South Asian Speaker Series Presents: Sumathi Ramaswamy

South Asian Speaker Series Presents: Sumathi Ramaswamy

When: September 14, from 3:30 - 5:00
Where: 102 Weaver

#GandhiMustFall: The Dilemmas of Being Turned into Statue

Using a material culture approach, I reflect on the overwhelming penchant for the creation of statues of Gandhi, the most among India’s political leaders to be so “honored” both at home and overseas, where many a statue has been installed as the official government gift. It is worth reflecting on this phenomenon at a time when across the world, because of varying projects for critically reckoning with difficult inherited pasts, statues of (big) men are being defaced, destroyed, or displaced as the heroic stories they emblematize dissolve. How might Gandhi respond to such acts, especially since his statue is increasingly vulnerable as well? On the one hand, given his status as the putative father of the Indian nation, Gandhi’s image is ubiquitous to the point of being banal. On the other, rival father-figures have frequently threatened his hold on the Indian imagination, including and especially the Dalit social justice leader B. R. Ambedkar whose statues as well offer a critical counterpoint for action and reflection to Gandhi’s. Caught between the politics of devotion and the ethics of dissent, the Gandhi statue epitomizes in our time the challenge of being and belonging in a complex multi-layered nation such as India that this presentation seeks to explore.

Sumathi Ramaswamy - 91423