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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Colonial Technologies of Vision: Four acts of seeing’, 7th April, 2015.

‘Colonial Technologies of Vision: Four acts of seeing’


Dr. Niharika Dinkar,
Boise State University,


The act of unveiling was a common trope to represent the discovery of Oriental lands in the colonial period, and it coincided with the privileging of vision in making knowledge claims in modernity. In this paper the speaker looks at four scenes of unveiling the Indian landscape, which amount to dramatizations of the act of seeing, that accordingly allow us to investigate relationships between seeing and knowing. Such acts mirror the trope of discovery which guided European explorations un-covering new lands but they also set the terms in which the colonial vision machine would engage with India. Expressions like ‘unveiling the Eastern bride’ conveyed the gendered nature of such acts of seeing, but the rhetoric of the ‘civilizing mission’ also employed the lifting of the veil to usher the native subject into a sphere of enlightened rationality. As technologies for illuminating a darkened land, these tropes performed an epistemological function corresponding to a visual regime that sought to unveil darkened lands as a way making knowable.


Dr. Niharika Dinkar teaches Art History at Boise State University. She studied at the National Museum in New Delhi before receiving her PhD from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is currently working on a book length manuscript titled ‘Colonial Shadows: Vision and Space in Modern Indian Art’.

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