- Culture & Society
An Image of India
05 May 2022
In the German-language media landscape, India is often portrayed in a relatively one-sided light. Thus, topics such as backwardness, the oppression of women and the many religions often appear as themes. Agenda-setting research from the field of media studies states that media play a central role in shaping public opinions and perceptions of the world. In this process, certain topics are emphasised and "fed" by the media more than others. Through constant repetition, these themes manifest themselves as cognitive schemata (ideas). These often stereotypical schemata have an unconscious influence on the perception and description of the world and are firmly anchored in society as narratives.
In the context of tourism, Noel B. Salazar has assigned the concept of tourism imaginaries to these narratives. He defines these as representations and imaginaries that are often shaped by historically formed stereotypes and discourses, such as Orientalism, a term coined by Edward W. Said in 1978. In the discourse of Orientalism, the representation of the constructed Orient takes place. Inherent in this discourse are certain narratives that appear in scholarly texts as well as in fiction, political texts and travel literature and films.
At the beginning of the 20th century, ethnographic educational films became a means of introducing India to German audiences as a distant place of longing. One of these films is the short documentary "Indiens steinerne Wunder" (1934) by Heinz Karl Heiland.
On 6 May 2022, this film will be shown in a newly digitised form at Babylon Berlin, followed by a discussion on pictorial appropriation, the handling of Indian cultural heritage and the question of the image of India that should be conveyed to the audience at that time. Can conclusions be drawn from the image conveyed here about the Germans' self-image and global-political claim to power in the 1930s? How is this "difficult heritage" dealt with today? And which images still persist in narratives about India?
The event is organised by the Kunstgeschichte der Moderne of the Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte at Humboldt University Berlin. Admission is free and no pre-registration is necessary. The film will be subtitled in English and the discussion afterwards will be bilingual. Please find the flyer attached (German/English).
If you have any questions about the event or want to discuss the topic more, please write to us in the comments, directly to [email protected] or come to the event!
Written by: Tanja Holbe, excerpts from her Master's thesis on "The Image of India in Travel Blogs - The Continuity of Orientalist Discourse in Narratives about India in German Travel Blogs".
Photos: from the flyer for the event
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