Undergraduate Seminar: Global Modernism/s: Perspectives from South and Southeast Asia
The idea of “global modernism” has now gained significant currency within the academy. But what exactly does this term connote? When appended to “modernism” does the term “global” merely serve as a moniker for what was formerly described as the “non-West?” Or is there something more constitutive at stake here? And how might we negotiate the seemingly encyclopedic expansiveness of the “global” with the specificity of local, regional, and national concerns that shape and sustain creative practices? While modernity is broadly mapped through the rise of a scientific consciousness and the emergence of an industrial economy in Europe, aesthetic modernism and avant-gardism is understood as an adversary culture directed against a bourgeois social and economic modernity. How then do we understand modernisms in cultures that have not undergone industrialization in the same way and at the same time as Europe? What about modernisms that are neither oppositional nor have a culture of avant-gardism? How does the lexicon of modernism change when the “Western” modern is negotiated with the indigenous, the anti-colonial, and the post-colonial in “non-Western” worlds?
This seminar will use specific nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists and art movements from South Asia and Southeast Asia as a lens to examine the questions and challenges “global modernisms” present for art history in specific and world history more broadly. Our interest will be oriented towards the methods and methodologies of art history. Consequently, although our geographic vision will be expansive in scope and scale, we will not aim to chart an exhaustive account of art movements. Rather, we will utilize the oeuvres of specific artists and art movements to critically engage the construction of the field called “global modernism.” Our engagement with artworks will be complemented by close readings of manifestoes and artists’ writings as well as critical texts in history, art history, and postcolonial theory.
This course fulfills the following Major requirements: Geographical area (B), and Chronological period (III).