My research engages in the history of art, architecture, and visual culture of South Asia from the late eighteenth century to the present. I am particularly interested in the tensions and struggles that emerge within visual culture at moments that present themselves as transitional (but usually do not constitute a true “break”)—the early British presence on the subcontinent, the anti-colonial movement of the early twentieth century, the decades after India’s independence in 1947, and the economic and political machinations of the long 1980s. I’ve written on urban space, architecture, cemeteries, amateur lithographs, popular painting, photography, modernist painting and sculpture, film, television, and museum display. Throughout my work I am attentive to the interplay between space and the activities it shapes and enables, as well as the temporality of movement, performance, and duration as embodied by textiles, photographs, paintings, and people. At the core of each of these engagements lies an attentive commitment to visual culture in its materiality, its instability, its active role for history, and its reconstitution in different epistemes under changing political demands.


  • 1999   University of Minnesota ~ Ph.D. in South Asian & Islamic Art History

    • Mellon Fellow in Humanistic Studies, CAORC Research Fellow

  • 1995   University of Minnesota ~ M.A. in South Asian & Islamic Art History

  • 1993   Pomona College ~ B.A. in Art History

Other Publications

My publications include Displaying Time: The Many Temporalities of the Festival of India(University of Washington Press 2017), Rethinking Place in South Asian and Islamic Art, 1500–Present (coedited with Deborah S. Hutton, Routledge 2016), Goddess, Lion, Peasant, Priest: Modern and Contemporary Indian Art from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Collection (exhibition and catalog, 2011), A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture (coedited with Deborah S. Hutton, Wiley-Blackwell 2011, paperback 2015), Gandhi’s Spinning Wheel and the Making of India(Routledge 2010, paperback 2012), Art for a Modern India, 1947–1980 (Duke University Press 2009), Asian Art (coedited with Deborah S. Hutton, Blackwell 2006), and articles in Visual Anthropology, Res, Interventions, CSSAAME, Archives of Asian Art, Art Journal, Journal of Urban History, ScreenJournal of Asian Studies, and Art Bulletin.

Blog Posts


    My PhD at the University of Minnesota focused on cities in colonial India, asking how the arrival of the British reshaped urban space in the eighteenth century. My second major project examined how art negotiates the issues surrounding modernity in newly independent India after 1947. I then turned to a genealogical examination of the imagery of the spinning wheel from the early nineteenth century through to Gandhi’s deployment of it for the nationalist movement. Drawing on both this project and earlier work on nineteenth-century Patna, I developed an article unsettling our understanding of early 19th century Indian painting. My most recent book explores the durations and temporalities at play in galleries and museums by critically situating the many art exhibitions of the 1985-86 Festival of India in the US. A portion of that research, on the exhibitions of contemporary art at the Festival, appeared in Art Bulletin (September 2014).

    Upcoming Talks and Conferences

    College Art Association Conference, February 2019, attending as former Art Journal Editor-in-Chief.

    Association of Asian Studies Conference, March 2019, respondent on a panel about my book,  Displaying Time: The Many Temporalities of the Festival of India (University of Washington Press 2017).

    Rebecca M Brown

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