Sugata Ray picture

Sugata Ray

Director (Interim), Institute for South Asia Studies; Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies; Associate Professor, South & South East Asian Art & Architecture
History of Art; South & Southeast Asian Studies

Sugata Ray is Associate Professor of South and Southeast Asian art in the History of Art Department and the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies. 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 2020 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, Social Science Research Council, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin and Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of California Humanities Research Institute, Hellman Family Fund, 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.

Affiliated with the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies (0% appointment), the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, the Institute for South Asia Studies, the Group in Asian Studies, and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 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. Along with colleagues in History of Art and the Department of Art Practice, Ray had established a new campus-level South Asia Art Initiative at UC Berkeley. 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.