Productive failure

Writing queer transnational South Asian art histories

By Alpesh Kantilal Patel

Productive failure
Hardcover +
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781784992545
  • Publish Date: Jun 2017
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Paperback +
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781526132529
  • Publish Date: Jun 2018
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781526113153
  • Publish Date: Jul 2017
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information


    This title sets out to write new transnational South Asian art histories - to make visible histories of artworks that remain marginalised within the discipline of art history. However, this is done through a deliberate 'productive failure' - specifically, by not upholding the strictly genealogical approach that is regularly assumed for South Asian art histories. For instance, one chapter explores the abstract work of Cy Twombly and Natvar Bhavsar. The author examines 'whiteness', the invisible ground upon which racialized art histories often pivot, as a fraught yet productive site for writing art history. This book also provides original commentary on how queer theory can deconstruct and provide new approaches for writing art history. Overall, this title provides methods for generating art history that acknowledge the complex web of factors within which art history is produced and the different forms of knowledge-production we might count as art history.


    '.advances an original , rigorously self-reflexive, and provocative argument for the formulation of a New South Asian Art History conceived through the lens of queer theory and queer subjectivities.'
    Margo Machida, Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut

    'Wide ranging in his historical and methodological investments, Patel is modelling a new kind of art history, notable less for temporal and/or geographical coherence than for its sophisticated critical approach.'
    Jonathan D. Katz, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY

    'Patel is a person through whose eyes one learns to see anew with one's own.'
    Donald Preziosi, Distinguished Research Professor and Professor Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles

    'In his provocative engagement with queer subjectivities, Patel's intervention does not only create new potentialities for the study of South Asian Art, but he also proposes an urgently needed reimagining of art historical methodology.'
    Derek Conrad Murray, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, University of California, Santa Cruz

    'Patel's project calls attention to neglected histories, while simultaneously dismantling the processes of circumscribing identity-based discourses via axiomatic, geographic, and appearance-based methods of determining belonging. At the heart of the book is a desire to call attention to how we each exist in a mobile, intersectional zone at the crux of various identity categories and ideologies. Throughout the text, Patel demonstrates how imperative it is for scholars to articulate our situatedness, not only for the sake of transparency, but because it enriches cross-cultural, interdisciplinary exchange and highlights issues around cultural translation. Patel's reworking of the discursive framing of canon formation is a significant intervention not only within South Asian art, but also for art history, visual studies, and conceptions of identity more broadly. Patel's commitment to transparent, intersectional, hybrid, adaptable, self-reflexive, and critically engaged methods models much-needed interventions into art history, visual studies, and discourses of identity.'
    Ace Lehner, Art Journal (Winter 2018)

    'Alpesh Kantilal Patel's Productive Failure: Writing Queer Transnational South Asian Art Histories is a valuable contribution to this growing body of literature that attempts to expand the parameters of art history and its constituent subfields, employing "affirmative criticality" and "productive failure" as methods to produce a more ethical, entangled, and transparent practice of writing (art) history.'
    CAA Reviews

    'The book reads not only as a strong collection of unwritten narratives, but also as a critique of art history's exclusion and tokenization of artists of South Asian descent. The organization of the book prepares the audience with theories to rethink their own understanding of the production of art histories. One of the strengths of the book is the intimacy of the narration. Patel is aware of the limited reach of his academic language and makes challenging theoretical discussions accessible through his use of tone, through which readers can feel as if they were having a casual conversation with a close friend.'
    Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas


    1 Introduction: Towards creolising transnational South Asian art histories
    2 Authorship: Anish Kapoor as British/Asian/artist
    3 Form: queer zen
    4 Subject matter: writing as a racial pharmakon
    5 Space/site: writing queer feminist transnational South Asian art histories
    6 'Practice-led': producing art, producing art history
    7 Affect: belonging
    Afterword: Toward writing indigenous transnational South Asian art histories


    Alpesh Kantilal Patel is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art and Theory at Florida International University, Miami

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