Goa on Display: Exhibitions, images, identities (1850-1950)

Goa on Display: Exhibitions, images, identities (1850-1950)

Throughout the second decade of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century the Portuguese colony of Goa was identified as a historical, artistic and archaeological place that had a unique character, distinct to that of British India. This difference in relation to the other India, the main British colony, was considered to be established most obviously through its religion or ethnicity, but had many other implications on its wider culture. Goa's identity, located in-between a discourse of former glory and a contemporary perception of present decadence, was presented, negotiated, and rehearsed, throughout a variety of written, material and visual constructions. Thinking about Goa necessarily meant reflecting on its past and history became a major tool in stabilising its identities: through historical writing; through the publication of sources; through collecting practices that went from numismatics to antiquities; through the constitution of museums, archives and libraries that somehow preserved the material remains of what Goa had been; through the excavations in archaeological sites where ruined Hindu temples could become historical objects along with ruined churches, instead of threatening signs of a non-Christian Goa; through the recurrent newspaper articles on the need to preserve, to save, to study, to establish heritage commissions or to, in other words, to create a consciousness of Goa's past.

These practices or projects - actual experiences and initiatives, or mere dreams and hopes that nevertheless revealed ideas and intentions - contributed to establish a kind of canon of historical subjects and visual images of Goa. Photography - with its reproductions in postcards or in newspapers, mainly through the work of Souza & Paul, the main 19th century local photographers - necessarily played a role in this visualization of Goa. The churches of Velha Goa, the body of St. Francis Xavier, the arch of Vasco da Gama, became the visual proofs of a Portuguese and Catholic Goa that thus reinforced its difference in relation to the other India. 

  However, very often reflections on the past come together with reflections on the present or even the future. In Goa's case this becomes obvious through the organization of local industrial, agricultural and artistic exhibitions that took place already in the 19 the century. My project will focus on two main kinds of exhibitions: firstly, on the representations of Goa within Portuguese or European national, international or colonial exhibitions. While in the majority of cases Goa appears as part of a wider Portuguese Empire, a geographical place that was identified through different kinds of images, objects and discourses; in other cases, it is one aspect of Goan identity that is being forged and defined. This is the case of "Indo-Portuguese art". Its invention in the late 19th century as the Portuguese main contribution to world art was embodied with other meanings. The group of art historians of the 1940s and 1950s who discovered Goa's art and architecture as a significant proof of the Portuguese influence in the wider world, as much as of the Portuguese empire's uniqueness, will become one of the case-studies that will enable me to address the political and ideological uses of "Indo-Portuguese" art as a form of cultural hybridity.      

  Secondly, I will explore the cultural phenomena of exhibitions within Goa, and this will inevitably mean challenging some of the assumptions that tend to place the metropolis as the centre from where cultural and political colonial initiatives depart. To analyse local agency, both in the organization of exhibitions in Goa but also in the constitution of the collections that would represent Goa in exhibitions taking place in Portugal or Europe, will be a major part of my research. The fact that we can identify a group of Goans participating actively in the construction of Goa's identity, through exhibitions but also through many other visual, material and written ways, will necessarily lead us into wider questions of agency and knowledge with a colonial setting.

Estatuto: 
Participant entity
Financed: 
No
Keywords: 

Colonial India, Visual Culture, Knowledge Production, Exhibition Culture

Throughout the second decade of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century the Portuguese colony of Goa was identified as a historical, artistic and archaeological place that had a unique character, distinct to that of British India. This difference in relation to the other India, the main British colony, was considered to be established most obviously through its religion or ethnicity, but had many other implications on its wider culture. Goa's identity, located in-between a discourse of former glory and a contemporary perception of present decadence, was presented, negotiated, and rehearsed, throughout a variety of written, material and visual constructions. Thinking about Goa necessarily meant reflecting on its past and history became a major tool in stabilising its identities: through historical writing; through the publication of sources; through collecting practices that went from numismatics to antiquities; through the constitution of museums, archives and libraries that somehow preserved the material remains of what Goa had been; through the excavations in archaeological sites where ruined Hindu temples could become historical objects along with ruined churches, instead of threatening signs of a non-Christian Goa; through the recurrent newspaper articles on the need to preserve, to save, to study, to establish heritage commissions or to, in other words, to create a consciousness of Goa's past.

