Mathers Museum exhibition on Indian Americans

An exhibit that includes Singer Smt Sajukta Ghosh and Tabla Player Shankar Ghosh with their son Vikram in 1970
An exhibit that includes Singer Smt Sajukta Ghosh and Tabla Player Shankar Ghosh with their son Vikram in 1970

BLOOMINGTON, Ind: Indiana University’s longstanding engagement with India is reflected in the first Smithsonian exhibition hosted by the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

The Smithsonian traveling exhibition “Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation,” which details the history of Indian Americans and their contributions to the United States from the 1700s to the present, will be on view at the Mathers Museum from January 30 to April 10.

Created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the first-of-its-kind exhibition from the Smithsonian features Indian Americans’ migration experiences, working lives, political struggles, and cultural and religious contributions.

A public exhibit opening at 7 pm Saturday, Jan 30, will feature comments by IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel and a performance of classical South Indian songs by Lavanya Narayanan.

A spring lecture series beginning Thursday, Feb. 4, will feature scholars from around the country: Pawan Dhingra, professor and chair of sociology and professor of American studies at Tufts University; Seema Sohi, assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder; Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and professor of international studies at Trinity College and Vivek Bald, documentary filmmaker and associate professor of writing and digital media at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A roundtable on the Indian diaspora will be presented from 1 to 4 pm Friday, April 15, with a number of scholars participating, including Sandhya Shukla, associate professor of English and director of American studies at University of Virginia; Maia Ramnath, associate professor of history and Asian studies at Pennsylvania State University; and Aisha Khan, associate professor of anthropology, New York University.

Michael S. Dodson, director of the Madhusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program said, “the hosting of this exhibition on the Indian-American experience demonstrates a further commitment to understanding the relationship between the international and the domestic, and in particular how India has helped to shape the modern United States and conversely how migration to the US has changed India.”

From the builders of some of the early railroads to civil rights pioneers and digital technology entrepreneurs, Indian Americans have long been an inextricable part of American life. One in every 100 Americans has a family connection to India. Indian immigrants worked in lumber mills, toiled on farms and established prosperous trading routes that are still in use today. Through a collection of photographs, artifacts, art and interactive learning stations, visitors will experience the Indian-American story and explore the many dynamic roles Indian Americans have played in shaping America.

A number of special programs will be presented at the Mathers Museum in conjunction with the exhibition, including a special family craft day from 2 to 3:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 7. All the programs will be free and open to the public. In addition, a free but ticketed film series will take place at IU Cinema.

Jason Jackson, director of the museum, said the associated programming will not only “deepen and enrich our understanding of Indian-American experiences, it will also highlight the role our museum plays in connecting our campus and community and in making humanities scholarship public-facing.”

For more information about the exhibition, accompanying programming or additional photographs, email

Surendra Ullal

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