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Distributed for Reaktion Books

"Photos of the Gods"

The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India

Distributed for Reaktion Books

"Photos of the Gods"

The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India

Mass-produced images have long been produced and used in India by religious and nationalist movements – the emergence of Indian-run chromolithograph presses in the late 1870s initiated a vast outpouring that have come to dominate many of India’s public and domestic spaces.

Drawing on years of archival research, interviews with artists and publishers, and the ethnographic study of their rural consumers, Christopher Pinney traces the intimate connections between the production and consumption of these images and the struggle against colonial rule. The detailed output of individual presses and artists is set against the intensification of the nationalist struggle, the constraints imposed by colonial state censorship, and fifty years of Indian independence. The reader is introduced to artists who trained within colonial art schools, others whose skills reflect their membership of traditional painting castes, and yet others who are self-taught former sign painters.

Photos of the Gods is the first comprehensive history of India’s popular visual culture. Combining anthropology, political and cultural history, and the study of aesthetic systems, and using many intriguing and unfamiliar images, the book shows that the current predicament of India cannot be understood without taking into account this complex, fascinating, and until now virtually unseen, visual history.

Distribution by the University of Chicago Press only to customers in the USA and Canada. Customers elsewhere should visit the UK website of Reaktion Books.

239 pages | 50 color plates, 87 halftones | 7-1/2 x 9-3/4

Art: Art--General Studies

Culture Studies

Folklore and Mythology

History: Asian History

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"Pinney’s book is a fascinating read, with a narrative that is intersperesed with its own ’xeno-real’ moments... Photos of the Gods is a book that must not be ignored."

Vibhuti Sachdev | Art History

"An exceptional monograph. . . .Pinney radically alters existing understandings of popular culture and neo-traditional art in South Asia that often suppress their political efficacy. Combining sustained anthropological research, witnessed in the wide range of imagery and interviews cited, and insightful historical reflection . . . Pinney will inspire a generation of visual historians. . . . The text deals with these complex ideas with remarkable coherence and clarity. Photos of the Gods will be come to be recognized as one of the seminal text defining subaltern visuality. Inventive and challenging, in terms of methodology and ambition, it deserves to be read by all students and political transformation in South Asia and beyond."

Daniel J. Rycroft | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Possibility of a Visual History
1. Indian Images Under the Shadow of Colonialism
2. Staging Hinduism: Lithographs and Popular Theatre in Calcutta, 1870-1885
3. Peshwas, Parrots and Bombs: Lithographs and Politics in Western India, 1870-1885
4. Lithographs and the Camera in Bombay and Delhi, 1890-1925
5. Pastoral Realism: The Nathdvara Devotional Aesthetic, 1925-1935
6. The Politics of Popular Images: From Cow Protection to M. K. Gandhi, 1890-1950
7. Half-Seen in Advance: Picture Production in Independent India, 1950-2000
8. What Pictures Want Now: Rural Consumers of Images, 1980-2000
Epilogue: The Recursive Archive
Select Bibliography
A Note on Transliteration
List of Illustrations

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