BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Art in South Asia

Course unit fact file
Unit code AHCP20802
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What do histories of colonial subjection and resistance tell us about ongoing struggles for and against modernisation? This seminar-based course examines how artists make sense of the complex phenomenon of colonialism with a focus on South Asia in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It explores how art has become a tool for political expediency, reflection, and intense scrutiny. We look at how artists contribute to, disrupt, or subvert political discourses and practices, and place their contributions in social, environmental, and feminist contexts. From the 1980s a period of economic and societal liberalisation ensued, when India opened to the world after experiences of Third World utopianism. This was a time of self-criticism:  artists felt that nationalism had fundamentally constrained their practice. Moreover, they confronted new threats posed by the surge of corporate monopolies, the growth of the militant far-right, and challenges to secularism posed by fundamentalism. The tensions between the modern powerhouse economy, manual forms of labour and environmental exploitation became focal points of analysis, with artists engaging critically with their predecessors. 

Introduction: Art in South Asia 

Made in India: Art and swadeshi 

Art after Swadeshi

Famine documents

Art in the wake of Partition 

Century City 

Going rural 

Art in Baroda

Figurative, political, anti-colonial, Baroda continued

Women Makers




The course enables students to comprehend the development of art practice in relation to questions of agency, intervention and critique in the context of the challenges posed by modernisation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Students will learn how to make sense of definitions of the ‘political’ in art by evaluating and comparing theories whilst being exposed to a variety of forms of assessment.


Teaching and learning methods


Directed reading

Small and focused group discussion of texts and works

Oral presentation on a subject of choice

Reading and slide presentation uploaded to Blackboard 

Knowledge and understanding

On completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how artists deploy a variety of ‘political’ art forms from 1915 1960s up until the present to confront the challenges posed by globalisation.
  • Evaluate and assess the significance of artistic contributions in relation to the theme of globalisation.
  • Show critical awareness of historical and art historical literature, both past and present.
  • Produce a satisfactory account describing how artists negotiate the challenges posed by globalisation in relation to wider debates.
  • Demonstrate ability to work both independently and collaboratively on a set topic

Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate knowledge of a particular area in the history of art.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of works of art in their historical context.
  • Engage in detailed and critical discussion of art historical and methodological issues at a satisfactory level.
  • Display independent and critical understanding of the material.
  • Use and exploit research resources in the field.
  • Articulate arguments both verbally and in writing.
  • Complete an original academic research project under supervision.
  • Demonstrate that they have developed the ability to work under pressure and are able to articulate their knowledge effectively under time constraints.

Practical skills

  • Conduct independent research in libraries and online.
  • Devise and execute a structured research and writing plan.
  • Work collaboratively and develop willingness to share, debate and exchange knowledge with colleagues.
  • Assess and integrate peer critical feedback on their own work.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Understand, assess and synthesise key arguments from a variety of research sources.
  • Become an original and independent-minded researcher and writer.
  • Become an indispensable team-player able to contribute, lead and moderate critical discussions in class.
  • Produce a clear and cogent written exposition of a given topic.
  • Manage time efficiently and deliver written and oral work to set deadlines.
  • Deploy IT resources for research and communication purposes.

Employability skills

This course prepares students to continue with graduate and postgraduate study and equips them with sufficient transferable skills to enter a wide range of professional employment. On completion of this course students will be equipped with a range of transferable skills in research, synthesis of key arguments, independent thinking, time management, written and oral delivery, and general IT literacy.

Assessment methods

Assessment Task Formative or Summative Length Weighting within unit (if relevant) 
Plan and indicative bibliography for Essay 1Formative500 words0%
Essay 1Summative150040%
Oral presentationSummative100020%


Feedback methods

Oral and Written feedback on plan and indicative bibliography for Essay 1

Oral feedback on presentation

Written feedback on essay

Supplementary one-to-one feedback by appointment or during office hours

Recommended reading

Dadi, Iftikhar. Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. 197-216.

Habermas, Jürgen.  Excerpts on Communicative Ethics, from The inclusion of the Other. Studies in Political Theory. Jürgen Habermas. MIT Press, 1998, parts VIII and IX of Chapter 1 only, reproduced here; Link

Kapur, Geeta. 2012. “Secular Artist, Citizen Artist.” in Jessica Moss and Ram Rahman, eds., The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989, (THE SMART MUSEUM OF ART at the University of Chicago, 2013). 

Mufti, Aamir, “Towards a Lyric History of India,” boundary 2 31:2, 2004.

Pinney, Christopher. 2014. “Gandhi, Camera, Action! India’s ‘August Spring.’” In The Political Aesthetics of Global Protest: The Arab Spring and Beyond, edited by Martin Webb, Pnina Werbner, and Martin Webb, 177–92. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Link

Rancière, Jacques. 2009. “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics.” In Communities of Sense, 31–50. Durham: Duke University Press. Link

Terracciano, Emilia. Art and Emergency: Modernism in twentieth-century India. London and New York: IB Tauris, 2018. 1-11.

Terracciano, Emilia. “Disappearing Worlds:” The Caravan, February 2014. 106-113. Link


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emilia Terracciano Unit coordinator

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