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Dr. S. (Sanjukta) Sunderason

Faculty of Humanities
Capaciteitsgroep Kunstgeschiedenis

Visiting address
  • Turfdraagsterpad 15
  • Room number: 2.04
Postal address
  • Postbus 94551
    1090 GN Amsterdam
Social media
  • Research Profile

    I am a historian of 20th-century aesthetics, working at the interfaces of visual art, left-wing thought, and historical transition. My research focuses in particular on the entanglements between (left-wing) aesthetics and 20th-century decolonization in South Asia and across transnational formations in the Global South.

    I studied History in my BA (Presidency College, Kolkata, India), MA and MPhil (both at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India), before doing my PhD in Art History (Department of History of Art, University College University London, United Kingdom). My primary specialization is in South Asia (India and East Pakistan/Bangladesh after 1971), and I work with transregional scales of Afro-Asian decolonization and Third World liberation movements in the 20th century.

    In my first monograph, Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization (Stanford University Press, 2020) ( I argued for a conceptual apparatus that can accommodate the contradictions that shape entanglements of modern art and (anti-colonial) left-wing political movements. Using a catastrophic famine in the frontiers of British colonial empire in Bengal in 1943, I foregrounded the dialectical relationships between modernism and realism that marked the aesthetics of late-colonial and early postcolonial transition in IndiaPartisan Aesthetics won the Best Art Publication Accolade at the 2021 ICAS Book Prize, sponsored by the International Convention of Asia Scholars. Read excerpts here:

    I discussed Partisan Aesthetics in my interview on the New Books Network podcast:

    Partisan Aesthetics was reviewed, among others, in

    • Atreyee Gupta. 2021. Culture and Communism in Bengal, Art Journal, 80:2, 104-106, DOI: 10.1080/00043249.2021.1872337
    • Malvika Maheshwari. 2021. “Art as Archive”, PARTISAN AESTHETICS: MODERN ART & INDIA’S LONG DECOLONIZATION by Sanjukta Sunderason Stanford University Press, 2020, 320 pp., $95.00, The Book Review India (
    • Menon, Dilip M. 2022. "Sanjukta Sunderason, Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India's Long Decolonization." Asian Ethnology, vol. 80, no. 2, fall 2021, pp. 441+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 23 Aug. 2022 (
    • Tankha, A. 2022. Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India's Long Decolonization By Sanjukta Sunderason. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781503611948 (cloth). The Journal of Asian Studies, 81(3), 615-616. doi:10.1017/S0021911822000912
    • Anais Da Fonseca. 2022 Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization, South Asian History and Culture, DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2022.2114954
    Sanjukta Sunderason. Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Winner of International Convention Asia Scholars (ICAS) Book Prize 2021 for Best Art Publication:

    My co-edited book (with Lotte Hoek, University of Edinburgh), Forms of the Left: Aesthetics, Networks and Connected Histories (Bloomsbury, 2021) ( studied the trajectories of left-wing artistic activisms and networks after the high point of the cultural movement in late-colonial India and the partition that splintered territories, affiliations and cultural projects. Foregrounding the aesthetic forms of the political left across the borders of post-colonial, post-partition South Asia (spanning India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh), the contributors study art, film, literature, poetry and cultural discourse to illuminate the ways in which political commitment has been given aesthetic form and artistic value by artists and by cultural and political activists in postcolonial South Asia. We asked in this volume: Does the political left in South Asia have a recognizable aesthetic form? And if so, what political effects do left-wing artistic movements and aesthetic artefacts have in shaping movements against inequality and injustice?

    Read excerpts here:

    Sanjukta Sunderason and Lotte Hoek eds. 2022. Forms of the Left in Postcolonial South Asia: Aesthetics, Networks, Connected Histories. London: Bloomsbury:

    I have been developing the theme of Aesthetics of Decolonization (from the scales of South Asia in, 2013-2017; and more recently in, 2022). My recent research has branched into using sites from 20th-century transregional aesthetic practice to conceptualize a comparative theorization of art and decolonization. My publications on this theme span intersections between modern art, socialist thought, and 20th-century decolonization (see publications, for book chapters and journal articles). I am taking forward these questions in a second monograph on potential transnational conceptualizations of an aesthetics of liberation across 20th-century decolonization, thinking from the locational scales of South Asia.

    I am part of transnational collectives like  Entangled Utopias (, and Decolonial South/East: Theories from the South and the East in Literature and Culture ( am Chair of the Academic Committee at the International Institute of Asian Studies ( at Leiden, the Netherlands, and a member of the Editorial Committee of the journal, ARTMargins ( sit on the Advisory Boards of transnational publication initiatives like the Museum of Modern Art, New York’s Primary Documents publication series ( on South Asian Modernisms, 2020-2025; and the textbook project Intersectional Modernisms (with international experts in the field coordinated by Cornell University; Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong (; Africa Institute, Sharjah (; Carleton University, Canada; and Fulbright University, Hanoi).

    Before joining the University of Amsterdam (UvA), I taught for more than 8 years at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies at the University of Leiden. At the University of Amsterdam, I teach and supervise across BA and MA programmes, covering in particular themes of global modernisms, aesthetics of decolonization, art historical methods  and art historiography (especially, postcolonial and social history of art), and trans-disciplinary cultural theory. I am interested in thesis supervision in these broad themes, as well as in topics that have any particular specializations in South Asia, aesthetic thought from the Global South, transnational left-wing aesthetics, postcolonial/decolonial/critical theory, among others. 

