Learning the Art Histories of South Asia

The MAP Academy is a platform that endeavors to transform the way South Asia's artifacts are accessed, taught, and discussed, both regionally and globally.
Learning the Art Histories of South Asia
It includes the first Encyclopedia of Art from the Indian Subcontinent ever attempted. (credit: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum)

The MAP Academy is a platform that endeavors to transform the way South Asia's artifacts are accessed, taught, and discussed, both regionally and globally. It includes the first Encyclopedia of Art from the Indian Subcontinent ever attempted, starting with over 2,000 articles and definitions and constantly growing, as well as an upcoming curriculum of online courses. It was created and maintained by over 40 researchers, editors, and academic advisors from around the world. These span pre-modern art, post-independence art, narrative and indigenous traditions, as well as popular culture, synthesizing information on the region's over 10,000 years of history and presenting it in engaging ways for a diverse audience.

Responding to our cultural and political moment, as well as the ongoing global re-evaluation of what art means in contemporary society, the MAP Academy's work has included a new and more informed look at our shared regional histories, their injustices, and conquests, triumphs, and lessons. It has also meant thinking more deeply about the power of online education as a way to reach those who may not always have access to centralized physical institutions. All of the resources available on our online platform are guided by the tenets of transparency, accountability, and editorial rigor, with a keen awareness of the fact that much of the South Asian public has skewed access to art historical information on the region, which has been dominated by political, commercial, and colonial biases.

It makes a sincere effort to question canonical narratives. (credit: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum)
It makes a sincere effort to question canonical narratives. (credit: Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum)

With a key focus on non-hierarchical approaches to art forms, including geographic representation and diversity, gender inclusivity, and caste sensitivity, the knowledge we make accessible through the MAP Academy, therefore, has a clear social purpose. Written primarily by South Asian researchers, it makes a sincere effort to question canonical narratives and provide objective understandings of complex subjects to enable audiences to approach historical issues with greater nuance and sensitivity.

Inviting both the serious student and the curious reader, the platform focuses on the way the region's next generation, one of the largest demographics in the world, engages with its cultural and artistic heritage. "As researchers and readers, we're too often constrained by both the biases of political agendas as well as the scarcity of resources," says Shrey Maurya, the project's managing editor. "The crucial histories surrounding art forms and their practice, which ought to be accessible to all, are rarely introduced in school or university curriculums in the Indian subcontinent. This has resulted in students passing through the education system with little to no exposure to art and cultural heritage. (AA/IANS)

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