Empires of light – Q&A with Niharika Dinkar

Posted by Rebecca Mortimer - Monday, 2 Dec 2019


How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?

The book sits between visual and media analyses to explore the colonial Indian experience of technologies of light, and its role in the shaping of the modern world and the self.

What book in your field has inspired you the most?

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Disenchanted Night: The industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century (for this project)

Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Much of my research was spent in Kerala, the coastal southern state in India, home to the main artist I look at: Ravi Varma. It has the best food that I grew to love!

Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?

Computer, preferably with no internet access.

Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

The book series Rethinking Arts Histories was a good fit for the transdisciplinary and transregional scholarship that my book undertakes.

What are you working on now?

I am working on the role of three south Asian animals (elephant, snake, monkey) in the early moving image.

If you could go back and give yourself once piece of advice when starting out on this project, what would it be?

Consider the protocols for image rights while conceptualizing the project and DO NOT underestimate the time the publication process takes!

If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?   

Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night, a Traveler. Calvino is always so perceptive, and I really enjoyed how the book shifts between the fiction and the act of reading. A close second would be Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, because it has this Austenesque charm, set in a landscape that is very familiar to me.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy reading fiction and I am particularly drawn to Pakistani fiction these days. I am also interested in the new autofiction featuring women writers, particularly from South Asia.

Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?

Vikram Seth, Mohammad Hanif, McKenzie Wark, Hito Steyerl.









Empires of light is available to buy now. Niharika Dinkar is Associate Professor of South Asian Art History and Visual Culture at Boise State University.



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