Symposium Recap: The Progressive Genealogy

Video and highlights from the event

On October 25, 2018, Asia Society and Columbia University hosted the symposium The Progressive Genealogy: Art and Culture in Modern India. Meant to accompany the exhibition The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, the symposium provided a broader scope beginning with a discussion of the artists in the exhibition, and explored the idea of the "progressive" in visual culture, science, and industry of early independent India. What was the progressive, modern nation's relationship with tradition? Are "modern" and "progressive" interchangeable terms? Where does "secularism" stand in the exchange between the two? The symposium also traced the group's continuing relevance within the socio-political landscape of India today.

An interdisciplinary collaboration between Asia Society and Columbia University, the event included artists, curators, historians, sociologists, and cultural theorists. Find the complete videos of each panel below, along with paper titles and agenda. 

Download the agenda

Panel I: The Progressive Artists' Group: Creating Modern India

This panel explores the idea of the "progressive" Indian nation by concentrating on the artists included in Asia Society's exhibition. Each panelist will debate the ideological implications of the Group's artistic output at the dawn of the Nehruvian state.

Sonal Khullar, Associate Professor, Art History, University of Washington, Seattle | The Progressive Effect: Other Histories of Modernism in India
Karin Zitzewitz, Interim Chair and Associate Professor, South Asian Art, Michigan State University, East Lansing | Secularity, Secularism, Secularization: Thinking Through the Progressive Artists Group
Zehra Jumabhoy, Associate Lecturer, Courtauld Institute of Art, London | A Progressive Indian Secularism?: Art & the Nation in the work of Bombay's PAG
Moderated by Boon Hui Tan, Vice President of Global Arts & Cultural Programs and Director of Asia Society Museum, New York

Panel II: Narratives of the Indian Modern

Looking beyond art history, this panel approaches the question of the modern, modernity, and ideas of "a modern Indian nation" from the perspectives of science, film, and literature.

Sonali Perera, Associate Professor, English, Hunter College, New York | Beyond Conversations in Bloomsbury: Mulk Raj Anand and the Legacy of the All-India Progressive Writers Association
Debashree Mukherjee, Assistant Professor, Modern South Asian Studies, Columbia University, New York | Progressive Media and the Bombay Left: An Untimely Topos
Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Associate Professor, Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York | A State of Irritation: The State, Medical Experts and the Making of the Social/National Body in India (1940-50s)
Moderated by Gauri Viswanathan, Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities and Director of the South Asia Institute, Columbia University, New York

Panel III: The Legacy of the Progressives

This panel evaluates the legacy of the Progressive Artists’ Group by examining the impact they have had on the social and aesthetic landscape of India today, how their work stays relevant in the context of contemporary Indian art, and a wider narrative of progress forged by the Rockefellers in America.

Anupama Rao, TOW Associate Professor of History, Barnard College; Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University, New York | Word, Image, World: Dalit Bombay and the Progressives
Brinda Kumar, Assistant Curator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York | Indian Art and the Rockefellers: Parsing a Progressive Alignment
Jitish Kallat, artist, Mumbai | Here after Here
Moderated by Vishakha Desai, President Emerita, Asia Society; Senior Advisor for Global Affairs and Senior Research Scholar in Global Studies, Columbia University, New York

Symposium presenters, moderators and organizers
Symposium participants (L-R) Boon Hui Tan, Karin Zitzewitz, Zehra Jumabhoy, Sonal Khullar, Sonali Perera, Vishakha Desai, Gauri Viswanathan, Brinda Kumar, Anupama Rao, Jitish Kallat, Kavita Sivaramakrishnan. Not pictured: Debashree Mukherjee. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)