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Books

Climate Change and the Art of Devotion: Geoaesthetics in the Land of Krishna, 1550–1850 (Global South Asia Series and the Art History Publication Initiative, University of Washington Press, 2019) 

In the enchanted world of Braj, the primary pilgrimage center in north India for worshippers of Krishna, each stone, river, and tree is considered sacred. In Climate Change and the Art of Devotion, Sugata Ray shows how this place-centered theology emerged in the wake of the Little Ice Age (ca. 1550–1850), an epoch marked by climatic catastrophes across the globe. Using the frame of geoaesthetics, he compares early modern conceptions of the environment and current assumptions about nature and culture.

A groundbreaking contribution to the emerging field of eco–art history, the book examines architecture, paintings, photography, and prints created in Braj alongside theological treatises and devotional poetry to foreground seepages between the natural ecosystem and cultural production. The paintings of deified rivers, temples that emulate fragrant groves, and talismanic bleeding rocks that Ray discusses will captivate readers interested in environmental humanities and South Asian art history.

Available on Amazon


Sugata Ray, ed. “The Language of Art History,” Special issue of Ars Orientalis 48 (2018)

Guest edited by Sugata Ray, the forty-eighth volume of Ars Orientalis, “The Language of Art History,” foregrounds the concepts of “translations,” “terminologies,” and “global art history.” The seven articles in the volume all were developed from papers presented at the Thirty-fourth World Congress of Art History in Beijing, hosted by the Chinese committee of the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art (CIHA). They address key issues with methodological urgency, such as the development of representational techniques across cultures, the relationships between real spaces and spaces of representation, the adaptations of architectural idioms within the context of colonialism and its legacy, and the notion of objecthood in the digital age. In doing so, the authors test the terms and methods for a global art history and explore diverse modes of being in translation.

Available here


Sugata Ray and Venugopal Maddipati, eds. Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence, Visual and Media Histories Series (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2019)

Atul Bhalla,  Deliverance , Archival Pigment Print (Diasec). Photo © Atul Bhalla

Atul Bhalla, Deliverance, Archival Pigment Print (Diasec). Photo © Atul Bhalla

This book surveys the intersections between water systems and the phenomenology of visual cultures in early modern, colonial, and contemporary South Asia. Bringing together contributions by eminent artists, architects, curators, and scholars who explore the connections between the environmental and the cultural, the volume situates water in an expansive relational domain. It covers disciplines as diverse as literary studies, environmental humanities, sustainable design, urban planning, and media studies. The chapters explore the ways in which material cultures of water generate technological and aesthetic acts of envisioning geographies and make an intervention within political, developmental, and cultural discourses. A critical interjection in the sociologies of water in the subcontinent, the book brings art history into conversation with current debates on climate change by examining water’s artistic, architectural, engineering, religious, scientific, and environmental facets from the 16th century to the present.

This is one of the first books on South Asia’s art, architecture and visual history to interweave the ecological with the aesthetic under the emerging field of eco art history. The volume will be of interest to scholars and general readers of art history, Islamic studies, South Asian studies, urban studies, architecture, geography, history, and environmental studies. It will also appeal to activists, curators, art critics, and those interested in water management.

This eclectic collection of essays attempts to capture an ineffable quality of waterscapes: that they shape imaginations and actions in ways both fluid and enduring. At a time when the challenge of climate change calls for creative cultural politics, this exploration of ways of seeing and being is all the more valuable. - Amita Baviskar, Professor of Sociology, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, India

Available here


Bezoar Stone from Goa with gold filigree, 17th Century Repository: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien

Bezoar Stone from Goa with gold filigree, 17th Century Repository: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien

Robert Smithson  Asphalt Rundown , Rome, 1969

Hannah Baader, Gerhard Wolf, and Sugata Ray, eds. Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019)

Matter, Material, Materiality: Indian Ocean Art Histories in the Early Modern World (in progress)


Essays and Book Chapters

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, Singapore, 1845

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, Singapore, 1845

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

Cotton chintz from the Coromandel Coast with water stain, c. 1725. Repository: Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Cotton chintz from the Coromandel Coast with water stain, c. 1725. Repository: Victoria & Albert Museum, London

“Introduction: The Materiality of Liquescence,” in Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence, edited by Sugata Ray and Venugopal Maddipati, forthcoming. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019. (with Venugopal Maddipati)

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

Samuel Swinton Jacob, Jaipur Economic and Industrial Museum, 1887

Samuel Swinton Jacob, Jaipur Economic and Industrial Museum, 1887

"Colonial Frames, 'Native' Claims: The Jaipur Economic and Industrial Museum," The Art Bulletin 96 no. 2 (July 2014): 196–212.

Standing Buddha from Jamalpur, Mathura, 5th century CE (detail). Repository: Government Museum, Mathura

Standing Buddha from Jamalpur, Mathura, 5th century CE (detail). Repository: Government Museum, Mathura

"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.

"Is Art History Global? Responding from the Margins," in Is Art History Global? edited by James Elkins, 348–57. New York: Routledge, 2007. Coauthored with Atreyee Gupta.

Vishram Ghat, Mathura, 2012

Vishram Ghat, Mathura, 2012

"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, forthcoming. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019.

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

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

Worship of the river Yamuna, Kesi Ghat, Vrindavan, Braj

Worship of the river Yamuna, Kesi Ghat, Vrindavan, Braj

"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: https://vimeo.com/183801693

“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. (Revised version of “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.)

Inder Salim, I n Trafalgar Square: The Other 1857,  Performance at Trafalgar Square, London, June 19, 2008. Photo © artist.

Inder Salim, In Trafalgar Square: The Other 1857, Performance at Trafalgar Square, London, June 19, 2008. Photo © artist.

"Postcolonialism," in The Encyclopedia of Empire, edited by John M. MacKenzie, 1–3. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016.