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Saumya Agarwal

Visiting Faculty of Visual Arts, Ashoka University

PhD University of Heidelberg

Saumya Agarwal is an art historian and a cultural studies scholar. Her primary area of research, and the subject of her 2021 dissertation, are wall paintings decorating 19th and 20th-century merchant houses in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. She is currently conducting ethnohistoric research on the painters of Shekhawati. This has been funded by the India Foundation for the Arts through an Arts Research Grant. She has previously been a fellow at Musée du quai Branly. She has also been an Assistant Professor at various Delhi University colleges. Her academic articles have been published in national and international journals including Economic and Political Weekly and Journal of Early Popular Visual Culture. She also regularly contributes to academic blogs, podcasts, and news websites.

Agarwal’s areas of interest include concepts of time and temporality, place-making practices, popular visual culture, artistic practices, transcultural studies, and film studies. She has a strong interest in approaching the visual in innovative ways as an important resource for socio-historical enquiry.

Journal Articles:

  • “The Auspicious and the Mechanized: Exploring Transitions in Temporalities Through the Wall Paintings of Shekhawati (1750-1940),” Early Popular Visual Culture, 20:2-3, (2022): 166-205, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17460654.2022.2065726
  • “Sacred Games and the Appeal of an Apocalyptic Telos.” Economic and Political Weekly LIV, no. 49 (2019): 61-62.

Book Chapters:

  • “Place Making Through Decorative Murals in the Painted Buildings of Shekhawati.” In Visual Ecologies of Place Making, edited by Leslie Atzmon and Pamela Stewart, Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming 2022.
  • “Hanuman and the Indian Martial Art of Kushti.” In Arts of Fighting in Asia: Mythology, Kung Fu and Samurai, edited by Julien Rousseau and Stephane du Mesnildot. Paris: Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, 2021: 46-51.

Academic Blogs:

  • “Sardul Singh’s Chatri: Multiplicity and Intertextuality of Architectural Memory.” Blog Art History and Transculturation, Celebrating the Scholarly Worlds and Works of Monica Juneja, 2021.  https://arthistmj65.hypotheses.org/352
  • “Les vies simultanées de Krishna (Rajasthan)/The Many Lives of Krishna in a Rajasthani Painting.”  Le blog de la revue Terrain- Carnets de Terrain, 2018, https://blogterrain.hypotheses.org/13242.

Newspaper and Web Articles:

  • “Dipped in Devotion, Pichwai Paintings Bring Alive Krishna’s Youth.” Firstpost 5 Apr. 2019: 14. Print.
  • “Shades of Shekhawati: Walls That Tell a Thousand Odd Tales.” Firstpost 2 Feb. 2019: 16. Print.


  • (From Hindi to English) “The Swan” by Usha Yadav. In An Endless Winter’s Night: An Anthology of Mother-Daughter Stories in Indian Fiction edited by Ira Raja and Kay Torney Souter, New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2010: 1-12.


Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka