Durga Puja masks, Baishnabghata Patuli township, Kolkata, 2006; photo by Sonal Khullar
Faculty / Sonal Khullar

Sonal Khullar

Assistant Professor
Art Building, room 363

M.A., University of California at Berkeley, 2004
Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 2009


South Asian art

My research and teaching interests include the art of South Asia (with a focus on the period from the eighteenth century until the present), transnational histories of modern and contemporary art, the anthropology of art, feminist theory, and postcolonial studies. In addition to my full-time appointment in art history, I am an adjunct assistant professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and an affiliate faculty member of the South Asian Studies program at the University of Washington.

My first book, Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990, will appear with the University of California Press in spring 2015. Drawing on Edward Said’s notion of affiliation as a critical and cultural imperative against empire and nation-state, this book traces the emergence of a national art world in twentieth-century India and emphasizes its cosmopolitan ambitions and orientations. Focusing on four major Indian artists (Amrita Sher-Gil, Maqbool Fida Husain, K. G. Subramanyan, and Bhupen Khakhar), I situate their careers within national and global histories of modernism and modernity. Through a close analysis of artworks, archival materials, artists’ writing, and period criticism, I trace continuities and change in artistic production from the late colonial through the postcolonial periods, which have been treated as discrete, if not disconnected, in art historical scholarship.

In a second book project, The Art of Dislocation: Conflict and Collaboration in Contemporary Art from South Asia, I identify collaboration as a hallmark of contemporary art in South Asia and a critical response to globalization since the 1990s. Through close analysis of artists and artworks from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, this project contributes to a growing art historical literature on contemporary art that has largely focused on Western sites and figures. It examines connections and disjunctions between art produced in the nation-states of South Asia relative to each other and to the West, engaging research in anthropology, geography, and political theory on transnational networks, intercultural exchange, and regional hegemonies. It analyzes how artists have responded to conflicts—defined along religious, ethnic, caste, linguistic, classed, and gendered lines—over place by embracing a collaborative practice of art that engages and departs from existing models of site-specificity and social activism. These collaborative practices offer new perspectives on the constitution of artistic identity, political action, and art worlds in the twenty-first century.

My study of collaboration in South Asia was informed by a multi-year collaborative project with UW anthropologist Sasha Welland that explored histories and practices of feminism and transnationalism in Asia. It culminated in an international conference in 2012, “New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia, and the World,” which built on my longstanding commitments to feminism as academic inquiry and artistic practice, to the intersections of art history and ethnography, and to the comparative study of contemporary art.

At UW, I offer courses on the art of India from antiquity to the present, colonial and postcolonial museums in South Asia, critical historiography and methods, and globalization in the art world. My research and teaching tend to be interdisciplinary, and I make active use of area collections and special exhibitions, often working closely with curators, librarians, and faculty colleagues. In my courses, I welcome students with a background in South Asian studies, architecture, history, anthropology, geography, literary studies, religious studies, feminist studies, and related disciplines.

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications

Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990. Berkeley: University of California Press, forthcoming spring 2015.

“The Art of Ideas: Critics, Journals, and Modernism in India, c. 1946-1981,” in Twentieth-Century Indian Art, eds. Rakhee Balaram, Parul Dave-Mukherji, and Partha Mitter. New Delhi: Art Alive Foundation, forthcoming 2015.

“Parallel Tracks: Pan Yuliang and Amrita Sher-Gil in Paris,” Eurasian Encounters: Intellectual and Cultural Exchanges, 1900-1950, eds. Carolien Stolte and Yoshi Kikuchi. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming 2015.

“Modernism: India,” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, vol. 4, ed. Michael Kelly. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 391-395.

“Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy,” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, vol. 2, ed. Michael Kelly. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 172-175.

“National Tradition and Modernist Art,” in The Cambridge Companion to Modern Indian Culture, eds. Vasudha Dalmia and Rashmi Sadana, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012

“Feminist Forms, International Exhibitions, and the Postcolonial Woman Artist,” Journal of the Korean Association for the History of Modern Art, no. 30 (December 2011): 251-264

“Jumping Scale, Mapping Space: Feminist Geographies at Work in the Art of Mona Hatoum” (February 1, 2008). UCLA Center for the Study of Women. Thinking Gender Papers. Paper TG08_Khullar.