To curate in the field: archaeological privatization and the aesthetic ‘legislation’ of antiquity in India


This paper strives to pluralize notions of taste in relation to the canonized
category of the Hindu or Indian temple. I put ‘Hindu’ in italics because I include
Jain temples in my discussion and I put ‘Indian’ in italics because the architecture
I discuss predates India as a nation-state and in the twenty-first century includes
buildings in South and Southeast Asia as well as the Diaspora. Through a
discussion of the Archaeological Preservation Aesthetic (APA) and multiple
variants of the Ritual Renovation Aesthetics (RRA), new ways of looking
emerge. This paper seeks to reconcile the hegemonic assumptions about art
historical taste and the temple within an increasingly global environment. The
main argument is predicated on temple users’ practice as a form of curatorial
practice in the field and provides a deep description of the multiplication of
aesthetics due to increasing privatization of temple administration in India. The
tenth-century cluster of temples from the Medapata region (Southern Rajasthan)
serves as case study for a widespread phenomenon of putting ancient temples
‘back’ into worship during the second half of the twentieth and the beginning of
the twenty-first century.


Authors: Deborah L. Stein
Type: journal article
Publication: Contemporary South Asia (March 2011), vol. 19 no. 1, p. 25-47

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