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Art historian Vidya Dehejia has had an expansive scholarly career as a teacher, a curator, a filmmaker, and a writer of academic texts and serious books for non-specialists. India: A Story through 100 Objects is a history of India narrated through a range of objects that spans across ancient and contemporary India. The book mirrors both her scholarly interests as well as the changing field of the humanities. This conversation between Dehejia and Annapurna Garimella follows the trail of some of these objects while also discussing what such a way of writing India’s story contributes to the way we can think about its history.
Dr. Vidya Dehejia is currently the Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian Art at Columbia University, New York. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses and guides doctoral students on South Asian art from the early Buddhist period to modern and contemporary art.
Over the past 45 years, she has combined research with teaching and exhibition-related activities around the world. She has done extensive field work in South Asia, with visits to sites of importance in Southeast Asia, gaining familiarity with the art of the region. She has explored at length the theoretical basis for the portrayal of visual narratives in the context of India’s sculpture and painting and examined issues of gender and colonialism.
Over the years, her work has ranged from Buddhist art of the centuries BC to the esoteric temples of North India, and from the sacred bronzes of South India to art under the British Raj. Dr. Vidya Dehejia also has Management and curatorial experience at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries providing a broad mandate to convey the excitement of the field of South Asian art to non-specialist audiences.
Dr. Annapurna Garimella is a designer and an art historian. Her research focuses on late medieval Indic architecture and the history and practices of vernacular visual and built cultures in India after Independence. Garimella is the Managing Trustee of Art, Resources and Teaching Trust, a not-for-profit organization, which a research library dedicated to art, architecture, design and craft histories, conducts independent research projects and does teaching and advisement for college and university students and the general public.
She also heads Jackfruit Research and Design, an organization with a specialized portfolio of design, research and curation. Jackfruit’s recent curatorial projects include Vernacular, in the Contemporary (Devi Art Foundation, New Delhi 2010-11) and Mutable: Ceramic and Clay Art in India Since 1947 (Piramal Museum of Art, 2017) and Barefoot School of Craft in Goa (Serendipity Arts Festival, 2017-18).
Her newest book is a co-edited Marg volume titled The Contemporary Hindu Temple: Fragments for a History (2019) and her upcoming edited volume is titled The Long Arc of South Asian Art: A Reader in Honor of Vidya Dehejia (New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2021). Digesting the Past: The Discourse of Sacralized Architectural Renovation in Southern India (14th-17th Centuries) is her book manuscript under preparation.