Catherine Becker


Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, History of Art
M.A., University of California, Berkeley, History of Art
B.A., University of California, Los Angeles, Art History


935 West Harrison

Catherine Becker is an associate professor in the Department of Art History and an affiliated faculty member in the Global Asian Studies Program. Her research interests include visual storytelling methods in the Buddhist art of South and Southeast Asia and contemporary artistic reinterpretations of the past, specifically how the remnants of the past—not only in the form of physical monuments, objects, and images but also in more abstract definitions of “tradition”—have been pressed into the service of present ideologies. Her first book, Shifting Stones, Shaping the Past: Sculpture from the Buddhist Stupas of Andhra Pradesh (Oxford, 2015), considers sites of artistic production in this region from the first century of the Common Era to the present in order to examine the uses of sculpture, narratives, and visual culture in creating sacred space, forging communities of devotees, mediating between the past and present, and articulating transnational Buddhist identities. Recent research has investigated artistic links between Buddhist communities in South India and Sri Lanka during the early centuries of the Common Era, with special attention to shared narrative strategies. She is presently working on a second book that analyzes how India’s spectacular sound-and-light shows—including early versions with twinkling lights and booming voice-over narration alongside more recent shows using brilliant and psychedelic video projection mapping technology—illuminate a wide range of historic monuments with narratives that frame India’s cultural heritage in profound and perplexing ways.

Courses Taught

Art History/Global Asian Studies 125: Introduction to the Art and Architecture of Asia
Art History/Global Asian Studies 219: Art and Architecture of East Asia
Art History/Religious Studies 220: Buddhist Art and Architecture
Art History 275: South Asian Visual Cultures
Art History/Global Asian Studies 278: Art and Architecture of Ancient South Asia
From Delhi to Devon: The Collection, Display, and Creation of South Asian Art in Chicago
Productive Peregrinations: The Visual Culture of Travel, Tourism, and Migration in South Asia
Statist Spectacle and Nationalist Nostalgia: Intersections of Art, Religion, Politics, and Cultural Heritage in Contemporary India
Sri Lanka: Art, Religion, and the Nation