Jyotirmaya Sharma will speak at the Museum Conversations Seminar on Wednesday, March 30 at 12:15 pm. His talk is entitled “The Past and Its Objects: History, Memory, and the Museum.”

From the nineteenth-century onwards, the rise of anti-colonial nationalism mostly perceived Indian history in religious terms. While religion and spirituality were often conflated, the tendency to consign objects and artifacts to religious categories gained currency. In contemporary times, the debates about the authenticity of various versions of history continue to be reduced to debates around religion. The Indian nation, then, is sought to be projected as an extension of the religious aspiration of the political and ideological constellation seeking power and domination.

The idea of the museum has been affected by these tensions around religious identities and historical interpretations. In turn, this has had an impact on the question of what to exhibit as well as the pedagogic purposes of the museum. Once removed from their living context, objects are mediated through memory and history. In this process, the display of objects confronts demands to impose a seamless, undifferentiated, and monochromatic version of history. This has invariably led to distortion, censorship, erasure, and vandalism.


Jyotirmaya Sharma is professor of political science at the University of Hyderabad, India. His publications include Elusive Non-Violence: The Making and Unmaking of Gandhi’s Religion of Ahimsa, The Ocean of Mirth, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism, A Restatement of Religion: Swami Vivekananda and the Making of Hindu Nationalism, and M.S. Golwalkar, the RSS and India. He has been a fellow at Lichtenberg-Kolleg, The Göttingen Institute of Advanced Study in Germany, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, and the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna.


This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.