Sugata Ray

Job title: 
Associate Professor
South and Southeast Asian Art

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. His first book, Climate Change and the Art of Devotion: Geoaesthetics in the Land of Krishna, 1550–1850 (2019, awarded the American Academy of Religion’s Religion and the Arts Book Award), examined the interrelationship between matter and life in shaping creative practices in the Hindu pilgrimage site of Braj during the ecocatastrophes of the Little Ice Age (ca. 1550–1850). As an extension of his interest in the field of eco art history, Ray has coedited Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art (forthcoming; with Gerhard Wolf and Hannah Baader, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut) and Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence (2020; with Venugopal Maddipati, Ambedkar University, Delhi).

Sugata Ray’s current book project Indian Ocean Art Histories in the Age of Anthropocene Extinction focuses on the intersecting histories of the global trade in exotica and natural resources and the extinction of Indian Ocean species from the 1500s onward. In the past, Ray has published essays on theories of collecting and archiving, postcolonial theory, and methodologies for a global art history in journals such as Art History and The Art Bulletin and guest edited a special issue of Ars Orientalis (2018) on translations and terminologies. His 2016 essay on the collecting of Islamic art in the United States was awarded the Historians of Islamic Art Association’s Margaret B. 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 Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, the Townsend Center for the Humanities, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the Hellman Family Fund, the College Art Association’s Meiss Publication Fund, and the Getty Research Institute. He has spoken internationally on climate change and the visual arts and delivered keynotes at conferences, museums, and nonprofit organizations on eco art history and has been a Guest Scholar at the Mellon-Marron Research Consortium at MoMA, New York and the Power Institute, University of Sydney.

Affiliated with the Institute for South Asia Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, the Group in Asian Studies, and the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies (0% appointment), Sugata Ray teaches courses on South and Southeast Asian art, as well as thematic seminars on global early modern art, eco art history, theories of collecting and archiving, postcolonial theory, and methodologies for a global art history. His doctoral students are currently working on a range of topics including the global histories of Rajput painting, exchanges between Southeast Asia and the Americas in the early modern period, and maritime networks in the Indian Ocean region.

Select publications

Guest Editor, “The Language of Art History,” Special issue, Ars Orientalis 48 (2018). (download issue as pdf)

“A ‘Small’ Story of the Jasmine Flower in the Era of Global Botany,” in Crafting Enlightenment: Artisanal Histories and Transnational Networks, edited by Jennifer Ferng and Lauren Cannady, 247–72. Liverpool: Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment and Liverpool University Press, 2021.

“For the Love of Land: Permaculture as Resistance at the Hakoritna Farm, West Bank,” Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, 47, no. 2 (June 2020): 53–58.

“Water is a Limited Commodity: Ecological Aesthetics in the Little Ice Age, Mathura, ca. 1614,” in Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence, edited by Sugata Ray and Venugopal Maddipati, 37–59. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2020.

“Introduction: The Materiality of Liquescence,” in Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence, edited by Sugata Ray and Venugopal Maddipati, 1–16. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2020 (with Venugopal Maddipati).

“Introduction: Translation as Art History,” in “The Language of Art History,” ed. Sugata Ray, special issue, Ars Orientalis 48 (2018): 1–19.

“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 40, no. 1 (March 2017): 1–23. Video abstract from Taylor & Francis.

“Ecomoral Aesthetics at the Vishram Ghat, Mathura: Three Ways of Seeing a River,” in Water Design: Environment and Histories, edited by Jutta Jain-Neubauer, 58–69. Mumbai: Marg Publications, 2016.

“Shangri La: The Archive-Museum and the Spatial Topologies of Islamic Art History,” in Rethinking Place in South Asian and Islamic Art, 1500–Present, edited by Deborah S. Hutton and Rebecca M. Brown, 163–83. New York: Routledge, 2016. Essay awarded the Historians of Islamic Art Association’s Margaret B. Ševčenko Prize, 2014.

“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.

“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, 2007 (with Atreyee Gupta).

Select Non-Refereed Writing, Curating, and Media

“Vegetal Aesthetics in the Anthropocene,” Exh. Cat., Dissonant Matter, Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, 2021. (download as pdf)

“Art History and the Political Ecologies of Air,” Venti Journal 1, no. 1 (Fall 2020): 40–7. (download as pdf)

Crisis & Creativity: Virtual Artists in ResidenceUC Berkeley South Asia Art Initiative, October 25–28, 2020 (Co-curator).

Five Tables of the Indian Ocean, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, December 2019 (Curated by students in Fall 2019 course Introduction to the Art and Architecture of South and Southeast Asia).

“From Landscape to Land: Eco Aesthetics as Decolonial Imaginaire in Tulkarm,” 28 Magazine 12 (2018): 40–51. [Published in Arabic] (download as pdf)

“Would the Peepal Marry?” TAKE on India: Ecology 3, no. 1 (January 2017): 31–33.

Love across the Global South: Popular Cinema Cultures of India and Senegal, Bernice Layne Brown Gallery, University of California, Berkeley, 2017–18. (Co-curator). 

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

Scholar Favorites, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, 2013. (YouTube).


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


Office Hours: Spring 2024

Tuesdays: 5:00-6:00pm