University of Cambridge > > Visual Constructions of South Asia (2015-16) > 'Savages’ in Sketchbooks: Tribal Portraits of Colonial India

'Savages’ in Sketchbooks: Tribal Portraits of Colonial India

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes.

This talk examines the relationship between the restive tribal communities and the British administrators, mediated through drawings, engravings and photographs. It is generally believed that British imperialism of the early nineteenth century found its vindication through the civilizing values of Utilitarianism, of which reform of the ‘savage’ became a key imperative. Here are examined the complex ways in which bureaucrats, soldiers and surveyors portrayed the communities living in the forested frontiers of the Empire. It is also suggested that the conventional approaches involving power and dominance may not be sufficient to understand the colonial-indigene dynamic and propose alternate paradigms of engagement. The Mughal miniatures of the Bhils as well as the Bengal School gouaches of the Santals are found to be useful in building these paradigms.

This talk is part of the Visual Constructions of South Asia (2015-16) series.

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