‘Enchanted Traps?’ The Historiography of Art and Colonialism in Eighteenth-century India



This essay examines the visual culture of 18th-century India in the light of recent historiographical debates in art history, postcolonial studies and anthropology. It seeks to highlight the exciting new developments in this long neglected field to explore how and why scholars of the visual are now rising to the challenge of the ‘imperial turn’. My argument foregrounds the relationship between knowledge, power and representation before turning to the issue and the danger of viewing empire as a ubiquitous presence in British and Indian art. I consider whether we need to provincialize Europe or whether ‘Europe’ (i.e. the Western episteme broadly defined) is already ‘parochial’ in outlook.