Imagine Otherwise: Bakirathi Mani on Curating with Confidence

Nov 26, 2020 | Podcast

Curating with Confidence

The collaborative art of curation is one that takes a complex mixture of confidence and humility. Curators need confidence in their choices and artistic voice but the humility to stay open to learning from others and being surprised by the collaborative process.

The career of today’s guest, Bakirathi Mani, demonstrates how this dance of confidence and humility enables postcolonial artists, scholars, and curators to challenge imperial visualities while building transnational community.

In episode 123 of Imagine Otherwise, I interview Bakirathi about her journey into art curation and what it offers to her work in the classroom, how postcolonial artists and viewers navigate the colonial history of photography in art exhibitions, and why collectively building a world of representations that are no longer haunted by empire is how Bakirathi imagines otherwise.

Bakirathi Mani wearing a white shirt. Text reads: I think about confidence as something that's gained through creating narratives of belonging—including through artworks and communities.
Bakirathi Mani wearing a white shirt. Text reads: What I bring into the classroom is sharing with my students a confidence to be more deeply collaborative in the work of learning from each other.

Bakirathi Mani

Born in Bombay, raised in Tokyo, and educated in Japan, the US and India, Bakirathi Mani is a professor of English literature and coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Swarthmore College, as well as a curator who collaborates with Asian American arts organizations in Philadelphia and nationwide. 

Her newest book, Unseeing Empire: Photography, Representation, South Asian America(Duke University Press, 2020), considers how empire haunts contemporary visual representations of South Asians in America, shaping both the form of fine art photography as well as how diasporic viewers claim and identify with these images.

Bakirathi is also the author of Aspiring to Home: South Asians in America (Stanford University Press, 2012) and numerous articles in American QuarterlySocial Textthe Journal of Asian American StudiesDiasporaPositions, and Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas.

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