Indian Wedding Cards: Publicizing the Intimate

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Arundhati Virmani is a historian at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Marseille and teaches at the Centre Norbert Elias. She received her PhD from the Sorbonne Paris-I and worked successively as Reader in the History Department, Delhi University, and at the University of Bordeaux III. Her publications on colonial India include India: 1900-1947. Un Britannique au cœur du Raj (Paris: Autrement, 2001) and A National Flag for India: Rituals, Nationalism and the Politics of Sentiment (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2008). The latter study breaks new ground by analyzing the political economy of emotions channeling anti-colonial sentiment towards a national sentiment and identity and by tying nation-building with previously neglected dimensions of study, such as colors and the interconnections between intimate and private sentiment and national symbols. Virmani’s other recent and forthcoming publications include L’Inde, une puissance en mutation (Paris: La Documentation Française, 2001); Atlas historique de l’Inde. VIe siècle avant J.C. au XXIe siècle (Paris: Autrement, 2012); Emotional Pasts: Questions for Indian Political Culture (Delhi, Three Essays, 2014); and Inde: Peuples en Mouvement (Paris: Autrement, 2014).

Wedding invitations do not have a long history in India. They emerged during the early 20th century, adopted by Indian princes and then by urban elites. Today, their success is undisputed. They serve to display social identity and status. The wedding invitation, printed in seedy shops in narrow gulis, or city backstreets, has today become a designer’s item and a central part of the wedding ceremony. Virmani’s talk examines wedding cards as an element of the material culture of the elite, which functions as a bridge between the intimate and the social world. She explores the more recent developments in the life of these objects and their implications for the Indian social ‘communication system’ today.

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