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Art and its global histories: A reader

Art and its global histories: A reader

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Art and its global histories: A reader

563 pagine
5 ore
Jul 7, 2017


The reader Art and its global histories represents an invaluable teaching tool, offering content ranging from academic essays and excerpts, new translations, interviews with curators and artists, to art criticism.

The introduction sets out the state of art history today as it undergoes the profound shift of a 'global turn'. Particular focus is given to British India, which represents a shift from the usual attention paid to Orientalism and French art in this period. The sources and debates on this topic have never before been brought together in a satisfactory way and this book will represent a particularly significant and valuable contribution for postgraduate and undergraduate art history teaching.
Jul 7, 2017

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Art and its global histories - Manchester University Press



1.1 Jean-Léon Gérôme, The Snake Charmer, c. 1879, oil on canvas, 82 × 121 cm. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Photo: © Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute / Bridgeman Images.

2.1 Unknown artist (Sapi-Portuguese), Saltcellar, c. 1490–1530, ivory, height: 34 cm. Luigi Pigorini Museo Preistorico e Etnografico, Rome. Photo: © DEA / Archivo J. Lange / Getty Images.

2.2 Mass of Saint Gregory, 1539, feather on wood, 68 × 56 cm. Musée des Jacobins, Auch. Photo: © akg-images / Bernard Bonnefon.

2.3 Table carpet, Egypt, mid-sixteenth century, wool. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 151-1883 Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum.

2.4 Ewer, possibly Flanders or Germany and possibly decorated in Egypt or Syria, 1450–1500, brass engraved and damascened with silver with filling of black lacquer, height 34 cm, diameter 18 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, M.32-1946 Photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum.

3.1 Johannes van Doetecum after Johan Huyghen van Linschoten, ‘View of the Market in Goa’, engraving from Huyghen van Linschoten, J. Iohn Huighen van Linschoten his discours of voyages into ye Easte & West Indies: devided into foure bookes, London, J. Wolfe, 1598. British Library, London, Asia, Pacific and Africa DRT Digital Store W 7735. Photo: © The British Library Board.

3.2 Dominican Nuns Moving to their New Convent in Valladolid (now Morelia), 1738, oil on canvas, 400 × 850 cm. Museo Regional de Michoacán, Morelia, Mexico. Photo: © Juan Carlos Jiménez Abarca.

3.3 Jan van Kessel, America (centre panel), 1666, oil on canvas, 49 × 68 cm. Bayerrische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, inv.No.: 1913 © 2016. Photo Scala, Florence/bpk, Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin.

3.4 Bernard Baron after William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode, Plate II, etching and engraving, 1745. British Museum, London, P&D 1868,0822.1561 © The Trustees of the British Museum.

4.1 Sanchi Gateway in Havell, A Handbook of Indian Art. Public domain.

4.2 Damaged sculpture of a bodhisattva. Public domain.

4.3 Unknown photographer, Government House, Calcutta, c. 1870. Private Collection.

4.4 Mayo College, Ajmer. Photograph by Lala Deen Dayal, c. 1880s.

4.5 The Jackal Raja's Court, Kalighat painting, c. 1870, pencil, with watercolour and silver. Wellcome Library, London. Used under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0. Wellcome Library.

5.1 Still from Michel Allégret and André Gide's film Voyage to the Congo, 1928.

5.2 Still from Michel Allégret and André Gide's film Voyage to the Congo, 1928.

5.3 Rotimi Faye-Kayode, Untitled, 1987–1988, photograph. Courtesy Autograph ABP.

5.4 Where documenta artists were born (source: documenta catalogues 1968–2007).

5.5 Where documenta artists are currently living (source: documenta catalogues 1968–2007).

5.6 Comparisons between artists’ birthplace and current residence (source: documenta catalogues 1968–2007).

5.7 Migration of documenta artists 1968–2007 (source: documenta catalogues 1968–2007).


The first and most important debt of thanks in this anthology must go to the critics, theorists and historians who have generously allowed their work to be included and, in many cases, subject to editorial deletions. We are very grateful for their generosity. Equally important is the gratitude to the team at The Open University for their support and guidance through the process of compiling the book. Their diligence and generosity has helped considerably in the production of the manuscript under very tight circumstances. These include Emma Barker, Warren Carter, Amy Charlesworth, Kathleen Christian, Leah Clark, Renate Dohmen, Elizabeth McKellar, Gill Perry, Clare Taylor, Paul Wood and Kim Woods. The role of those members of the editorial and educational technology staff who participated in the discussion about, and selection of, the texts included in this book also needs to be given due credit. These colleagues will understand if the contribution to this book of Warren Carter and Kathleen Christian, the module chairs, are singled out for special recognition. Heather Kelly was the curriculum manager and her infinite kindness and endless competent support and guidance have made the completion of the manuscript very much easier. Gill Gowans of The Open University's LTS Development and Production Team and Liam Baldwin from the Visual Resources Unit were thorough and helpful at all stages of this project; many thanks to them also.


