McNally School
of Fine Arts

Ashwariya Khemka

Ashwariya Khemka

MA Asian Art Histories
2020 — 2021

Ashwariya Khemka is from Mumbai and has always been interested in learning how society functions and what the role of art is in the context of modern society and its problems. This led her to study art history and examine how artists as activists can incite change. Her MA thesis focuses on violence in contemporary India.

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Thesis abstract

Violence in India: studying oppression in contemporary Indian art and society

Why do we commit violence? Because we see someone as different from ourselves and who is a threat to our existence. Indian society is highly oppressive in nature. There exists a multilayered system of oppression based on an individual’s gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, caste and class, among other factors. Visual artists having played a distinct role in reinforcing this system of oppression, are now questioning it. Contemporary Indian artists are studying discriminatory colonial laws in their works whilst questioning violence and oppression in India. Such a study reveals Indian society to be hybrid in nature. This thesis begins with an examination of discriminatory colonial laws with identifiable impacts in contemporary Indian society through the works of various Indian artists. It highlights different types of violence – both symbolic and real – to propose a reassessment of Indian society as a whole.