Prof. Kajri Jain headshot

Kajri Jain

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 Studies


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 uses 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 and contemporary India encompasses bazaar icons, monumental statues, theme parks, and representations of (what we call) nature in temples, gardens, zoos, and popular cinema. It has largely focused on a vernacular business ethos where religion has been the primary site for adopting new media and expressive techniques. This has led to a concern with the sensory and spatial practices of caste.

The unfinished business between images, religion, politics, commerce, and nature troubles the legacies of European Romanticism and secular modernism that underpin much of our thinking about the aesthetic. So while some of my teaching focuses on South Asian materials, most of my courses take a postcolonial/decolonizing and transcultural approach, interrogating the disciplinary assumptions of art history, cinema studies, and visual studies. These critical perspectives also inform my writing on questions of method in art history, and on contemporary art in India and elsewhere.

Courses Taught


FAH 492 The Nature of Landscape
FAH 385 Modern and Contemporary Art of India
FAH 494 Icon/Artwork/Fetish
CIN 215 Bollywood in Context
VCC 306 Visual Culture and Colonialism
VCC 490 Topics: Animals in Visual Culture; The Visual Culture of the Automobile; Visual Culture and Posthumanism
VCC 101 Introduction to Visual Culture


FAH 1757 Animal Images
FAH 1489 Re:Vision - Comparative Histories of the Senses
FAH 1488 The Nature of Landscape
FAH 1471 The Aesthetics of Democracy
FAH 1464 The Recalcitrant Icon
FAH 1482 The Time of Art History
FAH 1481 Automotive Affects
FAH 1490 Art and Intersubjectivity
FAH 1910 Contemporary Art of South Asia and its Diaspora


Images in modern and contemporary India; image theory; postcolonialism; aesthetics and politics; material religion; representations of "nature".



Gods in the Time of Democracy, Durham: Duke University Press, 2021.

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


“Go Away Closer: Photography, Intermediality, Unevenness,” in Capitalism and the Camera, ed. Kevin Coleman and Daniel James, New York: Verso, 2021. 

Response to questionnaire on “Decolonizing Art History,” Art History, Volume 43, Issue 1, 2020, pp. 28-30. 

Media,” invited essay for online series “A Universe of Terms,” ed. Mona Oraby and Daniel Vaca, for Social Science Research Council digital publication The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere, Feb. 14, 2020.

Le Mal Des Fleurs,” invited essay for online forum on “Rethinking Public Religion: Word, Image, Sound,” ed. Mona Oraby and Matthew Engelke, for Social Science Research Council digital publication The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere, May 16, 2019.

Reconfiguring India’s Nationalism, One Grand Statue at a Time,” The Wire (independent Indian online news journal), 31 October, 2018.

"Partition as Partage", Third Text (special issue To Draw the Line: Partitions, Dissonance, Art: A Case for South Asia, ed. Natasha Eaton and Alice Correia), 145-146, March-May 2017, pp. 187-203.

"Tales from the Concrete Cave: Delhi’s Birla Temple and the Genealogies of Urban Nature in India," Places of Nature in Ecologies of Urbanism, ed. Anne Rademacher and K. Sivaramakrishnan, Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press, 2017, pp. 108-136.

"Gods in the Time of Automobility", Current Anthropology (special issue on New Media, New Publics?), Volume 58, Supplement 15, 2017, pp. S13-S26.

"Whose Emergency?" Art History and Emergency: Crises in the Visual Arts and HumanitiesCrises in the Visual Arts and Humanities (Clark Studies in the Visual Arts), Williamstown, Massachusetts: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016, pp. 12-22.

"Post-Reform India’s Automotive-Iconic-Cement Assemblages: Uneven Globality, Spectacle, and Iconic Exhibition Value," special issue on Aesthetics of Arrival: Spectacle, Capital, Novelty in Post-reform India, ed. TB Hansen and Ravinder Kaur, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and PowerVolume 23Issue 3, 2016, doi: 10.1080/1070289X.2015.1034132.

"Monuments, Landscapes and Romance in Indian Popular Imagery," in Visual Homes, Image Worlds: Essays from Tasveer Ghar, ed. Sumathi Ramaswamy and Christiane Brosius, New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2015, pp. 87-97.

"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, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 139-179.

"Pause" in Simryn Gill: Here Art Grows on Trees, ed. Catherine de Zegher, 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.


Centre for South Asian Studies, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto

Gods in the Bazaar book cover
Gods in the time of democracy book cover