UC Berkeley History of Art Department

People / Faculty


  • Sugata Ray

    Assistant Professor

    South Asian Art

    Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 2012
    M.Phil., Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, 2003
    M.A., Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara, 2002
    B.A., University of Calcutta, Kolkata, 2000

  • Bio

    Trained in both history (Presidency College; Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta) and art history (Maharaja Sayajirao University, 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 (ca. 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), a trans-disciplinary volume on the relationship between water systems and the phenomenology of spatial cultures. Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art, a collaborative research and coedited book project on the intersections between ecological art and global art history, is in progress (with Gerhard Wolf and Hannah Baader, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut).


    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 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 exhibition cultures and the making of an Islamic art history was awarded the Historians of Islamic Art Association’s 2015 Margaret Ševčenko 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, Berlin, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of California, Berkeley.

    Affiliated with the Institute for South Asia Studies and the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, Ray teaches courses on South Asian art and architecture, as well as thematic seminars on the global early modern, eco art history, theories of collecting and archiving, postcolonial theory, and methodologies for a global art history.




  • Select publications

    “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.

    “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.

    “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.

    “Postcolonialism,” in The Encyclopedia of Empire, edited by John M. MacKenzie, 1–3. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 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, 2015.

    “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.

    Select Non-Academic Writing and Media
    Love across the Global South: Popular Cinema Cultures of India and Senegal, Bernice Layne Brown Gallery, University of California, Berkeley, 2017–2018 (Co-curator)

    (processing) – Bay Area Artists and the Archive, Worth Ryder Art Gallery, Berkeley, 2015.

    Whose Religion? Whose Speech? Whose Freedom?” TraFo-Beiträge zur transregionalen Forschung, Max Weber Stiftung, 2014.

    The Buddha in the Colonial Archive: Art History and the Making of the ‘Effeminate’ Male Body,” University of California, Berkeley, 2014.

    Scholar Favorites, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, 2013 (Film on the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art collection).