The self-image of modern Indian secular scholarship, particularly the strands that flowed into Marxist social history writing, not only partakes of the social sciences' view of the world as "disenchanted," but even displays antipathy to anything that smacks of the religious. The result has been a certain kind of paralysis of imagination, remarkable for a country whose people have never shown any sense of embarrassment about being able to imagine the supernatural in a variety of forms. (p. 25)
This got me thinking about art history, and why art history rather than (or as a focus for) the study of history? Some of the attraction for me is I think that enchanted quality of having the "object" of your study be a work of art—something visual, poetic, something that exceeds description and can be read in multiple ways. The wonderment part of art keeps art history engaged with that sense that the world can't be known, can't be controlled, something that Enlightenment reason folks assumed and tripped over to their peril. Like we used to say in grad school: you know what, it is about pretty pictures, at least some of the time. And it is about the way those images can allow access into something that isn't of this world. Like imagining an independent India, or a life without constant back-breaking labor. Little things like that.