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The Goddess and the Nation Mapping Mother India

by Sumathi Ramaswamy

The Goddess and the Nation Mapping Mother India Synopsis

Making the case for a new kind of visual history, The Goddess and the Nation charts the pictorial life and career of Bharat Mata, Mother India, the Indian nation imagined as mother/goddess, embodiment of national territory, and unifying symbol for the country's diverse communities. Soon after Mother India's emergence in the late nineteenth century, artists, both famous and amateur, began to picture her in various media, incorporating the map of India into her visual persona. The images they produced enabled patriotic men and women in a heterogeneous population to collectively visualize India, affectively identify with it, and even become willing to surrender their lives for it. Filled with illustrations, including 100 in color, The Goddess and the Nation draws on visual studies, gender studies, and the history of cartography to offer a rigorous analysis of Mother India's appearance in painting, print, poster art, and pictures from the late nineteenth century to the present.By exploring the mutual entanglement of the scientifically mapped image of India and a (Hindu) mother/goddess, Sumathi Ramaswamy reveals Mother India as a figure who relies on the British colonial mapped image of her dominion to distinguish her from the other goddesses of India, and to guarantee her novel status as embodiment, sign, and symbol of national territory. Providing an exemplary critique of ideologies of gender and the science of cartography, Ramaswamy demonstrates that images do not merely reflect history; they actively make it. In The Goddess and the Nation, she teaches us about pictorial ways of learning the form of the nation, of how to live with it-and ultimately to die for it.

The Goddess and the Nation Mapping Mother India Press Reviews

This is an engrossing, meticulously researched, beautifully presented book, whose scholarly reach transcends South Asian historiography to embrace cartography, feminist studies, nationalist and colonial studies, and politico-religious iconography. The Goddess and the Nation contributes a fresh perspective to discussions of imagined political and religious communities, to feminist discourse on gendered identities, to the study of Indian `bazaar' images, to religious studies, and to visual studies. -- Zo Newell * Journal of Asian Studies * Sumathi Ramaswamy skillfully draws on visual studies, gender studies and the history of cartography to demonstrate that images do not merely reflect history; they actively make it. -- Vallari Gupte * India West * Ramaswamy provides a lively pictorial history of Bharat Mata (Mother India), that ubiquitous figure of Indian nationalist culture. Ramaswamy has compiled a rich archive of over 150 imagistic representations of Bharat Mata that spans the late 19th century to the present. -- Priya Shah, American Anthropologist [Sumptuously illustrated. . . . This fascinating case study successfully synthesizes two important themes in the critical history of Indian nationalism: the relationship between religious and secular conceptions of power, and the appropriation of elite cartographical projects by popular groups. Ramaswamy shows that images are not mere re?ections of history but its active agents. -- Maria Misra, American Historical Review The Goddess And The Nation is a well-documented pictorial historiography of the paradoxical emergence of the Mother Goddess, Bharat Mata, concurrently with the modern Indian nation state - it is a treasure-trove of images and arguments that will inspire artists and political commentators alike. -- Anjali D'Souza * Art India * The Goddess and the Nation is a masterpiece - panoramic and yet deep in content. . . . Going far beyond delivering only a formalistic catalogue of this icon, Ramaswamy . . . presents challenging and thought-provoking discussions for scholars and students within and outside the realm of South Asia Studies. -- Christiane Brosius, Social Anthropology This deft and lively history of visual patriotism, evoked through both words and images, combines the pleasures of looking with the rigor of serious analysis. Sumathi Ramaswamy writes lucidly and wears her considerable erudition lightly, but there is no mistaking the striking ambition of her project. The book does nothing less than demonstrate by example the novel interpretive possibilities that only a pictorial history of nationalism based on a recognition of the constitutive impact of images can bring. The great success of this endeavor is that it makes us see the familiar pictorial juxtaposition of the female figure of Mother India with the territorial map of the country again, as if for the first time: such, indeed, is the revisionary contribution of this insightful study. The scholarship on the ubiquitous nationalist discourse of Mother India, or, indeed, on the impact of the modern cartographic project in India, will never again be the same. -Mrinalini Sinha, author of Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire Filled with important and arresting observations, The Goddess and the Nation is a magnificent example of the possibilities of visual history. Guaranteed to have a substantial impact in South Asian cultural history, it also ought to be seen as a milestone for all historiography. Sumathi Ramaswamy situates a massively informed cultural history of India from the late nineteenth century onward in relation to broader literatures and debates on the history of cartography, iconographies of nationhood and motherhood, and a feminist dynamics of gendered identifications. -Christopher Pinney, author of Photos of the Gods : The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India [Sumptuously illustrated. . . . This fascinating case study successfully synthesizes two important themes in the critical history of Indian nationalism: the relationship between religious and secular conceptions of power, and the appropriation of elite cartographical projects by popular groups. Ramaswamy shows that images are not mere reflections of history but its active agents. - Maria Misra, American Historical Review Ramaswamy provides a lively pictorial history of Bharat Mata (Mother India), that ubiquitous figure of Indian nationalist culture. Ramaswamy has compiled a rich archive of over 150 imagistic representations of Bharat Mata that spans the late 19th century to the present. - Priya Shah, American Anthropologist This is an engrossing, meticulously researched, beautifully presented book, whose scholarly reach transcends South Asian historiography to embrace cartography, feminist studies, nationalist and colonial studies, and politico-religious iconography. The Goddess and the Nation contributes a fresh perspective to discussions of imagined political and religious communities, to feminist discourse on gendered identities, to the study of Indian `bazaar' images, to religious studies, and to visual studies. - Zo Newell, Journal of Asian Studies The Goddess and the Nation is a masterpiece - panoramic and yet deep in content. . . . Going far beyond delivering only a formalistic catalogue of this icon, Ramaswamy . . . presents challenging and thought-provoking discussions for scholars and students within and outside the realm of South Asia Studies. - Christiane Brosius, Social Anthropology Sumathi Ramaswamy skillfully draws on visual studies, gender studies and the history of cartography to demonstrate that images do not merely reflect history; they actively make it. - Vallari Gupte, India West The Goddess And The Nation is a well-documented pictorial historiography of the paradoxical emergence of the Mother Goddess, Bharat Mata, concurrently with the modern Indian nation state - it is a treasure-trove of images and arguments that will inspire artists and political commentators alike. - Anjali D'Souza, Art India

Book Information

ISBN: 9780822345923
Publication date: 9th April 2010
Author: Sumathi Ramaswamy
Publisher: Duke University Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 400 pages
Categories:

About Sumathi Ramaswamy

Sumathi Ramaswamy is Professor of History at Duke University. She is the author of Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories and Passions of the Tongue: Language Devotion in Tamil India and the editor of Beyond Appearances? Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India.

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