Cfp: Panel on Museums and Heritage in Contemporary South Asia

Kanika Singh's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, South Asian History / Studies

Cfp: Panel on Museums and heritage in contemporary South Asia

for The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS), 26­-30 August 2020, University College London, UK

Panel organised by: Kanika Singh, Ashoka University

Submission deadline: 30 September 2019

Panel abstract: This panel critically examines the heritage politics in contemporary South Asia particularly through the institution of the museum. The field of heritage and museum studies, though well established globally, has very little scholarship on South Asia. An exploration of museums and heritage in South Asia is especially interesting as the region has a history, simultaneously, of a shared culture and of competing interests among its constituting national and social groups. Regions within South Asia have shared political and cultural histories through pre-colonial and colonial times. This was followed by emergence of independent nation-states in the 20th century, on the basis of ethnic, linguistic and religious identities. In postcolonial South Asia, some countries retained monarchical rule and others became republics. How did the South Asian countries envision their respective ‘national’ museums? How were museums used to forge new and distinct national identities and heritages? What aspects of a nation’s history were glorified and which memories suppressed? What are the kinds of museums being created in South Asia and why? This needs to be especially discussed in relation to varying representations (or the lack thereof) of the region’s common past, for instance, the Buddhist heritage in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and India, the Islamic past shared by Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, and the Partition of 1947. Within each nation-state, the idea of a ‘national’ heritage has been increasingly challenged by different communities and regional groups who have gone on to create their own museums, sometimes invoking their shared heritage across regions and nations, and other times actively erasing it. Which museums in contemporary South Asia challenge the national narrative of their respective nation-states, and how? Who is building these and why? How are museums used to meet the aspirations of both the dominant and the marginalised (nations and groups) in an increasingly globalised and neoliberal world?

This panel discusses heritage and museums in contemporary South Asia to examine:

a) the question of the representation. How are relationships between different national, regional and local groups in South Asia manifest through the institution of the museum?

b) the nature or forms of museums in South Asia

c) the particular approaches or methods employed for studying heritage and museums in South Asia


Note for contributors: I am a historian working on museums and heritage politics in India. My current work is on Sikh museums, and for this panel I intend to present a paper on Sikh museums in postcolonial India. Scholars and practitioners interested in participating in the panel may please submit a title and abstract (max. 250 words) with a short bio-note to by 30 September 2019. The deadline for the submitting a curated panel on the conference website is 15 October 2019. Submissions welcome from those located in different countries of South Asia and/or working on museums in these countries. More information on the conference is available@

Contact Info: 

Kanika Singh

Director, Centre for Writing & Communication

Ashoka University, India