History of Art


Dr Aparna Kumar



Aparna Kumar

Aparna Kumar is a Lecturer in Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South. She received her Ph.D. in Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2018. Her research and teaching focus on modern and contemporary South Asian art, twentieth-century partition history, museum studies, and postcolonial theory. Before joining UCL in 2020, Aparna was a Lecturer in Art History at UCLA, and a Curatorial Research Assistant at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. 

Kumar’s research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Fulbright-Nehru Research Program, the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS), the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS), the Critical Language Scholarship Program, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation project, Partition and the Historiography of Art in South Asia, was awarded the inaugural UC Berkeley South Asia Art and Architecture Dissertation Prize in 2021.

Contact Details

Office: G04, 21 Gordon Square
Office hours: Mon, 10-12pm (UK), in-person and online. Book an appointment here.
Email: a.m.kumar@ucl.ac.uk
Website: https://ucl.academia.edu/AparnaKumar


Lecturer in Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South

Department of History of Art

Faculty of S&HS

Research Themes

Modern and contemporary art in a global frame; art and architecture of South Asia; Islamic art in South Asia; colonial photography; twentieth-century partition history; museum studies; repatriation politics; postcolonial theory and criticism; object mobilities; cross border methodologies.


Research Summary

Aparna’s research spans modern and contemporary art in a global frame, the art and architecture of South Asia, Islamic art in South Asia, colonial photography, twentieth-century partition history, museum studies, postcolonial theory, and critical historiography. Her scholarship interrogates the role of art and art writing in the formation of postcolonial nation-states and nationalisms in the Global South. She seeks to understand the forms of cultural and epistemological violence driving the processes of colonization, nationalization, and decolonization that shape global politics today. Her work regularly converges around themes of mobility, migration, displacement and exile, and probes how art, culture, and language participate in discourses of identity and citizenship. The violence of borders and border-making is a central thread of her recent publications, and informs her deep commitment to cross-border methodologies in her writing and teaching. 

Kumar’s current book project examines the impact of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 on the development of aesthetic discourses in India and Pakistan in the twentieth century. A study of art, museums, mobility, and historiography, it challenges prevailing national frameworks within the field of South Asian art history that have suppressed the violent and traumatic legacy of the partition for global histories of modernism. This project situates the partition as a defining era of cultural anxiety in South Asia, whose fragmentations of place, identity, and humanity entwine culture, society, and modernism in India and Pakistan today. Bridging histories of museums and migration, it traces the divergent lives of artifacts and cultural institutions in South Asia, before and after 1947, to elucidate the paradoxical conditions in which art and heritage were made national.


Selected Publications 

  • “Unsettling the National in South Asia: My East is Your West, Venice Biennale and After Midnight, Queens Museum, New York,” in Museum Worlds: Advances in Research 3 (2015): 142-140.

Teaching and Supervision

Aparna has taught several courses on modern art in South Asia, museums studies, repatriation politics, and postcolonial theory and methods in the United States and the United Kingdom. During the academic year 2020-21, Aparna is teaching the following courses in the BA History of Art programme:

HART0006: First-Year History of Art Survey
HART0166: Repatriation in the Age of Global Dispossession
HART0172: Art and Visual Culture in Modern South Asia