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Jinah Kim: "Mind pictures and manuscript paintings: Examples from twelfth century South Asia"

February 25, 2016 -
6:00pm to 7:30pm
Hartley Conference Center, Mitchell Earth Science Building



How do we see and share a mental image? In the era of digital imaging and breakthroughs in neuroscience, capturing and sharing a mind’s image is a distinct possibility that once belonged to sci-fi movies. The desire and the needs to externalize, circulate, and control a mental image pushed and shaped the creative solutions seen in Buddhist painted palm-leaf manuscripts of twelfth century South Asia. This talk will demonstrate how the pictorial and manuscriptological strategies we find in painted palm-leaf manuscripts relate to the tantric vision practices, and how they opened up a unique way to share visual knowledge.


Jinah Kim is Assistant Professor of South Asian art in the department of History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University. She is trained as an art historian of South and Southeast Asia with particular emphasis on Buddhist material. Her research interests range widely from intertexuality in text-image relationship, to art and politics, to female representations and patronage, to issues regarding re-appropriation of sacred objects. In particular, she is interested in exploring the materiality of paintings and texts, especially in religious context of medieval South Asia. 

Her first book, Receptacle of the Sacred: Illustrated Manuscripts and the Buddhist book cult in South Asia (University of California Press, 2013) examines illustrated Buddhist manuscripts as sacred objects of medieval cultic innovation that can be animated through the presence of images and various design strategies. She is currently working on a book project tentatively titled, "Garlands of Visions: Painted Palm-leaf manuscripts and the History of Indian Painting 1100-1500.” It aims to shed light on the Indic manuscript culture as it was practiced during the time of dynamic cultural and political changes in South Asia by relating the visual and material strategies of painted palm-leaf manuscripts to concurrently developing ritual strategies of Indic religious traditions. She is also working on a few research projects that examine the socio-political history of religious iconography in South and Southeast Asia. Another research project deals with identifying "visual vernaculars" in South Asia as they developed during the first few centuries of the second millennia. 

She received her B.A. in Archaeology and Art History from Seoul National University, and M.A. (2002) and Ph.D. (2006) in History of Art from University of California, Berkeley. She is a recipient of a few prestigious fellowships, such as a Getty-NEH post-doctoral fellowship (2012-2013), a Mellon Fellowship for Assistant Professors at the Institute of Advanced Study (Member in the School of Historical Studies, 2009-2010), a research grant from Asian Cultural Council (Ford Foundation Fellow, 2005), and a Junior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies (2003-2004). Her first book earned an honorable mention for AAS Bernard Cohen Prize in 2015. Prior to joining the Harvard faculty, she served as an assistant professor of South Asian art at Vanderbilt University and Rutgers the State University of New Jersey.

Caption for the image: 

Folio 233verso-folio 234recto(partial view), a painted palm-leaf manuscript of the Perfection of Wisdom sūtra, probably Bengal, c. late 12th- early 13th century. Varendra Research Museum. Photo©J Kim 2014.

Event Sponsor: 
Ho Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford
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This event belongs to the following series