Art History Department

Akshaya Tankha


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Supervisor: Kajri Jain

My research draws on extensive experience in museums and cultural institutions in India. I worked for several years at the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, an important center for the preservation, documentation and study of South Asian photography. I have been a consultant for Khoj International Artists Association, a catalyst for contemporary art in South Asia and the global South. I was a researcher for one of the largest surveys of museum practice in post-independence India (a Getty Foundation funded collaboration between Jawaharlal Nehru University and UCLA) and co-authored a report on museum policies for the Government of India.

Areas of Academic Interest
  • Indigenous image cultures in modern India
  • Visual culture in modern India
  • Indigenous art and crafts in and outside South Asia
  • Museums, exhibitionary practice and public culture
  • Aesthetics and politics
  • Materiality
Current Research
  • My doctoral thesis explores the image cultures of ethnicity, sub-nationalism and religion in the Indigenously inhabited northeast Indian state of Nagaland where a longstanding armed sub-nationalist movement came to a provisional end in 1997. I examine the politics of aesthetic forms that re-engage the colonial and postcolonial archives of indigeneity and intersect with religion, sub-nationalism, governmentality, commerce, and Indigenous practices in a marginalized and militarized region in late-liberal India.
  • MPhil Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 2008
  • MA Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 2006
Selected Publications
  • Review of The Camera as Witness: A Social History of Mizoram, Northeast India , by Joy Pachuau and Willem van Schendel. History: Reviews of New Books 44:5 (2016): 151–52.

  • “Two Museums in Guwahati” in No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia, by Saloni Mathur and Kavita Singh. New Delhi: Routledge, 2015.

  • Review of Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India. by Zahid R. Chaudhary. History of Photography 38:1 (2014): 104–6.

Recent Awards
  • 2016–17 Mellon-JHI Graduate Fellowship
  • 2016 India-Canada Association Scholarship
  • 2011–15 Connaught Scholarship for International Doctoral Students

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