“Rogues River: Seeing and Speculation in Colonial Calcutta”, a talk by Cleo Roberts

The Department of English, Jadavpur University, will be hosting a talk by Cleo Roberts as part of the UGC-UKIERI Project, Envisioning the Indian City: Spaces of Encounter, on Tuesday, 3 March 2015.

Visual representations are just that. Visuals re-present spaces, characters and concepts. These mediations from maker to contemplator are culturally nuanced. Their reception is digested with an innately trained eye. As Berger (1972) stated in his paradigm shifting BBC series, ‘Seeing comes before words’.

This talk will look at the idiosyncratic nature of seeing during the nineteenth century in colonial Calcutta at a time when two very differently trained eyes came into contact. Using a series of visual representations made of the Ganges authored by European artists and illustrators such as the Royal Academician Marshall Claxton and Prince Soltykoff, a former Russian diplomat turned amateur artist, a disjuncture in perception will be revealed. Combined with political texts, diaries and travelogues the talk will explore the cultural relativity of looking which was at its apex during this period of encounter.

Cleo Roberts is pursuing her PhD, funded by the UK India Education and Research Initiative. Her thesis, looking at historical visual representations of the Ganges during the colonial period is part of the UGC-UKIERI project Envisioning the Indian City’, a collaboration between University of Liverpool and Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Her on-site research forms part of an INTACH-funded project. Cleo was recently named one of the Association of Art Historians’ ‘New Voice’. She will be lecturing at the Princeton South Asia Conference, and has recently spoken at the Royal Asiatic Society (London) and Wellcome Trust. She completed her BA at Durham University and MA at Goldsmiths.

Rogues River


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