Art History and Storytelling: Sonal Khullar

Sonal Khullar kicked off proceedings with her presentation Between Kaagazi (Papermaker) and Kabaariwala (Junk dealer): Books and Art in South Asia. Khullar noted that while conventionally, authors have not intended the reader to be conscious of the book’s medium, the format continues to be revered. She quoted Rushdie’s description of reading as embodied practice, his ‘habit of kissing books’ of all kinds and their role as vessels of desire – the power of the book reaching beyond its literal contents. Khullar considered this via several Indian films of the mid-20th Century, as well as through the role of literacy and the literate in non-literate contexts, where the book has functioned as an object of modernity and freedom. In a broader sense, books occupy the interstitial space between papermaker and junk dealer, their functions and significance not universal.

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