Research and Teaching Interests
Born and brought up in the bustling Indian city of Calcutta (now Kolkata), once the colonial capital of the British Raj, Romita Ray specializes in the art and architecture of the British Empire in India. At Syracuse University, she teaches European art and architecture (18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries), Indian art and architecture, post-colonial theory, theories of Orientalism, and film studies. Dr. Ray has also taught at Colby College, the University of Georgia, and Yonsei University (Seoul, Korea). Her research interests center on the art and architecture of the British empire in India, history of science, landscape and animal studies, the Anthropocene, post-colonial theory, Orientalism in art, and material culture. Dr. Ray is an editorial board member for the Journal of South Asian Studies and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Indian Council of Historical Research based in New Delhi, India. She also serves as Executive Board Member at Large (2021-2024) for the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS), and is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Plant Humanities Initiative at Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University (2021-2022). Dr. Ray is particularly partial to elephants, and an Elephant of the Month posting can be found on her office door in Bowne Hall (contributions to the EOM series are welcome).
Her first book in her area of specialty is about the picturesque in British India. She is currently working on her next book about the visual cultures of tea in colonial and modern India for which she received a year-long Fellowship in 2016 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct her research in India, the UK, and Sri Lanka. More about this project can be found here: http://bit.ly/2ppR38A.
Her perambulations through tea country in India and tea-related spaces of London resulted in a series of blogposts she was invited to write by Teabox.com, an online purveyor of fine estate teas. Her posts can be found on their site https://www.teabox.com/ or below, on this page, under "Musings." Much to her surprise and delight, her post about the inimitable moustache cup attracted the attention of Snapzu, a community of bloggers and other web influencers, who voted it among the best "world politics" and "lifestyle" blogs.
Dr. Ray welcomes students interested in working on:
- Art and Architecture of the British and French Empires
- South Asian Art and Architecture
- Art and Architecture of the British Raj
- Landscape and Empire
- Animals and Empire
- Photography and film
- Orientalism in art and architecture
- Material culture and empire
- Diaspora and post-colonial aesthetics
- Art and the Anthropocene
Between 2018 and 2020, Dr. Ray led a Landscape Studies Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Seminar funded by the CUSE Grant Program at Syracuse University, which culminated in a research website with contributions from faculty and graduate students at SU and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. In 2019, she collaborated with her students, Dr. Daniel Acuna (i-School), Elizabeth Novoa (Unika Analytics), SUArt Galleries, and the Special Collections Research Center to create a research-based website, Romanticism at Syracuse University, which features short essays about objects in the art collections at SU, written by her students enrolled in a course about the Art of Romanticism.
Romita Ray has curated numerous exhibitions while she was Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia. She was also the guest curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, for the British India section of the exhibition, Between Worlds: Voyagers to Britain 1700-1850, organized by Dr. Jocelyn Hackforth-Jones in 2007.
- Ph.D 1999 Yale University
- M.Phil 1995 Yale University
- M.A. 1994 Yale University
- B.A. 1992 Smith College
- 18th-century European Art
- 19th-century European Art
- Art and Architecture of India
- Art and Music of the British Empire (with professor Amanda Winkler)
- Art and Empire
- Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art
- The Triumph of Modernism
- Animals and Empire
- Landscape and Empire
- Art of Romanticism
- Realism to Symbolism
- European Art between the Wars
- Photography and the Fine Arts
- Beauty and the Human Body
- Art, Food, and Film
- Bollywood Dreams
- Various Special Topics courses
Under the Banyan Tree: Relocating the Picturesque in British India. by Romita Ray, Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. London: Yale University Press, 2013
The Eternal Masquerade: Prints and Paintings by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (1890-1978) from the Jacob Burns Foundation. by Romita Ray, Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 2006
Books - In Progress
Empire and Cultural Change: Visual Arts, Film, and Architecture. 4 volumes. Co-edited with Jos Hackforth-Jones, London: Routledge, under contract and forthcoming 2021/2022
Leafy Wonders: Art, Aesthetics, and the Science of Tea in Colonial and Modern India (working title) Manuscript in progress
Journal Articles and Book Chapters
2022. Forthcoming. “Unruly Indigo? Plants, Plantations, and Partitions.” In Landscape and Earth in Early Modernity. Picturing Unruly Nature, eds. Mia M. Mochizuki and Christine Göttler. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
2022. Forthcoming. “A Box of Tea and the British Empire.” In Small Things in the Eighteenth Century, eds. Beth Tobin and Chloe Wigston-Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2022. "On the Prowl: Tigers and the Tea Planter in British India." In Romantic Environmental Sensibility: Nature, Class and Empire, ed. Ve-Yin Tee. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 113-129.
