This book presents a set of new and innovative essays on landscape and garden culture in precolonial India, with a special focus on the Deccan. Most research to date has concentrated on the comparatively well preserved gardens and built landscapes of the celebrated Mughal empire, giving the impression that they have been lacking in other times and regions. Not only does this volume provide a corrective to such assumptions, it also moves away from traditional art-historical approaches by posing new questions and exploring hitherto neglected source materials.
The contributors understand gardens in two related ways: first as real or imagined spaces and manipulated landscapes that are often invested with pronounced semiotic density; and second as congeries of institutions and practices with far-reaching social ramifications for the constitution of elite societies. The essays here present a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of garden culture in precolonial India, and together suggest several new and exciting directions of enquiry for those working in the Deccan, Mughal India, and beyond.
This series takes as its starting point notions of the visual, and of vision, as central in producing meanings, maintaining aesthetic values, and relations of power. Through individual studies, it hopes to chart the trajectories of the visual as an activating principle of history. An important premise here is the conviction that the making, theorising, and historicising of images do not exist in exclusive distinction of one another.
Opening up the field of vision as an arena in which meanings get constituted simultaneously anchors vision to other media such as audio, spatial, and the dynamics of spectatorship. It calls for closer attention to inter-textual and inter-pictorial relationships through which ever-accruing layers of readings and responses are brought alive.
Through its regional focus on South Asia the series locates itself within a prolific field of writing on non-Western cultures, which have opened the way to pluralise iconographies, and to perceive temporalities as scrambled and palimpsestic. These studies, it is hoped, will continue to reframe debates and conceptual categories in visual histories. The importance attached here to investigating the historical dimensions of visual practice implies close attention to specific local contexts which intersect and negotiate with the global, and can re-constitute it. Examining the ways in which different media are to be read into and through one another would extend the thematic range of the subjects to be addressed by the series to include those which cross the boundaries that once separated the privileged subjects of art historical scholarship from the popular – sculpture, painting, and monumental architecture – from other media: studies of film, photography, and prints, on the one hand; advertising, television, posters, calendars, comics, buildings, and cityscapes on the other.