Suchismito Khatua (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Fellow in Research Area 3: "Future Perfect"
April – September 2022
When was the Avant-Garde? Locating Vanguardist Aesthetics Along Other Meridians
The avant-garde refers to a particular inflection of cosmopolitan modernism, framed within a constative economy of ‘radicality’, ‘rebellion’, ‘dissent’, ‘shock’, ‘progress’, and ‘transgression’: it posits the experimental in literature and the arts as attempting to circumvent the mediating dispositifof the institution, thereby ushering art from institutionalised autonomy to robust social praxis. At its European origin, the theory of the avant-garde has often been formulated as one of lapsarian progress, marked at both ends by outset and exhaustion. Departing from such historicist narratives, and by means of textual explorations into a diverse body of avant-gardist traditions proliferating in post-independent India (for instance, the ‘progressive’ art groups and the vernacular little magazine culture), this project is committed to re-timing the avant-garde through incorporation into more cumulative, precipitous, and distributive models. The primary questions that it seeks to address include: What is the temporal span of the avant-garde? Does it unfold uniformly across European and non-European latitudes? If not, how can the European frameworks for historicizing the avant-garde (in terms of a singular birth, flourish, and death) be readjusted to accommodate its alternate temporalities (marked by diversity, discontinuity, and relay)? How do we recalibrate the coordinates of the avant-gardist trajectory (supplanting origin with crystallization, influence with catalysis, and exhaustion with transfer) as we narrativize its disseminations, laterally, along other meridians? And finally, what is the paradigm of avant-garde potentialities in the post-contemporary? Or, what are the constative, spectral/anticipatory, and methodological conditions for such futurities?
Suchismito Khatua is a PhD Candidate and UGC Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for English Studies, School of Language, Literature, and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He obtained his M.A. in 2019 from the University of Calcutta and B.A. in 2017 from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. His research interests are in modernisms and the avant-garde, medieval and modern Bengal, art history, and translation.