2022. “The ‘Clumsy’ Lion? Disruptions and Darshan in Pushpamala N.’s Imaging of Mother India.” In Motherland: Pushpamala N.’s Woman and Nation, eds. Sumathi Ramaswamy and Monica Juneja. New Delhi: Roli Books, 44-57.
2020. "Canton to Calcutta: Tea and Chinoiserie in a Colonial Garden." In Desiring India: Representations through British and French Eyes (1584-1857), ed. Niranjan Goswami. Kolkata: Jadavpur University Press, 188-205.
2019. "Love on Wheels: The Toy Train and the Tea Plantation in Pradeep Sarkar's Parineeta (2005)." South Asia Chronicle, volume 9, 147-175.
2019. "The Noble Game of the Elephant and Castle, or Travelling in Asia." In Britain and the World: Treasures from the Yale Center for British Art, eds. Martina Droth, Nathan Flis, and Michael Hatt. New Haven: Yale University Press. 112-115
2017. " 'A Dazzle of Light': Edwin Lord Weeks and Royal India." In India in the American Imaginary, 1770s-1880s, eds. Rajender Kaur and Anupama Arora. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 247-81.
2016. "Ornamental Exotica: Transplanting the Aesthetics of Tea Consumption and the Birth of a British Exotic." In The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century, eds. Yota Batsaki, Sarah Cahalan, Anatole Tchikine. Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. 259-281.
2014. "A Tale of Two Cities: Calcutta/Kolkata." In The Home and the World, A View of Calcutta: Photographs by Laura McPhee. Foreward by Amitav Ghosh. New Haven: Yale University Press. 136-155.
2014. "Whose City, Whose Art?" The City and South Asia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard South Asia Institute. 64 – 67. http://issuu.com/sainit/docs/thecityandsouthasia_final.html
2014. "All that Glitters: Diamonds and Constructions of Nabobery in British Portraits (1600-1800)." In The Uses of Excess in Visual and Material Culture, 1700-2010, ed. Julia Skelly. London: Ashgate. 19-40.
2014. "At Home with Durga: The Goddess in a Palace and Corporeal Identity in Rituparno Ghosh's Utsab." Religions 5, no. 1 (March 2014). Special Issue: Body and Religion. 334-360.
2012. "Going Global, Staying Local: Elihu Yale the Art Collector." Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (December 2012): 34-51.
2012. "Elihu Yale at Yale." Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (December 2012): 52-65.
2012."Misty Mediations: Spectral Imaginings and the Himalayan Picturesque." Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture 11, no. 3 (Autumn 2012). Online article.
2012. "Baron of Bengal: Robert Clive and the Birth of An Imperial Image." In Transculturation in British Art, 1770-1930, ed. Julie Codell. London: Ashgate. 21-38.
2012. "Orientalizing the Bayadère/Fabricating Mata Hari." Photographies 5, no. 1 (March 2012): 87-111.
2011. "Inscribing Asymmetry: Johann Zoffany's Banyan and 'The Extension of Knowledge'." South Asian Studies 27, no. 2 (2011): 185-198.
2008. "Britain and the World Beyond." Co-author: Angela Rosenthal. In Revised History of British Art (volume 2), ed. David Bindman. London and New Haven: Tate Britain and Yale Center for British Art. 86-115.
2007. "Storm in a Teacup? Visualising Tea Consumption in the British Empire." In Art and the British Empire.Volume II. Geographies, eds. Tim Barringer, Douglas Fordham, and Geoff Quilley. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 205-222.
2006. "The Beast in a Box: Playing with Empire in Early 19th-Century Britain." Ed. Ann Bermingham. Visual Resources: An International Journal of Documentation. Special Edition. XXII: 1 (March 2006): 7-31.
2005. "A Dream of Beauty: Inscribing the English Garden in Victorian India." In Intrepid Women: Victorian Artists Travel, ed. Jordana Pomeroy. London: Ashgate. 51-66.
2005. "The Imperial Canvas: Art and Empire." The Visible Empire, ed. Glyn Porritt. London: Adam Matthews Publications. Co-contributors: Jeffrey Auerbach, Antoinette Burton (accessible online by subscription only).
1998. "The Memsahib's Brush: Anglo-Indian Women and the Art of the Picturesque, 1830-1880." In Orientalism Transposed: The Impact of the Colonies on British Culture, eds. Julie F. Codell and Dianne Sachko Macleod. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. 89-116.
Book and Exhibition Reviews
2022. “In Sparkling Company: A Review,” Journal18 (March 2022), https://www.journal18.org/6185.
2019. Erika Rappaport, A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017) in Journal for Maritime Research, 21 (2019): 162-64. DOI: 10.1080/21533369.2020.1732659
2018. Sarah Besky, The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Tea Plantations in India (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2014) in European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, 52 (Winter 2019): 134-37.
