Sugata Ray teaches courses on South Asian art, architecture, and print culture. 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’s research triangulates three interconnected thematic clusters.
The first revolves around environmental thinking in Islamicate South Asia, and leads to his current monograph Sensorium and Sacrament in a Hindu Pilgrimage Town: Theological Aesthetics, Ecology, and the Islamicate, 1600-1900. Reflecting on debates in environmental studies through the lens of art and architecture history, the book suggests that post-sixteenth-century liturgical practices in Vrindavan, the pilgrimage site where the god Krishna is believed to have spent his youth, triangulated imperial Mughal visual cultures, eleventh-century theories of performativity (rasa), and a topophilic theology to reimagine environmental aesthetics as moral sovereignty in early modern and colonial India. As an extension of his interest in environmentalism and topophilia, Sugata is coediting Liquescent: Spatializing Water in Global South Asia, 1500-2000, a volume on the materiality of ecologies and water systems. This interdisciplinary volume, with contributions by artists, architects, scholars, and activists from India, the United States, and Europe, emerges from an international conference organized at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.
Sugata’s second research thematic centers on the function of early modern non-European taxonomies and knowledge systems in shaping art history and museum practices, and leads to a new book project provisionally titled Arranging Hindostan: The Contingency of Knowledge at the Margins of the Early Modern. The third theme, which forms the core of a project under research, returns to global spatial cultures in early medieval South Asia to reconfigure the cosmopolitan aesthetics of the Islamicate in a longue durée.
Recent publications include essays on the Islamicate aesthetics of eighteenth-century gardens sponsored by north Indian Hindu kingdoms (forthcoming), the “effeminate” male body in Indian art history (forthcoming), the “failure” of colonial museology (The Art Bulletin, 2014), the relationship between exhibition cultures and the making of an Islamic art history (Shangri La Working Papers in Islamic Art, 2014), the politics of “inauthenticity” in global art history (James Elkins, ed., Is Art History Global? 2006), and contributions on postcolonial theory in The Encyclopedia of Empire (2014).
Sugata’s research has been supported by the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Social Science Research Council, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, and the Forum Transregionale Studien, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. In the past, Sugata has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Michigan.
More about him at www.sugataray.com