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Bodies at play in the field of the nation : M.F. Husain and the trace of modernity Wyma, Kathleen Lynne

Abstract

In the last four years India's most widely recognized artist, M. F. Husain has been singled out on two separate occasions by the forces of Hindutva. The ire of the Hindu right was raised over Husain's nude depictions of Hindu goddesses, which were the claimed catalyst for both the destruction of the venerated artist's work and the laying of criminal charges against him. This thesis looks to these two events and offers up an inventory of traces, which interlace through the attacks on Husain's work and its correlative relationship to the articulation of a visual and political modern in India. The Husain controversy must be situated within the traffic of images that form a visual vernacular cutting across the linguistic, regional and religious differences in India. As the pages of my narrative unfold, I weave through various examples of how the palimpsest of India's modernity has functioned within the popular imagination so that I may suggest that the Hindutva movement has recuperated the trace of former images, the memory of their importance, and the significance of their cultural and political resonance.

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