2016. Natasha Eaton, Mimesis Across Empires: Artworks and Networks in India 1765-1860 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013) in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 39, no.1 (2016), 291-292.
2011. Pauline Rohatgi and Graham Parlett assisted by Shirley Imray and Pheroza Godrej, Indian Life and Landscape by Western Artists: Paintings and Drawings from the Victoria and Albert Museum 17th to the Early 20th Century (London: Victoria and Albert Museum and Mumbai: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, 2008) in British Art Journal, 12.3 (Winter 2011): 106.
2008. Joan Coutu, Persuasion and Propaganda: Monuments and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006) in Revue d'art canadienne. XXXIII, 1-2 (2008): 151-153.
2002. Colleen Denney, At the Temple of Art: The Grosvenor Gallery, 1877-1890 (London: Associated University Presses, 2000) in The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies.11 (Fall 2002): 119-122.
2018. "A City of 'Grecian temples': Calcutta on the Hooghly." In Kolkata Through Colonial Eyes: Prints and Drawings of British Artists in the 18th and 19th Centuries), ed. Pheroza Godrej. Mumbai: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). 2-15.
2017. " 'Totally new to the eye of an Englishman:' The British Artist in India, 1750-1900." In On the Paths of Enlightenment. The Myth of India in Western Culture 1808-2017, ed. Elio Schenini. Lugano, Switzerland: Museo d'arte della Svizzera italiana (24 September 2017-21 January 2018). 68 - 99.
2017. "Where "the Twain" did "Meet": Bombay and the Making of British Colonial Art." In Bombay to Mumbai: Door of the East With Its Face to the West. Mumbai: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India). 7-20.
2007. Essays on Raja Rammohun Roy, Sake Dean Mahomed and Maharaja Dalip Singh in Between Worlds: Voyagers to Britain 1700-1850, ed. Jocelyn Hackforth-Jones. National Portrait Gallery, London. 2007. 96-105; 78-87; 105-116.
2004. "Reflections 'on a Lithographile': A Thoroughly Modern Maltby Sykes." In Marilyn Laufer et. al. The Spirit of the Modern: Drawings and Graphics by Maltby Sykes. Exhibition catalogue. Athens, GA: Georgia Museum of Art, 2004. 34-46.
1997. "veluti in speculum: Spectatorship in Hogarth's The Beggar's Opera." In "Among the Whores and Thieves": William Hogarth and The Beggar's Opera, eds. David Bindman and Scott Wilcox. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 1997. 35-40.
Podcasts and Videos
On a group portrait featuring Elihu Yale, beneficiary of Yale University, Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Yale Center for British Art, Yale University, October-December 2014.
On Company Painting in Colonial India, Art Through Time: A Global View. 2008-2009.
Aired on PBS, Fall 2009.
On "Bling" and Maharajas, Atlanta Pecha Kucha, November 2007.
"Tigers and Tea"
Teabox.com. June 2, 2017
"Madam Superintendent and Durga Puja in a Tea Garden"
Teabox.com. November 11, 2016
"A Moustache in a Teacup"
Teabox.com. September 1, 2016
Voted among the best "world politics" and "lifestyle" blogs by Snapzu. August 2017
"An Homage to a Box of Tea: Musings of an Art Historian"
Teabox.com. August 12, 2016
"New Architecture in Dubai." 4Men. August 5, 2008.
"Being Cottle Khan." Freehold Monthly (November 2008): 50-53.
"Misunderestimating Stupidity." 4Men (July 2008): 56-58.
“Romita Ray’s Research on Tea Leads to Unexpected Connections and Personal Discovery.” Brandon Dyer, Syracuse University News. Tuesday, December 29, 2020.
"iSchool, Arts and Sciences, Libraries Collaborate on Art of Romanticism Course." Cristina Hatem, Syracuse University News, May 16, 2019.
"Caird Fellowship Supports Summer Research." Renee Levy, Syracuse University News. November 6, 2018.
"Humanities and Sciences Intersect in ‘Water + Photography’ Event." Kevin Morrow, Syracuse University News. November 1, 2017.
"Students Light Candles for Diwali." Amy Manley, Syracuse University News. October 31, 2017.
"Syracuse University Students and Faculty to Light Up Sculpture Garden for Diwali." Divya Murthy, The Daily Orange. October 18, 2017.
"Go Around the World and Back with My Lucky Tummy Pop-Up Kitchen." Sarah Allam, The Daily Orange. October 15, 2017.
"Research Snapshot." Syracuse University Magazine. Spring 2017. Volume 34, No. 1.
"Valuing the Humanities." Rob Enslin, College of Arts and Sciences. Headlines from the Hall. Syracuse University. May 5, 2017.
