Deborah Swallow - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Deborah Swallow

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Professor Deborah Swallow

Märit Rausing Director
A photograph of Deborah Swallow

Deborah Swallow has been Märit Rausing Director of The Courtauld since 2004.

Deborah took her BA (in English literature) at New Hall (now Murray Edwards College), Cambridge,  and her PhD in Social Anthropology at Darwin College, Cambridge. She started her teaching career at Utkal University, Orissa, India in 1969 (under the auspices of Voluntary Service Overseas) and her career in curating  at the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. She subsequently worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she became the Keeper of the Asian Department  and Director of Collections. Her experience in India gave her a deep interest in the arts, culture and religion of the Subcontinent, initially explored through the discipline of social anthropology and subsequently as a curator within the context of an art museum. Deborah oversaw the creation of the Nehru Gallery of Art and a series of major exhibitions on the arts of different regions and communities of the South Asian Subcontinent. She set up the Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum in New Delhi, and established close working relationships both with the South Asian communities in the UK and with institutions across India. She continues to work on issues relating to the arts, museums and cultural heritage in contemporary India.

At The Courtauld, Deborah’s role is primarily a managerial one, but she teaches at times on the BA in the History of Art and the MA Curating the Art Museum programmes, supervises PhD students and maintains an active presence within the Research Forum programme. She continues to encourage the expansion of The Courtauld’s engagement with Asia and its cultural heritage and with global art history.

PhD students


  • Sanjay Dhar, ‘Assessing and Managing Risks to Buddhist Wall Paintings in Ladakh’, supervised with Professor David Park

Recently completed

  • Emilia Terraciano, ‘Discrepant Modernism: Art, Emergency and the Emergence of Modernity in India’ (2013), (co-supervised with Professor Julian Stallabrass), AHRC joint doctorate with the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Research interests

  • Indian modern and contemporary art
  • Indian textile and craft production, design and consumption
  • Indian museums and their histories

Forthcoming publications


  • ‘Introduction’ to: Digital reprint of Forbes Watson, John. The Textile Manufactures of India. 2nd ser. (originally published London: India Office, 1873–78), Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad, 2015
  • ‘John Lockwood Kipling: a post-imperial perspective’ in Julius Bryant and Susan Webber (eds),  John Lockwood Kipling, publication to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the Bard Centre New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016-17
  • ‘Production and control in the Indian garment export industry’ in From Craft to Industry: the Ethnography of Proto-industrial Cloth Production, E N Goody ed., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2010, 1982, 133-165
  • ‘The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms: Collaborating with a Community’, (with Eithne Nightingale), in Museums and Source Communities, Laura Peers and Alison K Brown, eds., Routledge, London, 2003, 55-71
  • ‘The Victoria & Albert Museum and its Asian Collections’, in Louis Mezin (ed), The Heritage of the East India Companies in European Museums and Public Collections, Cahiers de la Compagnie des Indes, no 5/6, Port Louis, 2000
  • ‘The India Museum and the British-Indian textile trade in the late nineteenth century’, Textile History, 30 (1), 1999,  29-45
  • ‘Colonial Architecture, international exhibitions and official patronage of the Indian artisan’ in Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn eds., Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture and the Museum, Routledge, London, 1998, 52-67
  • ‘Curzon’s ivory chairs at Kedleston: a puzzle of patronage in Anglo-Indian furniture’ with Amin Jaffer, Apollo, April, 1998,  35-39


Other current/ongoing professional activities

  • Trustee, the Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Trustee, the Art Fund, UK
  • Trustee, the Helen Hamlyn Trust
  • Trustee, Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, New Delhi, India
  • Advisor to the Trustees, Sarabhai Foundation/Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedabad, India
  • Member, Collegiate Council, the University of Londong
  • Member, Board of the School of Advanced Study, University of London
  • Member, the Warburg Institute Advisory Council
  • Member, Advisory Board of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute
  • Member, CHASE (Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South East England) Strategy Board

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