Archives at the National Centre for Biological Sciences
Public Lecture Series + Exhibition
54th edition
Monthly talks framed around explorations in and around archives. Discussions by artists, archivists, academics, lawyers, teachers, journalists and others.
Understanding Postcolonial India through Philately
Vikas Kumar
Exhibition - From Policies to Personalities
21st April - 26th April
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Instem Museum, Ground Floor
Update: The exhibition will remain open till May 2 2023, 5:00 PM.
Lecture - What can a postage stamp tell us?
Friday, April 21 2023. 5:00pm.
InStem Hall
Postage stamps and postmarks are fast threatening to become quaint reminders of a bygone era. But for more than 150 years, they facilitated much of our communication. Over this period the iconic value of stamps and postmarks gradually eclipsed their fiscal value as they increasingly began to serve as spaces for advocacy, propaganda and identity politics. Newly independent India, for instance, used this space to promote a secular, modern identity rooted in our rich and diverse cultural heritage and create awareness about public policies. Using the under explored world of postal material, this talk and exhibition will illustrate the usefulness of the philatelic archive as a valuable source of information and insights on post-colonial India. In particular, it will explore the portrayal of political leaders and organisations and public policies like family planning in commemorative and definitive postage stamps and postmarks.

Vikas Kumar currently teaches economics at Azim Premji University. He is the co-author of Numbers in India’s Periphery: The Political Economy of Government Statistics (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and author of Waiting for a Christmas Gift: Essays on Politics, Elections and Media in Nagaland (Heritage Publishing House, 2023)​ and Numbers as Political Allies: The Census in Jammu and Kashmir (forthcoming).​ He curated the exhibition Baba Saheb: An Extraordinary Philatelic Journey (1966-2022) at the India International Centre, New Delhi (June 2022) and the Bangalore International Centre, Bengaluru (July 2022) and Counting and Controlling Population: Postal Services, Census & Family Planning in Post-colonial India, 1951-2011 at the Bangalore International Centre, Bengaluru (January 2023).