Courses / Fall 2023

Fall 2023

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    Course Number: HA 290.3 | CCN: 32930

    Graduate Seminar: The Work of Art and History in the Age of Decolonization

    Atreyee Gupta

    Monday, 2:00-5:00pm

    What does decolonization entail for our practice as historians of art and architecture? By way of approaching this question, this seminar will explore intertwined filaments of creative practices, representational form, the function of art history, and the processes of decolonization in 19th– and 20th-century South Asia.  

    How did the work of art work in the age of decolonization? In the late 19th and early 20th century, the discourses of modern art crisscrossed imperial and colonial worlds even as creative practices in the colonies shared a vital conceptual cognate with anti-imperial and anti-colonial political processes. The colonial encounter with European intellectual and artistic cultures often shaped and sustained the desire for liberation from European imperialism; in an antipodal uptake, it was metropolitan discourses that were reordered in the colonies to articulate demands for intellectual and political self-determination. Art history followed. How did the intellectual work of art history transform as the “European” modern was negotiated with the indigenous and the anti-colonial in the first half of the 20th century? And how did the decolonizing energies of this modern gain a different contrapuntal traction as former colonies gained independence in the postwar years and imperialism assumed new forms under the shadow of the Cold War?

    Without projecting the political onto the intellectual and the aesthetic, this seminar will analyze formal, representational, and intellectual concerns to unpack formative intersections between liberatory politics and the creative imagination. Furthermore, even though the seminar discussions will centralize modern art and its history, we will be attentive to the ways in which precolonial concepts, techniques, theories, and practices animated artistic and intellectual imaginaries in the colony and the postcolony (for instance, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Stella Kramrisch in the early 20th century and Geeta Kapur in her seminal postwar Places for People). With eyes set on South Asia, we will also engage with seminal writings by postcolonial and decolonial thinkers beyond the subcontinent (for instance, Dubois, Cesaire, and Fanon) to develop a conceptual toolkit to contend with and narrate the intertwined histories of art and decolonization more generally.

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