"US Scholar on Tea Trail to Dig Up Treasure Trove." Times of India, April 11, 2016.
"Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, Meagan Fallone to Visit Central New York April 21-22." Rob Enslin, Syracuse University News. April 7, 2016.
"A Spot of Tea." Amy Manley, College of Arts and Sciences News. January 14, 2016.
"Light Up the Quad Event Planned for Diwali." Keith Kobland, Syracuse University News. November 5, 2015.
"Two Leaves and a Bud." Rob Enslin, Syracuse University News. May 22, 2014.
"Ray Smith Symposium focuses on Commodification, Aesthetics of South Asian Folk Art." Syracuse University News. January 21, 2014.
(Sept. 14, 2021)
Ray is organizing a workshop and virtual symposium on the historic architecture, collections, and gardens of the iconic Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta.
(Feb. 28, 2020)
How zoos and menageries changed our understanding of species.
(May 2, 2018)
Humanistic research thrives at Syracuse, thanks to collaborations with artists, scientists, engineers, librarians
(April 20, 2018)
Continued funding critical for humanities research, Gerald Greenberg says
(Oct. 30, 2017)
This year over 1000 tealights illuminated the Syracuse Sculpture Garden for the annual festival of Diwali.
(March 1, 2017)
With NEH awards, Romita Ray dips into history and visual culture of Indian tea industry
(Jan. 14, 2016)
Syracuse professor awarded prestigious fellowship; continues work on forthcoming book
Awards, Honors, Grants
- 2021-2022. National Endowment for the Humanities. Collaborative Research Grant. Project Title: “Taj of the Raj? Decolonizing the Imperial Collections, Architecture, and Gardens of the Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata.”
- 2018-2019: Caird Short-Term Research Fellowship. Royal Museums Greenwich, London.
- 2017: Snapzu: “A Moustache in a Teacup” voted among the best “world politics” and “lifestyle” blogs.
- 2016: National Endowment for the Humanities. Fellowship.
- 2015: Beautiful Data II: Telling Stories with Open Art Collections metaLab, Harvard University and the Getty Foundation. Declined.
- 2014: National Endowment for the Humanities. Summer Research Stipend.
- 2014: Long List, William MB Berger Prize for British Art History.
- 2009-2010: Yale Center for British Art. Yale University. Visiting Scholar Grant.
- 2009 : The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Research Grant. London.
- 2009: National Endowment for the Humanities. Summer Research Stipend.
- 2004: The Georgia Humanities Council. Regal Bodies, Royal Splendor: Reflections on Velázquez and Philip IV of Spain.
- 2004: Yale Center for British Art. Yale University. Visiting Fellowship.
- 2000-2001: The Lewis Walpole Library Visiting Fellowship. Yale University.
- 2000-2001: Margaret Storrs Grierson Scholars-in-Residence Award. Smith College.
- 1999: Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship. The Huntington Library.
- 1996-1997: Eleanor M. Garvey Fellowship in Printing and Graphic Arts. Harvard University.
- 1996-1997: Paul Mellon Centre Fellowship for Doctoral Research. The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. London.
- 2020-2022: CUSE Grant Program. Innovative and Interdisciplinary Research Grant (I2)
- 2018-2020: CUSE Grant Program. Interdisciplinary Seminar Grant
- 2017: Outstanding Undergraduate Faculty Advisor of the Year 2016-17. College of Arts and Sciences
- 2016: Syracuse University Humanities Center, Syracuse Symposium "Networks," speaker funds for April 2016 (Bunker Roy, Barefoot College)
- 2015: Syracuse University Humanities Center, Syracuse Symposium "Networks." speaker funds for November 2015 (Jennifer Roberts, Harvard University)
- 2015: Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship: Inspiration Award. April
- 2014: Ray Smith Symposium award: Transformations in South Asian Folk Art, Aesthetics, Commodities (co-organized with Susan Wadley and Tula Goenka). February
- 2007: William P. Tolley New Faculty Summer Stipend. Syracuse University. March
- 2007: College of Arts and Sciences. Travel Grant for presenting a paper at the International Conference on Travel and Literature, New Delhi, India. February- March
- 2007: College of Arts and Sciences. Book research grant. December
- 2006: College of Arts and Sciences. Travel Grant for exhibition opening and conference for Between Worlds: Voyagers to Britain 1700-1850, London, UK. November
- 1998: The Lewis Walpole Library. Graduate Student Summer Fellow (first recipient).
- 1997-1998: Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Writing Fellowship.
- 1996: John F. Enders Fellowship. Yale University. Summer.
- 1992-96: Mary E. Ives Fellowship for Graduate Study. Yale University.
- 1992: Phyllis Williams Lehman Travel Prize in Art History. Smith College. May.
Phi Beta Kappa
Magna Cum Laude