Deepali Dewan

Dr. Deepali Dewan, 2013. Photo Thy Phu.

Deepali Dewan

Dan Mishra Curator of South Asian Art & Culture

Area: World Cultures, Contemporary Culture, World Art & Culture

Interests: South Asia--19th & 20th century, Photography, Contemporary visual culture, Diasporic art, Historiography

Exhibitions & Galleries: Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery

Phone: 416.586.5698


B.A. (Honours), Art History, McGill University, 1993
M.A., Art History, University of Minnesota, 1995
Ph.D., Art History, University of Minnesota, 2001

Primary Collection Area: South Asia, Himalayan region (including Tibet)
Secondary Collection Area: Southeast Asia, Asian Photography (including China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia)

Dr. Deepali Dewan is an art historian with a special interest in South Asia. She is a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, teaches in the Department of Art at the University of Toronto and is affiliated with the Centre for South Asian Studies. She is also part of the Toronto Photography Seminar, a group of scholars from Ontario institutions who read, produce, and edit collaborative research concerning the history and theory of photography.

Dr. Dewan’s research interests encompass nineteenth and twentieth-century visual culture of South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora. Her work on colonial South Asia examines how art schools served as the link between the collection / circulation of objects and ideas in South Asian art history, particularly through the dynamics of "documentation" and "revival." Her research on contemporary art focuses on the work of specific artists as a way to map post-colonial visual practice. Her current research focuses on the history of photography in India with a view toward understanding how photography has shaped contemporary ways of viewing and being in the world.

Dr. Dewan's research has been presented as publications and exhibitions. She is the author of Raja Deen Dayal: Artist-Photographer in 19th-Century India (2013, co-authored with Deborah Hutton), Embellished Reality: Indian Painted Photographs (2012), and the editor of Bollywood Cinema Showcards: Indian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s (2011). All three were accompanied by exhibitions. In addition, her essays have been published in edited volumes and journals, including Photography and the Delhi Coronation Durbars, 1877-1911 (Julie Codell, editor, 2012), Voices of Change: 20 Indian Artists (Gayatri Sinha, editor, 2010), Confronting the Body: The Experience of Physicality in Modern South Asia (James Mills and Satadru Sen, editors, 2004), Imperial Co-Histories: National Identities and the British and Colonial Press (Julie Codell, editor, 2003), Photography and Culture, Trans Asia Photograph Review, and Visual Resources.

Dr. Dewan joined the Royal Ontario Museum in January 2002. Previously, she had worked at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and The Asia Society, New York City. She also served as a visiting instructor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis and at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. She has received fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the College Art Association, the MacArthur Program/Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change at the University of Minnesota, the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Research Projects

Inspired by an album of 168 cartes-de-visite of courtesans from various North Indian locations, mostly Lucknow, currently in the Royal Ontario Museum collection, this project examines the history o

This project examines an important genre of South Asian photography that is distinct in the history of the medium and that has not yet been adequately studied.

This project is an attempt to write a history of photography in India in a condensed format that can be used as a class text book.

This project analyses the photographic work of Raja Deen Dayal (1844-1905), arguably one of the most well-known and prolific photographers in 19th-century India...

What are family photographs?
How do they shape our memories?
How do they mediate our experiences of migration?


Authored by: Deepali Dewan

Authored by: Deepali Dewan