Introduction to the Art and Architecture of South and Southeast Asia: Tantric Yogis, Dancing Ganeshas, Starving Buddhas
Tuesday | Thursday: 12:30 - 2:00pm
South and Southeast Asia brings to mind conflicting images of the glamour of Bollywood, abject poverty, the Vietnam War, tranquil beaches, yoga, and military dictatorships. How to reconcile such images with the region’s long history of complex political cultures, multivalent religious ideals, and diverse creative expressions? Our aim will be to generate the depth and context required for understanding contemporary South and Southeast Asia through a historical frame while developing a critical methodology to engage with vision and visuality in an expanded global field. Our engagement with the art and architecture of South and Southeast Asia will begin with the earliest traces of urban cultures in ca. 2500 BCE. Then, proceeding in a chronological order, we will examine key moments of artistic production in the region. We will locate art and architecture within the larger world of complex political economies, a dizzying range of religious and philosophical practices, constructions of beauty and opulence, histories of urbanity and economic processes, and military machinations and state formations. Tracing intrepid exchanges with Rome in the early common era, the histories of magnificent Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic monuments, early modern collaborations with China, Iran, and Turkey, and encounters with Europe fueled by colonialism, we will attend to the capacious cultural ambits of global art. Simultaneously, visits to museums and temples in Berkeley will allow us to understand South and Southeast Asian visual practices in the Bay Area. How, we will ask, do we negotiate the region’s grand past with the convoluted contractions of its present?
This is a lower division course designed to meet the L&S Arts & Literature and Historical Studies distribution requirements. No prior knowledge of art history or of South and Southeast Asian history and culture is required.