Accepted Paper:

Partition, nationhood and metamorphoses of the 'authentic': The art of ancient Bengal in the contemporary global art-market  
Archishman Sarker (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is about the ethno-epistemic effects of the Partition of the Bengal region which continues to this day; and which shapes the way in which we write cultural history and perceive 'authenticity' in artefacts from Bengal in the global art market today.

Paper long abstract:

The art from the Bengal deltaic region in the Indian subcontinent is the national heritage of both India and Bangladesh. The Partition of 1947 and what followed it created conditions in which any kind of a posteriori analysis of cultural historiography gets determined by prevalent political power struggles, which also in-turn refracts and even radically transforms ideas of empirical and cultural 'authenticity'. In art and the art-market, this gets further exemplified. In 1993, The Museum of Indian Art in Berlin was at the centre of a controversy about a fake bronze from Bengal called 'Śiva's marriage'. The debate was a tension between prevalent epistemic traditions based on textuality and iconographical analyses; however, it underscored a myriad of problems as regards to constant metamorphoses of our comprehending the 'authentic'; which is but a culmination of cultural gap, changing patronages and upheavals following Partition and Bangladesh's independence in 1971. In recent times, with technology challenging hegemony of certain ideas and facilitating information flow; the turf itself having transformed seventy years after Partition, these phenomena get more problematized and diversified, making it more interesting to study such power-relations and the corresponding impacts on the quest for 'authenticity' in history and culture of a region. Knowledge, thus posited, is then a reflection of authority, from the 'regional' to the 'national' and vice-versa. Any case-study of the cultural historiography of the Bengal region is unique as a microcosm of the impact of the Partition of the Indian subcontinent on geo-culture and historiography in South Asia.

Panel P016
Art, Authenticity and Authority: Traversing the Power Struggles