Northwestern Events Calendar


"A "Small" Story of the Jasmine Flower in the Age of Global Botany"

When: Monday, February 15, 2021
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   847.491.3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Category: Lectures & Meetings



Sugata Ray, University of California-Berkeley


"A "Small" Story of the Jasmine Flower in the Age of Global Botany"


For the most part, scholarship on garden histories and plant cultures in early modern and colonial South Asia has focused on Mughal gardens, gardens established by colonial botanists, and the visual representations of plants. As such, imperial and colonial interventions in managing and ordering the natural environment has been seen as a form of far-reaching environmental governance. Contra this overdetermined statist emphasis, my talk focuses on non-imperial gardening practices that produced a very different idea of nature in the age of global botany. In specific, the talk focuses on eighteenth-century artisanal practices centered on the jasmine flower in the pilgrimage center of Braj in north India, where the god Krishna is believed to have spent his youth. We will see how a topophilic theology of venerating natural phenomena, alongside new techniques of gardening, engendered a specific imagination of the environment as an inclusive habitus of inventive play where sentient plants and humans could share a contingent correlation of equivalence. Emerging in a period marked by deforestation and a sweeping alteration of the region’s agrolandscape, the “small” story of artisanal practices surrounding the jasmine flower will then allow us to explore ideations of the environment that are now all but obscure.


Sugata Ray is Associate Professor of South and Southeast Asian art and architecture in the History of Art Department. Trained in both history and art history, Ray’s research focuses on the intersections among early modern and colonial artistic cultures, transterritorial ecologies, and the natural environment. His first book, Climate Change and the Art of Devotion: Geoaesthetics in the Land of Krishna, 1550–1850 (2019), examined the interrelationship between matter and life in shaping creative practices in the Hindu pilgrimage site of Braj during the ecocatastrophes of the Little Ice Age (ca. 1550–1850). As an extension of his interest in the field of eco art history, Ray has coedited Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art (2020; with Gerhard Wolf and Hannah Baader, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut) and Water Histories of South Asia: The Materiality of Liquescence (2020; with Venugopal Maddipati, Ambedkar University, Delhi).

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