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Yuthika Sharma

Assistant Professor

Ph.D. 2013, Columbia University

Where did you grow up, and where did you study? 

I grew up in India and completed my high school and college education in New Delhi studying architecture. I became drawn to the character of “heritage sites” during this time. Various field trips to sites such as the medieval Buddhist monastery at Nalanda in Bihar, Mughal cities at Delhi and Agra, and to colonial cityscapes in the north and south of India further consolidated my interest in the long history of European and British colonial engagement in India. My graduate studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard allowed me to develop a focus on garden history, cultural landscapes and the role of painting as archive and record of India’s colonial past. Taking up a Ph.D. at Columbia University in the Department of Art History and Archaeology helped carve a pathway to the study of artistic culture of colonial India in 18th and 19th century.

How did you develop your area of study, and how has it modified or developed?

I was fascinated by the way in which the British imperial approaches to medieval and Mughal history were naturalized in painting and photography. As I began to think more carefully about the cultural impact of the British empire in Mughal India, my attention turned to the role of customary ideas of imagining space and visual identity, which was the focus of my Ph.D. dissertation. My postdoctoral work on East India Company maritime connections and the role of private trade in Asia and Europe helped develop an interest in the connected lives of cross-continental commodity culture. In addition, having spent a year as research fellow at the British Museum allowed me to develop an appreciation for object-oriented histories.

Can you tell us about your current book project? What are you working on right now that excites you the most?

My book project looks at how new visual genealogies of Mughal and Anglo-Indian art were shaped in the long eighteenth century. My interest in painting as a genre and archive guides my current research on its historiography. In addition to the book, I am also working on decolonizing the umbrella term Company painting, used to refer to works created under the patronage of the British East India Company. I am excited about uncovering the role of indigenous voices in the making and formalizing of eighteenth-century artistic practices and their impact on pre-independence era art criticism.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

I love interacting with students and learning from their diverse experiences. We often start with a similar hypothesis about the history of art and arrive at very different conclusions – which makes the classroom exchange even more fun.
 
What made you particularly interested in coming to Northwestern?

I was excited to become part of a group at the intellectual forefront of the discipline of art history. I previously taught at the University of Edinburgh before coming to Northwestern. I really like how there are thematic synergies across everyone’s approaches despite our different areas of research. I also appreciate the close relationship between Art History and other departments at Weinberg, such as Asian Languages and Cultures, History, English, and Comparative Literature, which provides a sense of community.