A stamp on the Ghats of Varanasi issued in 1983 to commemorate the Fifth General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization in New Delhi. Courtesy: Vikas Kumar
Placing urban India under a philatelic lens, this talk argues that post-colonial India has been ambivalent about its urban spaces. The philatelic archive suggests that the government did not nurture a vision for urban India.
Within the postage stamps, cities feature as standalone iconic colonial and pre-colonial monuments and not as entities with a cultural and political life of their own. So nation-building through establishing ethnic iconographies for cities is the guiding concern seen in stamps.
An appreciation of the specific virtues of work and life in cities is hard to find. The talk concludes with a discussion on the implications of this stance toward cities reflected in the philatelic archive.
This event has been curated under Thinking Cities, Museum of Art and Photography’s (MAP’s) public programming theme for the quarter. Through this theme, we explore and reimagine cities through the lenses of space, identity, history, memory and more.
About the Speaker
Vikas Kumar currently teaches economics at Azim Premji University. He is the author of Numbers as Political Allies: The Census in Jammu and Kashmir (Cambridge University Press, 2023, forthcoming) and Waiting for a Christmas Gift: Essays on Politics, Elections and Media in Nagaland (Heritage Publishing House, 2023) and the co-author of Numbers in India’s Periphery: The Political Economy of Government Statistics (Cambridge University Press, 2020).
He curated the exhibition Baba Saheb: An Extraordinary Philatelic Journey (1966−2022) at the India International Centre, New Delhi (June 2022) and Counting and Controlling Population: Postal Services, Census & Family Planning in Post-colonial India, 1951 – 2011 at the Bangalore International Centre (January 2023).