The many lives of nuclear monuments in India

Kaur, Raminder (2013) The many lives of nuclear monuments in India. South Asian Studies, 29 (1). pp. 131-146. ISSN 0266-6030

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In this article, I consider to what extent, and in which senses, nuclear constructions assume the role of a monument, whether in terms of relatively concrete structures or as ephemeral reproductions in public culture. The overbearing notion of the monument applies to edifices that have lost their functionality, as with ancient monuments, or serve as mnemonics to notable person(s), event(s), or occasion(s), as with war memorials. They then become pointers to a cascade of meanings displaced through time and/or space. Whilst they are monuments in and of themselves – as conjured up by the notion of the monumental, a phenomenal sight to behold, as part of the picturesque aesthetic – they are also monuments to something, transferences that are not necessarily conveyed through visual perceptions but also historical, social, and political accretions that impinge on the experience of encountering and interpreting them. The theme addressed here is how structures that are overdetermined by their functional contemporaneity such as dams, nuclear reactors, and other industrial structures can be also seen as monuments in this dual sense. The argument recalls early twentieth-century discourses associated with artistic constructions applied to industry, as with the works of Russian artists such as Aleksandr Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova, where the function of art took precedence over the aesthetic aspects of objects, the latter castigated as a bourgeois ideology, rarefied and removed from the circuits of utility as if they were sacred objects. Here, I attempt to traverse shifting territories: one territory that tries to move away from the aestheticised and historicised realms of monumentality that developed in South Asia under the influence of colonial epistemologies; another that tries to unpack the functional overdetemination of modernist monuments, greatly influenced by modernist aesthetics that developed in the post-independence period as a new nation strived to throw off the carcass of colonial historicisation. In so doing, I outline three main registers of nuclear monuments that have developed in postcolonial India: ‘nuclear realist’, ‘anti-realist’, and ‘post-liberal kitsch’.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Previously From 'temples of modernity' to 'post-liberal kitsch': the many lives of nuclear monuments in India.
Keywords: nuclear monuments, modernity, realism, ‘anti-realism’, kitsch
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
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Depositing User: Jayne Paulin
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2013 09:23
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2016 15:50
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