VP Dutt Memorial Lecture | The Art of Convergent Comparisons: India and China in Modern Times

24 Apr 2019

Prof. Prasenjit Duara

Venue: Lecture Room II, IIC Annexe
Time: 6:30 PM




Convergent comparisons refer to the ways in which circulatory global forces are institutionalized in different societies.  Historical forces have circulated - transmuting as they circulate - since the rise of empires in Eurasia; but the pace of circulation has accelerated since the mid-19th century.  What I call the zone of convergence is the impact of circulatory forces that demand a response; the various regional and national responses, in turn, form the basis of convergent comparison.

The lecture seeks to develop the methodology by comparing the role of visual culture in China and India. I will argue that non-discursive modes of adopting ‘foreign’ processes are crucial to their acceptance, particularly since extra-national penetrations in the emergent national body need to take place below the discursive radar. They include visual, aural, olfactory and, in general, sensorial modes of vernacularization of circulatory processes. When we adopt this perspective, we begin to see the parallels among developments and forms which have until recently remained the ‘ground’ in relation to the ‘figure’ of unique developments within the nation or society. Recognizing this gestalt produces significant transformation of our view of history - how its ownership can or cannot be claimed - and the problem of national sovereignty.

About the Speaker

Prof. Prasenjit Duara is the Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies, Duke University, Durham, USA.


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