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The Aesthetics and Politics of Colonial Collecting: India at World Fairs

by Carol A Breckenridge
by

Gabriela Lanza

on 15 October 2012

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Transcript of The Aesthetics and Politics of Colonial Collecting: India at World Fairs

by Carol A. Breckenridge The Aesthetics and Politics of Colonial Collecting:
India at World Fairs Big Ideas In essence, the world fairs "yoke[d] cultural material with aesthetics, politics, and pragmatics." These exhibitions
reduced cultures
to their objects World
Fairs Cultural
Regimes Aesthetics Politics "Spectacle of
the Oracular" Exhibitions provided new ways of viewing the world and of creating social distinction Objects do not provide their
own narrative = "circle" Increase in the
reproductive process
and mechanical
representation Objects became worthy of admiration which led to The growing spectacle of
commodity The goal of these exhibitions became to convey distinct aesthetic expression or national taste all of this led to a privileging
of the visual experience Through exhibition and museums, this sense of control was repatriated to the metropolis Objects came to be in service of commerce and the modern nation
state There were two different economies at play the gift economy, which was a result of politics the market economy, which denuded social relations Collections: 1. Ordered India's past 2. Allowed for a simplification of the culture. The collected object stands for the collection, and the collection stands for India 4. Contained and bounded India 3. Allowed colonists to make sense of their "chaotic" experiences Breckenridge's "Imagined Ecumene"
vs. Anderson's "Imagined Communities" Anderson talks
about print media creating imagined communities that underlie the nation-state. Breckenridge says that discursive space was global, but nurtured nation-states that were culturally highly specific, leading to a concept of the cultural "other". Benjamin's "The Work of
Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility" "Even the most perfect
reproduction of a work of art is lacking
in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be."
1. How did these collections and exhibitions lead to the "growing spectacle of commodity and what effect did this have on the colonial regime in India? 2. How does Breckenridge's argument fit in with theories of nationalism and nation-building? 3. How might this privileging of the visual experience and emphasis on national taste have had effects on our modern society?
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