    At UvA, I am affiliated with the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis ( I am also a co-coordinating member of the research group Global Trajectories of Thought and Memory (, affiliated with the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory, and Material Culture (

    Please see attached Academic CV for academic memberships, grants etc.

  • Conferences and Talks

    Organized international conferences

    2021: (co-organizer, with Dr. Ksenia Robbe, University of Groningen and Dr. Hanneke Stuit, University of Amsterdam,) International conference: After the ‘End of History’: Postcolonial/Post-socialist Dynamics of Time and Memory in Literature and Art Since 1990s, Universities of Amsterdam and Groningen, October 2021 (hybrid format) (

    2018:    (co-organizer, with Dr. Erik de Maaker, Leiden University) International conference: Modalities of Displacement in South Asia, Leiden University, 14-15 June 2018 (

    2016:    (co-organizer, with Dr. Lotte Hoek, University of Edinburgh) Book workshop: Forms of the Left: Activist Art and Left-wing Aesthetics in Postcolonial South Asia, University of Edinburgh, 26-28 June 2016 (

    2013:    (co-organizer, with Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe and Dr. Carolien Stolte, Leiden University) International conference: South Asia and the Long 1930s: Appropriations and Afterlives, Leiden University, 6-7 December 2013 (


    For, invited talks etc, see Academic CV

  • Publications


    • Sunderason, S. (2022). A Melancholic Archive: Chittaprosad and Socialist Art in Postcolonial India. In S. Sunderason, & L. Hoek (Eds.), Forms of the Left in Postcolonial South Asia: Aesthetics, Networks and Connected Histories (pp. 33-64). (Critical perspectives in South Asian history). Bloomsbury Academic. Advance online publication. [details]
    • Sunderason, S. (2022). The Aesthetics of Decolonization in South Asia. In D. Ludden (Ed.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History (Oxford Research Encyclopedia). Oxford University Press. Advance online publication. [details]
    • Sunderason, S. (Accepted/In press). “Modern Art and East Pakistan: Drawing from the Limits”. In T. Guha-Thakurta, & V. Zamindar (Eds.), How Secular is Art?: On the Art of Art History in South Asia Cambridge University Press.
    • Sunderason, S., & Hoek, L. (Eds.) (2022). Forms of the Left in Postcolonial South Asia: Aesthetics, Networks and Connected Histories. (Critical Perspectives in South Asian History). Bloomsbury Academic. [details]


    • Sunderason, S. (2020). Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization. Stanford University Press.
    • Sunderason, S. (2020). Book Review: Benjamin Robert Siegel, Hungry Nation: Food, Famine, and the Making of Modern India. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. xi, 280. Paper $34.99. American Historical review, 1855–1856.
    • Sunderason, S. (2020). “Sculpture of Undulating Lives: Meera Mukherjee’s Arts of Motion". Aziatische Kunst, 50(2), 54-66.
    • Sunderason, S. (2020). “Trans-Imaginaries of Decolonization: Three Frames for the Art of Lotus: Afro-Asian Writings”. In H. Amanshauser , & K. Bradley (Eds.), Navigating the Planetary (pp. 131-147). Verlag fuer Moderne Kunst.


    • Sunderason, S. (2019). “Framing Margins: Mao and Visuality in Twentieth-century India”. In J. Galimberti, N. de Haro-García , & V. H. F. Scott (Eds.), Art, Global Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (pp. 67-87). Manchester University Press.
    • Sunderason, S. (2019). “Journeying through Modernism: Travels and Transits of East Pakistani Artists in Post-Imperial London". British Art Studies, 13.


    • Sunderason, S. (2018). Book Review, "Sudeshna Guha, Artefacts of History: Archaeology, Historiography and Indian Pasts". History of Humanities, 3(2), 441-443.
    • Sunderason, S. (2018). Book Review: Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History in the Modern World, Ritu Gairola Khanduri, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 305 pp. The Journal of Asian Studies, 77(1), 10-12.




    • Sunderason, S., & Guha-Thakurta, T. (2013). “In Search of a New Visual Culture". In R. Bittner , & K. Rhomberg (Eds.), The Bauhaus in Calcutta: An Encounter of the Cosmopolitan Avant-Garde Hatje Cantz.


    • Sunderason, S. (2012). “Making Art ‘Modern’: Revisiting Artistic Modernism in India”. In S. Dube (Ed.), Modern Makeovers: A Handbook of Modernity in South Asia (pp. 245-262). Oxford University Press.


    • Sunderason, S. (2011). "As Agitator and Organiser: Chittaprosad and the Art for the Communist Party of India,”. Object, 13, 76-96.


    • Sunderason, S. (Accepted/In press). “'Sorrow and happiness are the same all over the world': Zainul Abedin’s Jordan Drawings, June 1970". In E. Szakács , & N. Mohaiemen (Eds.), Solidarity must be Defended Budapest:


    • Sunderason, S. (2020). Entries for modern and contemporary art in India. Enciclopedia dell'arte, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome.

    Prize / grant

    • Sunderason, S. (2021). Best Art Publication, International Convention Asia Scholars (ICAS) Book Prize 2021, for Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020..


    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    • ARTMargins
      Member of Editorial Committee
    • International Institute of Asian Studies
      Chair, Academic Committee