Vishwajyoti Ghosh

Archival and Museum Fellowships

Grant Period: Over one year

Vishwajyoti Ghosh is the author of Delhi Calm, a political graphic novel set in the India of the 70s during the time of the Emergency, a visual book of postcards Times New Roman & Countrymen, and an anthology called This Side That Side, stories about the legacy of partition, published last year.

For the CSSSC project, Vishwajyoti intends to bring together two distinct forms of information: the educational texts and the visuals of popular culture from 19th century India in a single body of work. He intends to use the forms of comics and collage to visually reinterpret texts that were created with a social purpose in an era, together with visuals from the same era, that were created with religious and commercial agendas.

Vishwajyoti’s project is to research the moral science textbooks produced by the Srirampur Mission Press established in Srirampur in 1800, which has an interesting history. The press published religious Christian tracts, Indian literary works, translations of the Bible in Indian vernacular and other South Asian languages. But the major contribution of the press was printing vernacular textbooks on grammar, dictionaries, history, legends and moral tales for the Fort William College and the Calcutta School Book Society. The press produced 2,12,000 books between 1800 and 1832 and the CSSSC has archived nearly 300 early textbooks published by Fort William College, Srirampur Baptist Mission School Book Society and other institutes of learning in colonial Bengal.

Textbooks according to Vishwajyoti, have always been written from very particular ideological perspectives: this is reflected in the information that is selected for presentation, the theme and the larger function it needs to serve. And the moral science books of the Baptist Mission are some of the best examples of books with a mission. Vishwajyoti will work exclusively with these books, and the values they advocate will be visually reinterpreted through popular iconography of the times including advertisements, posters and calendar art, and the popular art forms of the times like the Kalighat patas, European lithographs and the Bat-tala prints. The works thus produced will be displayed through an exhibition and will be discussed and debated in workshops with educators, trainers and students.

Vishwajyoti thinks this project of re-interpreting texts is of particular relevance today as most governments (more importantly the government that is currently in power) are involved in the business of reinterpreting and re-writing histories and textbooks in order to propagate their own agenda. 

This fellowship was made possible with support from Voltas Limited.