Porosity of Culture, Relationship of Art to Politics
Malavika Karlekar
INSURGENCY AND THE ARTIST: THE ART OF THE FREEDOM STRUGGLE IN INDIA by Vinay Lal Lustre Press/Roli Books, New Delhi, 2022, 260 pp., 2495.00
June 2023, volume 47, No 6

In this age of the image, given that the use of the visual in academia has not been the norm, it is interesting to know how established scholars came to appreciate that there is now space for images. Well-known historian Vinay Lal’s thirty-year teaching experience in the US led him to believe that ‘the printed text is but a foreign object to most students, even those lodged in elite and purportedly world-class universities … let us just say that students respond much better to the visual than they do to the written word’ (p. 9).  Thus, Insurgency and the ArtistThe Art of the Freedom Struggle in India melds Lal’s years of scholarship with insights from appropriate images—perhaps the first of his works to do so. His handling of visuals is somewhat different from that of art historians, archivists or those who believe that images have stories embedded in them. For them, the image is preeminent. For Lal, the narrative remains primary, histories to be told—and visuals, illustrations.  Thus, not too many images in the book merit lengthy readings or descriptions.

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