Recent and Upcoming Public Talks

Unseeing Empire and Cinema Studies | April 30, 2021 @ 3:00 PM PT

hosted by San Francisco State University

Join Bakirathi Mani, Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore College, and Patricia White, Professor and Chair of Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore College, in conversation with SFSU Cinema Professor Elizabeth Ramirez-Soto.

To register for this event, click here.

Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America | March 16, 2021 @ 4:30 PM

hosted by the University of Rhode Island

Join Dr. Bakirathi Mani, Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore College, to discuss her latest book. Her book examines how photography is central to cultural and social ties that bind the diaspora to South Asia as well as how historical documentation shape our contemporary engagement with ourselves. Mani’s book includes a chapter on the work of Professor Annu Palakunnathu Mathew, who teaches photography at URI. The event will include a presentation followed by a discussion between Mani and Mathew moderated by URI’s Art Historian Dr. Kathy Quick.

To view a recording of this event, click here.

MAP Talk: Art is Life

Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America | Feb. 13, 2021 @ 6:00 PM

hosted by the Museum of Art and Photography in Bangalore

As part of MAP’s ongoing theme, Art is Life, we are pleased to present an illustrated presentation by Bakirathi Mani on her new book Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America. The discussion that follow with Annu Palakunnathu Mathew will focus on her series An Indian from India, also featured in the book.

Mani’s book and the talk discusses how the histories and images of empire haunt contemporary visual culture, how we visualise ourselves through this visual culture, and how this in turn informs and shapes racial identities and communities. Examining, in particular, the experience of the South Asian diaspora in America, the session explores how photography functions as recorded history, how we look to it for the representation of our lives, and how it can make visible certain stories of the empire.

Bakirathi Mani and Andy Liu In Conversation with Anne Ishii | Jan. 25, 2021 @ 6:00 – 7:00 PM

hosted by the Asian Arts Initiative

Kamala Harris—the first Black South Asian American Woman to be inaugurated as Vice President of the United States. Mindy Kaling—actor/producer from The Office, turned out not one but two major TV projects starring South Asian romantic leads (Never Have I Ever and Four Weddings and a Funeral). Both of those shows proved to be runaway hits with “general audiences.” Andrew Yang pimped MATH, and Parasite was the first foreign film to win a Best Picture Oscar in 2020. And yet Asian Americans have been asking of ourselves: is this enough and why does it matter? Does it matter?

We’re delighted to have Bakirathi Mani, recently the author of Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation and South Asian Americans in conversation with co-host of the podcast Time to Say Goodbye and author of Tea War: A History of Capitalism in China and India, Andrew Liu, about the desire for representation in radicalized immigrant communities. Both will be joining us at Asian Arts Initiative in our Black Box Theater in a special broadcast production.

Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America | Dec. 9, 2020 @ 12:00 – 1:00 PM

hosted by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

In her new book, Bakirathi Mani, Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore College, investigates how images of empire haunt contemporary Asian American visual cultures. Weaving close readings of fine art together with archival research and ethnographic fieldwork at museums and galleries across North America and South Asia, Mani examines how South Asian immigrants see themselves in fine art photography, and how fine art exhibitions, in turn, shape racial identities and communities.

In this lecture Bakirathi Mani is joined by the artist Annu Palakunnathu Mathew and Contemporary Curator Jodi Throckmorton for a discussion on Matthew’s series, An Indian From India in relation to Edward S. Curtis’s photographs of Indigenous peoples and Mani’s recent publication.

Imagine Otherwise: Bakirathi Mani on Curating with Confidence

Podcast by Ideas on Fire

The collaborative art of curation is one that takes a complex mixture of confidence and humility. Curators need confidence in their choices and artistic voice but the humility to stay open to learning from others and being surprised by the collaborative process.

The career of today’s guest, Bakirathi Mani, demonstrates how this dance of confidence and humility enables postcolonial artists, scholars, and curators to challenge imperial visualities while building transnational community. 

In episode 123 of Imagine Otherwise, host Cathy Hannabach interviews Bakirathi about her journey into art curation and what it offers to her work in the classroom, how postcolonial artists and viewers navigate the colonial history of photography in art exhibitions, and why collectively building a world of representations that are no longer haunted by empire is how Bakirathi imagines otherwise.

To learn more about Ideas on Fire, click here.