Jisha Menon will discuss her recent book, Brutal Beauty: Aesthetics and Aspiration in Urban India. Brutal Beauty 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. Sketching out scenes of urban aspiration and its dark underbelly, the book delineates the creative and destructive potential of India’s lurch into contemporary capitalism, exploring art’s capacity to absorb and critique liberalization’s discontents. Menon argues that neoliberalism isn’t just an economic, social, and political phenomenon, it is also an aesthetic project.
Jisha Menon is Professor of Theater and Performance Studies, and (by courtesy) of Comparative Literature at Stanford University. She is the author of Brutal Beauty: Aesthetics and Aspiration in Urban India (Northwestern UP, 2021) and The Performance of Nationalism: India, Pakistan and the Memory of Partition (Cambridge UP, 2013) and coeditor of Violence Performed: Local Roots and Global Routes of Conflict (with Patrick Anderson) (Palgrave-Macmillan Press, 2009) and Performing the Secular: Religion, Representation, and Politics (with Milija Gluhovic) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.)