Book Talk: Archive of Now: Photography in Kashmir 1986-2016


South Asia Institute and Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University

208 Knox Hall

Photography in Kashmir has emerged as a powerful witness to its troubled present. Rooted in photojournalism, but escaping its limits when possible, a new generation of photographers have illuminated Kashmiri life in a period of upheaval. In this talk, Sanjay Kak discusses his edited photobook Witness: Kashmir 1986-2016, Nine Photographers, which emerged from conversations with nine photographers, bringing out their varied relationships to photography and to Kashmir, in the process raising questions about the place of artistic practice in zones of conflict.

Sanjay Kak is an independent documentary filmmaker and writer whose recent work includes the films Red Ant Dream (2013) about the persistence of the revolutionary ideal in India, Jashn-e-Azadi (How we celebrate freedom, 2007) about the idea of freedom in Kashmir, and Words on Water (2002) about the struggle against the Narmada dams in central India. Sanjay is the editor of the anthology Until My Freedom Has Come – The New Intifada in Kashmir (Penguin India 2011, Haymarket Books USA 2013). He is also the editor and publisher of the critically acclaimed photobook, Witness – Kashmir 1986-2016, 9 Photographers which was published independently under the imprint of Yaarbal Books. At Yaarbal he has also edited and published the recent Cups of Nun Chai by Alana Hunt. A self-taught filmmaker, Sanjay has been active with the documentary cinema movement in India, and with the Cinema of Resistance project.

Hafsa Kanjwal is an Assistant Professor of South Asian History at Lafayette College. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in History and Women's Studies. Her research focuses on post-partition state-building in Indian-occupied Kashmir. She has written and spoken on Kashmir for a variety of news outlets including The Washington Post, Al Jazeera English, and the BBC. She is a member of the Critical Kashmir Studies collective, an academic collaborative that promotes research and scholarship on Kashmir.

Debashree Mukherjee is Associate Professor of film and media at MESAAS. She is author of Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (2020), and is currently working on a media history of indentured labor and South-South migrations, spanning photography, communications infrastructures, and film traffic. Debashree edits the peer-reviewed journal BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies and curates exhibitions on film photography and ephemera.