Sylvia Houghteling

Wolf Humanities Center Regional Fellow

20232024 Forum on Revolution

Sylvia Houghteling

Associate Professor, Department of History of Art, Bryn Mawr College

Sylvia Houghteling is an Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art at Bryn Mawr College where she teaches courses on early modern visual and material culture, the history of textiles, South Asian art and architecture, and the material legacies and ruptures of European colonialism. After receiving her Ph.D. in the History of Art from Yale University in 2015, she held the Sylvan C. Coleman and Pam Coleman Memorial Fund Fellowship in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Houghteling’s research has been supported by the Fulbright-Nehru program, the Beinecke Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Huntington Library, the Gulbenkian Museum, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. Her first book, The Art of Cloth in Mughal India, was published by Princeton University Press in 2022 and received the College Art Association’s 2023 Charles Rufus Morey Award.

“Perishability, the Industrial Revolution, and the Duration of Materials”

This project studies the ironic temporality of the Industrial Revolution that sped up textile production but yielded plastic fibers and pollutants with a painfully long environmental duration. The book that will result from this research focuses on South and Southeast Asia and explores earlier, more ephemeral materials including fragile textiles, dyes, and spices. Combining art historical and archival research with histories of chemistry, ecological change, and colonialism, this project traces how the chemical and technological revolutions of the eighteenth through twentieth centuries, combined with the extractive economic policies of European imperial regimes, reshaped approaches to perishability and durability in the art and ecology of South Asia and maritime Southeast Asia.