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Queens Mansion, 3rd Floor, G. Talwatkar Marg, Fort, Mumbai - 400001. India.
E-mail: to.jnanapravaha@gmail.com, info@jp-india.org
Tel      : +91-22-2207 2974 / 2207 2975
Landmark: We are next to Cathedral Middle School, in the lane opposite J.B.Petit School.



Who is afraid of Mimesis? Contesting the Common Sense of Indian Aesthetics through the Theory of ‘Mimesis’ or Anukaraņa Vâda

6 - 7 Dec '17 6.30 - 8.30 pm

Image : A detail from Mahajana Jataka, Cave 1, Ajanta Frescoes, Maharashtra, circa 5th century CE, Photo credit: ACSAA.

The study of Indian aesthetics has long suffered from the twin burden of colonial and nationalist definitions of aesthetics, which has disallowed engagement with “mimesis” or anukŗti. The talk consists of 3 sections. The first two outline Anukarana-vada preserved in Abhinavabharati (10th century C.E.) through critical historiography and the problematic of translation while the last attempts to revisit the debates surrounding this theory in the Abhinavabharati through the lens of comparative aesthetics and contemporary theory.

December 6 Session 1
Introduction to Indian Aesthetics through History and Key Terms
This talk lays down the field of Indian aesthetics broadly by tracing its emergence since the Vedic period through the classical period until 10th century CE. It also discusses classical Indian aesthetics through its key terms like anukŗti and rasa, underlining the extent to which it derives from Sanskrit poetics (alamkāra, dhvani, riti, etc,) and dramaturgy (aucitya, etc.).

December 6 Session 2
Introduction to Indian Aesthetics through imagery and a detour to the contemporary
After familiarizing the audience with a broad history and key concepts of Indian aesthetics, the talk relates them with visual arts roughly coeval to this classical period with a stress on the Buddhist frescoes at Ajanta. Touching upon the vexed issue of the śāstra and prayoga (theory-practice) relationship, complicated by the issues of caste and gender, it will make a detour to contemporary art to show how artists like N. Pushpamala revisit classical Indian aesthetics to open up a vibrant dialogue between the past and the present.

December 7 Session 1
The Theory of Anukŗti or Anukŗtivāda in the Abhinavabhāratī
The study of Indian aesthetics has long suffered from the twin burden of colonial and nationalist definitions of aesthetics, steeped in a binary opposition between the West and India. This double legacy has led to a cultural myopia concerning a vibrant discourse around “mimesis” or anukŗti preserved in Abhinavabhāratī. Anukŗti, - a term cognate to mimesis- similar but not quite the same, constituted one of the central concerns of aesthetics and poetics from the time of the Nāțyaśāstra, the ur text on dramaturgy by Bharata of around the first century CE, until 11th century CE when Abhinavagupta formulated a resounding demolition of this theory or Anukaraņa-vāda in his commentary on the same text. My talk will focus on this overlooked discourse by staging a conversation between the purvapakşa or supporters and the uttarapakşa or critics of Anukaraņa-vāda.

December 7 Session 2
Rethinking Comparative Aesthetics in Uneven Globalizing Times
The concluding talk proposes to rethink the methodology of comparative aesthetics and reflect on the shifts in this field since its early inception in newly postcolonial India in the mid 20th century. Aesthetics, once overshadowed by the cultural studies turn, has once again begun to enter the centre stage of many disciplines, being understood as deeply imbricated with politics. While comparativism seems to be an inescapable condition of our globalizing world, it is equally imperative not to valorize it as a given method but question the method of comparison, given the asymmetries that shape the field.


Parul Dave Mukherji

Parul Dave-Mukherji [Editor] is professor and former Dean at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. She holds a PhD from Oxford University. Her Fellowships include: Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, USA; South Asia Institute, Heidelberg, Germany; British Academy Award, Goldsmiths’ College, London. Her recent publications include “Whither Art History in a Globalizing World”, The Art Bulletin, June, vol. XCVI, Number 2, the College Art Association Quarterly, CAA, 2014; InFlux- Contemporary Art in Asia, (co-edited) New Delhi, Sage, 2013; ASA volume Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalizing World, co-edited with Ramindar Kaur, London: Bloomsbury, 2014.


Registration Fees: Rs. 1000/-



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Queens Mansion, 3rd Floor, G. Talwatkar Marg,
Fort, Mumbai - 400001. India.
Tel: +91-22-2207 2974 / 2207 2975.
Fax: +91-22-2207 2976.
Email: to.jnanapravaha@gmail.com,

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