Sugata Ray

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338 Heller Hall
271 19th Ave S


Trained in both history (Presidency College; Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta) and art history (Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda; University of Minnesota), Sugata Ray’s research focuses on the intersections among early modern and colonial artistic cultures, transterritorial ecologies, and the natural environment. Taking the aesthetics of seeing the natural environment as a locus of inquiry, his current book project, Geoaesthetics in the Little Ice Age: Sensorium, Sacrament, and Artistic Cultures in Braj, ca. 1550–1850, examines the interrelationship between matter and (nonhuman and human) life in shaping creative practices during the Little Ice Age (1550–1850), a geological epoch marked by droughts of unprecedented intensity across the world. As an extension of his interest in the aesthetics of environmental thinking, Ray has coedited Liquescent Materiality: Water in Global South Asia (forthcoming).
Sugata Ray’s second research thematic centers on a postcolonial reading of aesthetic taxonomies and knowledge systems that have shaped the formation of art history and collecting practices in the early modern and colonial period. This leads to a new book project titled Arranging Hindostan: The Contingency of Knowledge at the Margins of the Early Modern. Publications from this project have appeared in journals such as Art History and The Art Bulletin. Researched during Ray’s tenure as the 2013 Scholar-in-Residence, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, a recent essay from this project on the relationship between exhibition cultures and the making of an Islamic art history was awarded the Historians of Islamic Art Association’s 2014 Margaret Sevcenko Prize.
Sugata Ray’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Social Science Research Council, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, the Forum Transregionale Studien, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Hellman Fellows Fund, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of California, Berkeley.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Art History , Department of Art History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2012.
  • M.Phil. (Research Training Programme): History, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, 2003.
  • M.A.: Art History (summa cum laude), Department of Art History and Aesthetics, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara , 2002.
  • B.A. : History (Honors), Presidency College, University of Calcutta, Kolkata , 2000.
  • “Water is a Limited Commodity: Ecological Aesthetics in the Little Ice Age, Mathura, ca. 1614,” in Liquescent Materiality: Water in Global South Asia, edited by Sugata Ray and Venugopal Maddipati, under review. New Delhi: Routledge, 2017.
  • “Postcolonialism,” in The Encyclopedia of Empire, edited by John M. MacKenzie, 1–3. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.
  • “Hydroaesthetics in the Little Ice Age: Theology, Artistic Cultures, and Environmental Transformation in Early Modern Braj, ca. 1560–70,”South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 39, no. 4 (December 2016): forthcoming.
  • Review of A Revolutionary History of Interwar India: Violence, Image, Voice and Text, by Kama Maclean, in South Asian Popular Culture (Fall 2016): forthcoming.
  • “Rupa and Rasa, Material Form and Theological Aesthetics: Picturing the Riverscape in the Isarda Bhāgavata Purāṇa, ca. 1560,” in Aesthetic Practices and Spatial Descriptions, edited by Hannah Baader, Martina Becker, Niharika Dinkar, forthcoming. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2016.
  • “Ecomoral Aesthetics at the Vishram Ghat, Mathura: Three Ways of Seeing a River,” in Water Design: Environment and Histories, edited by Jutta Jain-Neubauer, forthcoming. Mumbai: Marg Foundation, 2016.
  • “The ‘Effeminate’ Buddha, the Yogic Male Body, and the Ecologies of Art History in Colonial India,”Art History 38, no. 5 (November 2015): 916–39.
  • “Shangri La: The Archive-Museum and the Spatial Topologies of Islamic Art History,”Shangri La Working Papers in Islamic Art 7 (August 2014): 1–17. Revised and reprinted in Rethinking Place in South Asian and Islamic Art, 1500–Present, edited by Deborah S. Hutton and Rebecca M. Brown, forthcoming. New York: Routledge, 2016.
    Essay awarded the Historians of Islamic Art Association’s Margaret B. Ševčenko Prize, 2014.
  • “Colonial Frames, ‘Native’ Claims: The Jaipur Economic and Industrial Museum,”The Art Bulletin 96, no. 2 (July 2014): 196–212.
  • Is Art History Global? Responding from the Margins,” in Is Art History Global? edited by James Elkins, 348–57. New York: Routledge, 2006. Coauthored with Atreyee Gupta.