Gods in the Bazaar is a fascinating account of the printed images
known in India as "calendar art" or "bazaar art," the
color-saturated, mass-produced pictures often used on calendars and
in advertisements, featuring deities and other religious themes as
well as nationalist leaders, alluring women, movie stars, chubby
babies, and landscapes. Calendar art appears in all manner of
contexts in India: in chic elite living rooms, middle-class
kitchens, urban slums, village huts; hung on walls, stuck on
scooters and computers, propped up on machines, affixed to
dashboards, tucked into wallets and lockets. In this beautifully
illustrated book, Kajri Jain examines the power that calendar art
wields in Indian mass culture, arguing that its meanings derive as
much from the production and circulation of the images as from
their visual features. Jain draws on interviews with artists,
printers, publishers, and consumers as well as analyses of the
prints themselves to trace the economies-of art, commerce,
religion, and desire-within which calendar images and ideas about
them are formulated. For Jain, an analysis of the bazaar, or
vernacular commercial arena, is crucial to understanding not only
the calendar art that circulates within the bazaar but also India's
postcolonial modernity and the ways that its mass culture has
developed in close connection with a religiously inflected
nationalism. The bazaar is characterized by the coexistence of
seemingly incompatible elements: bourgeois-liberal and neoliberal
modernism on the one hand, and vernacular discourses and practices
on the other. Jain argues that from the colonial era to the
present, capitalist expansion has depended on the maintenance of
these multiple coexisting realms: the sacred, the commercial, and
the artistic; the official and the vernacular.
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