Undergraduate Seminar: Art and Decolonization
Demands for decolonizing museums and university curricula has gathered force and momentum across Europe and North America. But what does decolonizing systems of knowledge mean for our practice as art historians? By way of approaching the question, this seminar will explore the intersectionalities among the trajectories of artistic modernisms, the function of art history, and processes of decolonization. That the discourses of modernism crisscrossed imperial and colonial worlds is by now well-known. However, the aesthetics of modernism and the political processes of decolonization also shared a vital conceptual cognate. For the colonized artists’ encounter with European modernist cultures in the early 20th century often shaped and sustained the desire for liberation from European imperialism. Consequently, in an antipodal uptake, it was metropolitan aesthetic forms and discourses that were reordered in the colonies to articulate demands for intellectual and political self-determination. Art history followed. How did the lexicon of art history change from the early to the mid-decades of the 20th century as the “European” modern was negotiated with the indigenous and the anti-colonial? And how did the decolonizing energies of this modern generate contrapuntal conceptualizations of contemporeniety, as former colonies gained independence in the Post-War years and imperialism assumed new forms under the shadow of the Cold War?
Our deliberations will combine specific case studies drawn from South and Southeast Asia as well as the Global South more broadly. We will end with recent curatorial interventions such as Rasheed Araeen’s The Other Story (1989–90) and Okwui Enwizor’s Postwar—Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 (2016) that offer models for rethinking the long history of art and decolonization in our still embattled present.
This course fulfills the following requirements for the History of Art major: Geographical area (E) and Chronological period (III).