Artefacts of History: Archaeology, Historiography and Indian Pasts

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9789351501640: Artefacts of History: Archaeology, Historiography and Indian Pasts
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This book encourages us to critically regard the ways in which ideologies of cultural heritage and civilisational legacies are transformed into tangible and visible things through archaeological scholarship.

Through little-known histories of the practices, governance and scholarship of the archaeology of India, this book re-examines the manner in which the past is recalled and historicized. It guides us to think afresh of the histories of antiquarianism in South Asia, explore the impetus of collecting and curatorial practices within the scholarship of pre-colonial India, and investigate the diverse linkages within the histories of Indian archaeology. It encourages a focus upon issues of historiography, methodology and notions of evidence and looks in to the responsibilities and changing needs of the academic scholarship of archaeology. 

 

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About the Author:

Sudeshna Guha is an Associate Researcher at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES) at the University of Cambridge and Tagore Research Scholar at the National Museum in New Delhi. She has curated photographic collections at Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Cambridge) for over a decade, and was Temporary University Lecturer of South Asian History at FAMES for four years. She researches on the cultural histories of archaeology and photography in South Asia, and continues to study aspects of state formation, polities and urbanisation in Early India, which had led her to study archaeology and the Indus Civilisation after graduating in history.

She has written extensively on issues related to the historiography and methodology of the archaeological scholarship of Ancient India, of which an example is her edited volume The Marshall Albums: Photography and Archaeology (Alkazi Collection of Photography and Mapin, 2010). The four essays below illustrate some of the reasons that have led to the present study: ‘The Visual in Archaeology: Photographic Representations of Archaeological Practice in the Indian Subcontinent’, Antiquity (2002); Negotiating Evidence: History, Archaeology and the Indus Civilisation’, Modern Asian Studies (2005); ‘Material Truths and Religious Identities: The Archaeological and Photographic Making of Banaras’, in M. S. Dodson (Ed.), Banaras: Urban History, Architecture, Identity (2012) and ‘Beyond Representation: Photographs in Archaeological Knowledge’, in O. M. Abadia and C. Huth (Eds), ‘Speaking Material: Sources for the History of Archaeology’, Complutum (2013).

Currently, she is doing research on the practices of museums, archaeology and heritage-making within post-colonial South Asia.

Review:

‘Any academic discipline, in order to move even a little away from its enduring static position, needs to have a critical look at the premises on which the discipline tends to lean perpetually. This book dares to produce that critical look at the way archaeological knowledge is created and passed on in Indian archaeology and should jolt its institutional leaders out of their seats of scientific complacency.’ 

(B.D. Chattopadhyaya)

‘This book is a welcome and much needed addition to the existing literature dealing with the history of Indian archaeology. Diverging widely and radically from the storytelling and often eulogistic accounts of the rise and growth of archaeology in India, archaeological practices and archaeologists themselves, it seeks to place the growth of archaeological (and Indological) studies in the matrix of mutually interactive domains of the nineteenth-century intellectual trends in Europe and British colonial practices in India.’

(K. Paddayya)

‘With this book, Sudeshna Guha fills in a wide gap in our knowledge of the history of antiquarianism and archaeology in India. Doing away with the inherited prejudices of colonial history, Dr Guha demonstrates the existence of a curiosity for the past, its monuments and objects across medieval and modern India―a curiosity that has been hitherto neglected by traditional historiography. To her fine tune knowledge of the history of archaeology in the Indian subcontinent, the author adds an evident familiarity with the history of antiquarianism in Britain. This book is one of the best examples of post-colonial historiography applied to archaeology and to the comparative history of civilisations. It also provides an important contribution to the epistemology of archaeology, considered as a full-fledged social science.’

(Alain Schnapp)

A critical look at the way archaeological knowledge is configured, created and  disseminated in Indian archeology.

(The Book Review, February 2016)

"Any academic discipline, in order to move even a little away from its enduring static position, needs to have a critical look at the premises on which the discipline tends to lean perpetually. This book dares to produce that critical look at the way archaeological knowledge is created and passed on in Indian archaeology." 

(B.D. Chattopadhyaya,)

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