Undergraduate Seminar: Art Across the High Seas: Maritime Trade and the Global before Globalization
Thursday | 2:00 - 5:00pm
Bringing together maritime history, environmental humanities, and art history, this seminar will examine the social, cultural, and economic significance of oceanic waters. Our deliberations will be situated around the Indian Ocean, the third largest water body and the world’s oldest cultural continuum that has facilitated the mobility of people, objects, and ideas over millennia. Connecting Europe, South America, East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, East Asia, and South and Southeast Asia through maritime networks, Indian Ocean trade has long played an important role in world history. Our task will be to map out the ways in which such oceanic networks also shaped the global history of art. Our discussions will unfold through specific case studies: a ca. 3rd-century BCE Hellenistic bronze Poseidon unearthed in India, 10th-century Chinese ceramics excavated in East Africa, Indian textiles found in 11th-century Egypt, and ivory and silk exported to Mexico from Southeast Asia in the 16th century, to give a few examples. Visits to the Asian Art Museum and the Hearst Museum of Anthropology will allow for a hands-on study of objects and artifacts. This engagement will be complemented by a close reading of a variety of primary texts including travel accounts by Arab and European explorers and treatises on maritime navigation. We will conclude in the 1700s, when European trading companies came to dominate the Indian Ocean shipping routes, ushering in a globalized economy of extractive colonialism. Our aim in this seminar will be to trace an art history of the global before the beginning of modern globalization.
This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical area (B) and Chronological period (I) or (II), based on the topic of the final research paper or project.