Jinah Kim is the George P. Bickford Professor of Indian and South Asian Art in the Department of History of Art & Architecture. She teaches courses on the art and architecture of South and Southeast Asia. She received her B.A. in Archaeology and Art History from Seoul National University (1998), and her M.A. (2001) and Ph.D. (2006) in History of Art from University of California, Berkeley. She is a recipient of a few prestigious fellowships and grants, such as an NEH-Digital Advancement Grant (2020-2021), a Getty-NEH post-doctoral fellowship (2012-2013), a Mellon Fellowship for Assistant Professors at the Institute of Advanced Study (Member in the School of Historical Studies, 2009-2010), a research grant from Asian Cultural Council (Ford Foundation Fellow, 2005), and a Junior Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies (2003-2004). Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in 2012, she was assistant professor of South Asian art at Vanderbilt University (2006-2011) and Rutgers the State University of New Jersey (2011-2012). At Harvard, Professor Kim has been leading the Arts program at the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute since 2018. In 2022-2024, she is the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director in the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Professor Kim’s research and teaching interests cover a broad range of topics with special interests in intertextuality of text-image relationship, art and politics, female representations and patronage, issues regarding re-appropriation of sacred objects, and post-colonial discourse in the field of South and Southeast Asian Art. From her childhood exposure to Buddhist art in Korea and a year-long stay in India as well as numerous research trips to various parts of South and Southeast Asia, she has long been interested in the materiality of sacred objects, especially that of paintings and texts. Her passion for learning languages and new scripts has been instrumental in pursuing an interdisciplinary research on illustrated Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts and Esoteric Buddhist iconography. Understanding people behind an object is one of her main research goals as an art historian.
Her first book, Receptacle of the Sacred: Illustrated Manuscripts and the Buddhist book cult in South Asia (University of California Press, 2013) examines illustrated Buddhist manuscripts as sacred objects of medieval cultic innovation that can be animated through the presence of images and various design strategies. Her second monograph, Garland of Visions: Color, Tantra and a Material History of Indian painting ( University of California Press, 2021) studies the generative relationship between artistic intelligence and tantric visionary practices in the construction and circulation of visual knowledge in medieval South Asia, by taking color as a primary vector of investigation and by focusing on Indic manuscript painting of the period between 1000-1500 CE. Her on-going research projects concern three main areas: materiality in Indian painting, representation of donors and ritual scenes, and cross-cultural exchanges across Buddhist Asia. Her third monograph in progress, tentatively titled "Paper, Pothi and the Goddess: History of Devi manuscripts and gender in the art of the book in South Asia" explores peculiar preponderance of Goddess manuscripts in the corpus of painted manuscripts in medieval South Asia, focusing on gendered aspects of artistic production and ritual practices. Two additional research projects are currently underway, one on "visual vernaculars" in South Asia as they developed during the second millennia, and the other on "living monuments" in South and Southeast Asia. In addition to her academic research, she directs a digital humanities project on color and pigments in painting, " Mapping Color in History," which will serve as a knowldge common for conservation specialists as well as anyone interested in material aspects of color, with a searchable, open database for historical research on pigments. She co-curated an NEH-funded exhibition on Nepalese Buddhist ritual art held at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery (College of the Holy Cross) in Fall, 2019 (Sep 4 -Dec 14, 2019; dharmapunya2019.org). The exhibition catalog, Dharma and Puṇya: Buddhist ritual art of Nepal, which she co-edited with Professor Todd Lewis (College of the Holy Cross) was published by Hotei (Brill imprint) in Fall 2019.