These practices or projects - actual experiences and initiatives, or mere dreams and hopes that nevertheless revealed ideas and intentions - contributed to establish a kind of canon of historical subjects and visual images of Goa. Photography - with its reproductions in postcards or in newspapers, mainly through the work of Souza & Paul, the main 19th century local photographers - necessarily played a role in this visualization of Goa. The churches of Velha Goa, the body of St. Francis Xavier, the arch of Vasco da Gama, became the visual proofs of a Portuguese and Catholic Goa that thus reinforced its difference in relation to the other India. 

  However, very often reflections on the past come together with reflections on the present or even the future. In Goa's case this becomes obvious through the organization of local industrial, agricultural and artistic exhibitions that took place already in the 19 the century. My project will focus on two main kinds of exhibitions: firstly, on the representations of Goa within Portuguese or European national, international or colonial exhibitions. While in the majority of cases Goa appears as part of a wider Portuguese Empire, a geographical place that was identified through different kinds of images, objects and discourses; in other cases, it is one aspect of Goan identity that is being forged and defined. This is the case of "Indo-Portuguese art". Its invention in the late 19th century as the Portuguese main contribution to world art was embodied with other meanings. The group of art historians of the 1940s and 1950s who discovered Goa's art and architecture as a significant proof of the Portuguese influence in the wider world, as much as of the Portuguese empire's uniqueness, will become one of the case-studies that will enable me to address the political and ideological uses of "Indo-Portuguese" art as a form of cultural hybridity.      

  Secondly, I will explore the cultural phenomena of exhibitions within Goa, and this will inevitably mean challenging some of the assumptions that tend to place the metropolis as the centre from where cultural and political colonial initiatives depart. To analyse local agency, both in the organization of exhibitions in Goa but also in the constitution of the collections that would represent Goa in exhibitions taking place in Portugal or Europe, will be a major part of my research. The fact that we can identify a group of Goans participating actively in the construction of Goa's identity, through exhibitions but also through many other visual, material and written ways, will necessarily lead us into wider questions of agency and knowledge with a colonial setting.

