Organized Panel Session
The material culture and aesthetics of eighteenth and nineteenth century Kerala were not only a synthesis of the transcultural practices of previous centuries in which Keralan art was infused with Asian and European elements by way of interactions with Deccani, Tamil, Chinese, Portuguese, and Dutch peoples, but also through the many modes of political and cultural interactions brought on by British colonialism. Material culture, especially, luxury goods such as decorative art objects played the role of artistic, cultural, and political interlocutors. In this paper, I demonstrate the many ways in which Kerala’s decorative arts performed agentive roles in the practice of kingship, as mediators in Indian-European diplomatic encounters, and as agents and products of ecological imperialism. In doing so, this paper seeks to consider decorative arts as agentive beings in productive thing-human relationships especially in the liminal spaces of littoral South Asia, and in particular, to consider their transculturality as a performative tool within cultural and political practices of colonial India.
(Note: this paper is part of my dissertation project.)