Jisha MenonDec 7, 2021
Aesthetics and Aspiration in the Indian City
Northwestern University Press 2021
Brutal Beauty: Aesthetics and Aspiration in the Indian City (Northwestern UP, 2021) follows a postcolonial city as it transforms into a bustling global metropolis after the liberalization of the Indian economy. Taking the once idyllic “garden city” of Bangalore in southern India as its point of departure, the book explores how artists across India and beyond foreground neoliberalism as a “structure of feeling” permeating aesthetics, selfhood, and everyday life.
Jisha Menon conveys the affective life of the city through multiple aesthetic projects that express a range of urban feelings, including aspiration, panic, and obsolescence. As developers and policymakers remodel the city through tumultuous construction projects, urban beautification, privatization, and other templated features of “world‑class cities,” urban citizens are also changing—transformed by nostalgia, narcissism, shame, and the spaces where they dwell and work. Sketching out scenes of urban aspiration and its dark underbelly, Menon delineates the creative and destructive potential of India’s lurch into contemporary capitalism, uncovering the interconnectedness of local and global power structures as well as art’s capacity to absorb and critique liberalization’s discontents. She argues that neoliberalism isn’t just an economic, social, and political phenomenon; neoliberalism is also a profoundly aesthetic project.
Sneha Annavarapu is Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at Yale-NUS College. To know more about Sneha's work, please visit www.snehanna.com