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OCAD U mourns the passing of Dr. Ananda Shankar Chakrabarty

An image of Dr. Ananda Shankar Chakrabarty standing at a podium.

OCAD U mourns the passing of Dr. Ananda Shankar Chakrabarty

OCAD University is mourning the recent passing of Dr. Ananda Chakrabarty, an assistant professor who taught in OCAD U’s Faculty of Arts and Science. 

In a message to the community, President and Vice-Chancellor Ana Serrano extended the University’s sincere condolences to Dr. Chakrabarty’s family and friends, and to all those in the community who knew him, worked with him or studied in his classes. 

A virtual community gathering was held on Thursday, January 13, 2022 to remember Dr. Chakrabarty, share memories and be with each other at this very sad time.

Ananda Shankar Chakrabarty

Having grown up in India, Ananda moved to France as a young man to pursue his passion for jazz guitar. After becoming an accomplished musician, he leveraged his musical expertise and piercing intellect to gain entry to the Maîtrise in Musicology program at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, even though he did not have an undergraduate degree. He remained at EHESS to complete a Diplôme d'Études Approfondies (MPhil) in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Jazz and Contemporary Painting. 

Fluent in Bengali, Hindi, French and English, in the late 1990s he profited from his multilingualism to move to the University of New Mexico for an MA in Art History before decamping to Northwestern University in Chicago for his PhD, producing a dissertation that explored the philosophical implications of late 20th century French aesthetic responses to archaeology and prehistory. 

Upon graduation, he taught at the University of Utah briefly before being hired at OCAD in 2006. His research interests included post-1945 European visual culture in terms of 20th century French philosophy and literary criticism/theory; impact of Asian art and philosophy on post-1950 Western art; post-colonial studies; and interdisciplinary studies of 20th century improvisational music and visual arts.

His time in Paris—when he became a close associate of the painter Pierre Soulages—strengthened his interest in the artistic, musical and literary avant-gardes of the 20th century and became the foundation for multiple writing projects about Soulages (including contributions to the book Dialectical Conversions: Donald Kuspit's Art Criticism and the journal RACAR) and about the influence of Asian art and philosophy on Western art (the basis of an article in Third Text), as well as inspiring courses about south Asian art, classic modernism and the intersection between music and visual art.

His friends and family will greatly miss his precise and wide-ranging intelligence, generous spirit, crackling energy and mischievous sense of humour.