:  all of these have been collected by consumers, and amended for decorative use.  Since early 20th-century forms of this visual culture were often produced by British firms for consumption by the still-small Indian middle classes, while late 20th century forms were produced by Indians for a much broader spectrum of Indian consumers, our examination of the range of images and their messages enables us to track various kinds of change across the 20th century.   Our exploration of this material reveals connections between imagined ‘everyday’ life and ways that consumers managed socio-political changes in the subcontinent.  The process will illuminate modes of narrative-construction and should, at the same time, extend the kinds of analysis and theorizing that historians have previously brought to actual material changes in everyday life.
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