Objectivos: 
a) To place "Portuguese India" within a wider map of India, which means moving away from a metropolitan based approach; underlining the local agency and role of the Goans in the cultural creation of Goa's identity; privileging the relationships of Goa with British India and the wider world, in a transcolonial and transnational approach. <p>b) To go beyond the usual historiographical perceptions of Goa's 19th century decadence, that has resulted in a lack of studies for this period. </p><p>c)To address the "Portuguese colonies of India" through the discussions that have taken place in the last decades within the within the historiography on 19th century colonial India and the context of what has been identified as post-colonial studies. To explore how Goa's case can challenge many of the historical discussions that have taken place on the relationship of Indians with European knowledge and culture within "British India". </p><p>d) To question the disciplinary approaches which tend to divide written, visual, or material documents in different social and human sciences, by having a widened approach to the different instruments with which Goa was being defined.</p>
State of the art: 
a)Within Portuguese or international historiography, to study Goa tends to mean studying the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the period when the colony was considered to be a significant part of &quot;Portuguese history&quot;. The perception of its 19th century decadence, along with the importance given to &quot;Portuguese Africa&quot; within this period has corresponded to a lack of work, in stark contrast to the vast bibliography for previous centuries. This becomes more evident when compared to the international historiography on colonial &quot;British India&quot; where the 19th century is, in historiographical and colonial terms, what the 16th and 17th centuries had been for the Portuguese. Despite recent proclamations within colonial studies on India of the need to go beyond British India, this has tended to mean establishing comparisons and connections with other British colonies, and not moving into other colonial empires, such as the Portuguese or the French. Therefore, &quot;Portuguese India&quot; is almost a non-existing subject among the very rich and prolific, but also very self-centred, Anglo-Saxon historiography on colonial British India that is published mostly in the UK, the US and India. Inscribing &quot;Portuguese India&quot; within the studies in this wider colonial India in the 19th century could become a future line of research. The belief in the need of placing the Portuguese colonial experience in India within the wider discussions of 19th century colonialism; as much as the need to think of the 19th century as the moment when many of the historiographical ideas, texts, canons concerning the Portuguese empire of Asia were created is, therefore, a major concern of this project. <p>b) By placing the metropolitan-colonial approach as one of the multiple ways of putting Goa in a wider, global context, Portugal ceases to exist as the major centre from where the colony is perceived. Instead one of the aims of this project is to explore the relationship with British India, mainly within the second half of the 19th century, something that has not been a characteristic of the historiography on &quot;Portuguese India&quot; nor of &quot;British India&quot;. From the ways in which sometimes the British India could be seen the a site of modernity and progress, an example for what Goa might be; to the ways in which British men and women linked to India in different ways could look at Goa as a laboratory of colonial politics and practices from which British India could take some lessons of what to do or what not to do. </p><p>c) To place Goa within a wider map, where concepts of mobility, circulation, comparison, cosmopolitanism and cross-cultural experiences become central tools of analysis will also mean moving away from the metropolitan centred approach to the colonial space that, for a long time, has characterised the majority of historiographical research. Recent approaches, however, have already questioned this tendency: from anthropological writings that privilege local agency, while being more aware of ideological constructions and cross-cultural experiences; to innovative historiographical works that address the first centuries of the Portuguese colonial experience in India with new and critical insights of the field of study. The history of the Portuguese empire as, on the whole, the studies of empires and colonialism, have recently benefited from a growing interest from a wide array of disciplines and approaches. As more scholars are thinking of colonial experiences and places as part of their wider interests, the field has been necessarily challenged with different perspectives.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>d) Post-colonial theories, among which Edward W. Said's study on Orientalism, in 1978, was a pioneer, have been determinant in challenging the more acritical and ideological charged approaches to the European colonial experience. &quot;British India&quot; has been a major subject within the vast international field of post-colonial studies, dominated by an Anglo-Saxon historiographical tradition and therefore, the British experience in India has tended to dominate the main problems, arguments and discussions. To write on Goa, more than 30 years after these discussions began, necessarily means to place the Portuguese colonial experience in India within them: from the link between forms of colonial power and colonial knowledge; concepts of subalternity or the role of &quot;native informants&quot; and collaborators. </p><p>In fact, a specific subject that comes across many books on British India is that of the uses of Western ideas and culture by Indian elites in the 19th century. Among the many lines of research some studies consider the ways in which European practices, theories, disciplines of knowledge or techniques were appropriated locally, sometimes even to fight the imposition of colonialism, by contributing to proto-nationalist positions. The case of the Goan 19th century elites necessarily problematizes these repeated dichotomies between European knowledge and Indian knowledge. With a long history behind - of acculturation, conversion, inter-cultural relationships, but also of violence and impositions - for the Goan elites of this period European culture was not something outside them, something that could be appropriated. Simply because it was, by then, part of their experience, culture and identity, even if very often this could be problematic and in constant negotiation and redefinition, as different groups within Goan society, and even different elites, had different experiences.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>e) Control over representations and discourses within a colonial context was not merely the realm of the coloniser but a more complex process where locals, or colonised, could also have a role, voice or agency. If finding the voices of the colonised, even of those who were privileged and had access to writing and to other productions of knowledge has been, no doubt, a major line of work within recent bibliography, Goa's case has not been sufficiently explored. This absence becomes more striking when we consider the second half of the 19th century when a very significant number of Goans, mostly men, were particularly active in cultural and historical terms, writing, collecting, publishing journals, and creating public spaces for the preservation or exhibition of different manifestations of Goan culture. </p>
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/07/2009
End Date: 
01/06/2014
Duração: 
59 meses
Closed