Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Jere Surber, Ph.D.


Cultural Theory, Miniature Painting, Postcolonial Theory, South Asian Aesthetics, South Asian Religions, Third World Feminism


Transnational artist Shahzia Sikander challenges the limitations of Edward Said's postcolonial emphasis on secular humanism by deploying the heterogeneous traditions of South Asian miniature painting while strategically drawing on tradition to critique contemporaneity. Through a palimpsest process of composition, Sikander reincorporates the unknown and silenced histories implicit in the tradition of miniature painting to create social imaginaries with motifs that draw on the diverse traditions of South Asian religions and aesthetics to create a subversive politics of remembering wherein alternative images of cosmopolitanism emerge. Through a sustained analysis, this dissertation demonstrates how these alternative traditions interrogate and critique the limitations of postcolonial theory. Particularly important to this critique are some recent approaches of Third World feminists that highlight the limitations of secular humanism implicit in much of postcolonial critique. Sikander's compositions mirror these approaches as her motifs of the feminine become an intervention into the spiritual emptiness and ethical confusions of contemporaneity. In effect, Sikander's work is an intervention, a warning, and a plea for the re-invention of positive alternatives as her images embody and facilitate a critical and daring consciousness that is necessary to both our social and spiritual well-being.

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Linda Eilene Sanchez

File size

213 p.

File format





Philosophy of Religion, Art History, Women's Studies