Kajri Jain

Kajri Jain

Associate Professor of Indian Visual Culture and Contemporary Art

Undergraduate Appointment: Department of Visual Studies (UTM)
Graduate Appointment: Department of Art (St. George)
Cross-appointments and affiliations: Institute for Cinema Studies, Centre for South Asian StudiesContact


CCT 3053, UTM


PhD, Art History and Theory, University of Sydney
MA, Art History and Theory, University of Sydney
PEP, Visual Communication, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad


I am interested in how the efficacies, affects, and values associated with images arise not only from what goes on within the picture-frame but also from the production, circulation and deployments of images as material objects. I therefore find it useful to bring ethnographic sensibilities and methods to ‘visual’ studies. My work on popular images in modern India (such as the bazaar icons known as calendar art, or monumental statues and theme parks) has largely focused on a vernacular business ethos where religion has been the primary site for adopting new media and expressive techniques. The unfinished business between images, religion, politics, and commerce troubles the provincial legacies of European Romanticism and secular modernism that underpin much of our thinking about the aesthetic. So while my teaching is often based on South Asian materials, my courses take a postcolonial and transcultural approach to interrogating the disciplinary assumptions of art history, cinema studies, and visual studies. These critical perspectives also inform my writing on contemporary art in India and elsewhere.

Current Research Projects

My current research on the emergence of gigantic iconic statues in India after the neoliberal economic reforms of the 1990s extends my interests in the efficacies of circulation, the aesthetics of modern religion, and vernacular capitalism to their interface with material infrastructures (highways, the automotive industry, dams), domestic tourism, landscape/“nature”, governmentality, and democracy (particularly the politics of caste). I am also keen to develop transcultural and inter-vernacular conversations; I have been a participant in the University of Toronto’s research cluster on Asian Futures, and in the Transcultural Visuality Workshop, an initiative of the Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context (University of Heidelberg).

Courses Taught


VCC 306 Visual Culture and Colonialism
FAH 494 Icon/Artwork/Fetish
VCC 390 Bollywood in Context
FAH 385 Contemporary Art of South Asia
VST 100 Introduction to Visual Studies 


FAH 1481 Automotive Affects
FAH 1471 The Aesthetics of Democracy
FAH 1464 The Recalcitrant Icon
FAH 1490 Art and Intersubjectivity
FAH 1910 Contemporary Art of South Asia and its Diaspora

Select Publications


Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian ‘Calendar Art’, Durham: Duke University Press, 2007.


‘The Handbag That Exploded: Mayawati’s Monuments and the Aesthetics of Democracy in Post-Reform India’, in Tapati Guha Thakurta, Partha Chatterjee and Bodhisattva Kar (eds.), New Cultural Histories of India (forthcoming).

"Pause" in Catherine de Zegher (ed.), Simryn Gill: Here Art Grows on Trees, Ghent: MER/Paper Kunsthalle, 2013.

‘Mass-Reproduction and the Art of the Bazaar’, Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture, ed. Vasudha Dalmia and Rashmi Sadana, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012, pp. 184-205.

‘Divine Mass-Reproduction’, Medium Religion, ed. Peter Weibel and Boris Groys, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, 2011, pp. 142-154.

‘Taking and Making Offence: Husain and the Politics of Desecration’, in Sumathi Ramaswamy (ed.), Barefoot across the Nation: Maqbool Fida Husain and the Idea of India, London: Routledge, 2011, pp.198-212.

Imagined and Performed Locality: the Televisual Field in a North Indian Industrial Town’, in Nandini Sundar and Satish Deshpande (eds.), Popular Culture, Gender and Sexuality: essays in honour of Patricia Uberoi, special issue of Contributions to Indian Sociology, (n.s.) 44, 1&2, 2010, pp. 33-55. (http://journals1.scholarsportal.info.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/details.xqy?uri=/00699667/v44i1-2/33_iapl)

Monuments, Landscapes and Romance in Indian Popular Imagery”, Tasveer Ghar: A Digital Network of South Asian Popular Visual Culture (http://www.tasveerghar.net/cmsdesk/essay/37/index.html), 2009.


Centre for South Asian Studies