Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor Examines Indian Independence

February 24, 2009

Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor Examines Role of Visual Arts During Quest for Indian Independence, March 27 at Syracuse University

Friday, February 20, 2009

Visual depiction of the quest for Indian independence is the subject of a lecture by international film scholar Priya Jaikumar. Her presentation, “Insurgent and Location Shots: Destruction and the Visual Productions of Place with the Indian Rebellion of 1857,” will be Friday, March 27, at 3 p.m. in the Killian Room (Room 500) in Syracuse University’s Hall of Languages. The event is presented by the Visual Arts and Cultures Cluster of the Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor, an interdisciplinary collaboration between SU, Cornell University and the University of Rochester, sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the SU pay lots. For more information, call SU’s Humanities Center at 315-443-7192.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857, which began as a mutiny by Indian soldiers of Great Britain’s East India Co. and led to other revolts throughout British-occupied India, is generally regarded as a watershed moment in Indian history. Also, the rebellion coincides with the rise of international photography and film, shot on location. The intertwining film histories of a declining empire (Great Britain) and a nascent nation (India) are at the heart of an acclaimed book by Jaikumar, Cinema at the End of Empire: A Politics of Transition in Britain and India (Duke University Press, 2006), as well as her lecture at SU.

“My discussion will be an effort to theorize film’s cosmopolitanism, which paralleled colonialism’s violent onslaughts upon a unified sense of space,” says Jaikumar, associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. “The paradox is of a splintering sense of time and place coincident with the intimacy and newly shared visual familiarity of a location.” The former SU English professor is widely regarded for her scholarship in cultural regulation, political change and feminism in film.

During her lecture, Jaikumar will single out the northern Indian city of Lucknow, whose colonial social and spatial relations were violently reordered by the anti-British revolts of 1857. “Episodes of anti-state insurgency are marked by an obsession with visual mappings,” adds Jaikumar, drawing comparisons to modern-day Tikrit and Fallujah in Iraq. “I will talk about the proliferating international public for photography and film shot, which accommodated variable investments in the land scarred by insurgent and official violence, alongside a dominant visual prose of counter-insurgency.”

The Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of three regional AAU (Association of American Universities) institutions with vigorous humanistic scholarly traditions: SU, Cornell University and the University of Rochester. The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor is generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through a four-year, $1 million award designed to raise public engagement with and visibility of the humanities throughout Central New York and to enhance the productivity of its key scholars, students, and community members. More information is available at

The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor is administered by SU’s Humanities Center. The Humanities Center promotes a broad, collaborative, and interdisciplinary notion of the humanities, comprising traditional disciplines and new interdisciplinary inquiry. In promoting scholarly excellence and the visibility of the humanities, the Humanities Center supports three models of inquiry: traditional, transdisciplinary and publicly engaged research (or scholarship in action) with communities to create capacity and to solve increasingly complex human problems.

Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, is founding director of the Humanities Center and co-director of the Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor.