East of the West: Repossessing the Past In India

Indira Chowdhury


Public history, as it is practised in India, defies easy attempts at classification. This is partially because hardly anything that would be recognised as public history is identified as such by its author(s). For the term, despite its ever-increasing acceptance outside India as a discipline and a practice distinct from history, has yet to gain any currency within India. Any attempt to identify works that are self-consciously public history in the Indian context will likely not yield much fruit. Nor, for that matter, will borrowing any of the many definitions of the term from the West and trying to find works that adhere to it in India. Instead, this chapter will try to highlight the myriad forms that public engagements with the past have taken place in India. This article focuses specifically on museums, arguably the preeminent site of public engagements with the past in India. To that end, it will look at a new generation of museums that are charting new paths towards enabling a better public engagement with the past. It will also analyse a few institutional forms of public engagements with the past.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5130/phrj.v24i0.5763

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