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Critical Race and Art History: Theories and Methods

ARHA 295
Spring 2021
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: AFAM 263, AMST 239
Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

How does the study of art shift if we begin with questions of race, power, and colonialism, rather than treating them as secondary? Concepts such as mastery, familiarity, strangeness, taste, and beauty are formed by conditions of domination and subjugation. Moreover, the histories of material production and cultural expression are fundamentally entwined with the circuits of enslavement, forced migration, and the extraction of resources, people, goods, and "styles."

For the bulk of the semester, we will focus on a series of case studies drawn from the 15th to 20th centuries, a period of intense European contact and conquest in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Topics will include: representations of Africans in Renaissance Germany; African depictions of the Portuguese circa 1492; the appearance of parrots, kraak (Chinese) porcelain, and other goods from "exotic" locales in 17th-century Dutch still lifes; the taxonomies of racial difference in Spanish casta paintings; debates about sculptural polychromy and the "whiteness" of marble; the relationship between expansionism, empire, and the genre of landscape; "primitivism" and European artists' "discovery" of African artistic forms; the critical interest in "racial art" in the interwar U.S.; and contemporary conversations about museums and restitution, among others.

Throughout, works of art are primary sources with which to study the specificities of periods, places, and their social arrangements. While we will emphasize difference and historical contingency, our longue durée approach will enable us to draw connections about art's role in processes of primitive accumulation, dispossession, and racial capitalism.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ART
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (AFAM-MN)(AFAM)(ARHA-MN)(ARHA)(ARST)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on MAY-23-2024
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