Arts and Culture
Orientalist representations of India, notably in the colonial period, are strong and well-documented by many historians of art history and postcolonial studies. "Jewel in the Crown", India is populated with elephants, marble palaces, lustful dancers and – to complete a manichean portrait – repulsive poverty. This image, produced by magic lantern shows, books, and films during decades, is still strongly attached to the imagination of the country.
I would like to discuss in this panel the way other Asian countries still use this western perception instead of developing their own. Can an orientalist image be borrowed? And doing so, even when you have been yourself subject of a twisted image, by the same kind of power?
This interrogation will be discussed by the analysis of some recent Chinese fiction films taking place in India, that seem to explore the very same stereotyped vision, a representation of India coming from European fantasies of the last century. In the middle of the contemporary "Chindia" connections, financial exchanges and warming political relationships, this vision of India is surprising.
But do snake charmer, dangerous bazaar and colorful dances in Chinese films only come from that orientalist construction? Another hypothesis that may be considered, is the way Indian soft power is selling itself to the Chinese audience. Since a decade, many "Bollywood" films have become quite a success on Chinese box office. So what is the exact place of the European gaze on Asia in this net of representations?