Diana Newall

The Art and its Global Histories Reader, and the associated Open University module of the same name, offer an expansive approach to the history of western art in the context of global cross-cultural interactions. To this end, the Reader outlines and documents key issues, debates and perspectives which support such an approach. The Reader has five Sections of texts including an opening Section that presents a range of relevant theoretical texts followed by four case studies from the fourteenth to twenty-first centuries.

The Sections are as follows: Section 1, ‘Confronting Art History: overviews, perspectives and reflections’, edited by Diana Newall, introduces and explores the theoretical development of and issues associated with global approaches to art history. Section 2, ‘European art and the wider world 1350–1550’, edited by Kathleen Christian, considers the global artistic contexts produced by early European travel, trade and colonial encounter with Mexico, the Ottoman Empire, Asia and Africa. Section 3, ‘Art, commerce and colonialism: 1600–1800’, edited by Emma Barker, illuminates a period of growing global trade and colonial activity, accompanied by increasingly widespread European fascination with exotic luxury goods. Section 4, ‘Empire and art: British India’, edited by Renate Dohmen, explores the context of the British Empire in India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and how colonial attitudes framed and controlled perceptions of Indian art, artefacts and architecture. Finally, Section 5, ‘Art after empire: from colonialism to globalisation’, edited by Warren Carter, takes the debate through the twentieth century from the context of Modernism and ‘Primitivism’ to issues and debates on globalised contemporary art and display.

The case studies explore cross-cultural and global relationships, connections and entanglements that have shaped the production and perception of western and non-western art. Extracts from primary sources offer insights into contemporaneous artistic theory and practice while the associated critical texts present analytical and interpretative approaches. All of these texts, regardless of origin, are to a greater or lesser extent mediated through Eurocentric scholarly and pedagogic priorities and methodologies. Many of them directly address and challenge the issue of Eurocentrism in art history but they remain within its western framework. Central to this issue are the endeavours of European states to discover, trade with, colonise, exploit, scrutinise and control other parts of the world. Therefore, throughout this Reader, a key point of debate has to do with the broad range of consequences, in the past and the present, of European colonial and imperial hegemony.

Edward Said and Orientalism

The consequences of European colonialism and imperialism on societies and cultures within the western sphere and across the world have been the topic of intense scholarly debate for more than half a century. After the Second World War, the greater part of Europe's former colonial territories achieved independence. Many of them had experienced decades of unrest and war as they sought to challenge the injustices of imperial rule.¹ The theoretical framework which underpins consideration of the social and cultural implications of colonial rule is often seen to be rooted in Edward Said's (1935–2003) Orientalism (1978).² These issues had already been addressed by other writers including, most notably, Frantz Fanon (1925–1961), the Martiniquais-French psychologist, philosopher and writer who wrote in French colonial Algeria around the time of the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962).³ However, Said's work set out a robust polemic which has provided a foundation for critical debates within Postcolonial Studies ever since.

In Orientalism, Said analysed writings from European politics, scholarship and literature, from the classical period onwards, to reveal and interrogate the ways in which concepts of the ‘east’, the ‘Orient’ and Asia were created.⁴ His central claim was that the imperial power ambitions pursued initially by Europe (primarily England and France), and later by the United States of America, entailed the conceptualisation the ‘Orient’ and the ‘Oriental’ as an inferior other. He argued that, rather than being based on geographical, political, social or cultural reality or empirical evidence, this ideological construct of inferiority functioned as a tool of power through which colonial rule was orchestrated (see Section 1).

Said identified Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the start of the nineteenth century, accompanied by a group of scholars whose role was to study and document the country, as the radical moment of change in the relationship between Europe and the Orient, inaugurating Orientalist discourse.⁵ Within the Reader, this moment is recognised by the changing perceptions of non-western art and culture from the vogue for the exotic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Section 3, to the denigration of Indian art under British rule from the nineteenth century, discussed in Section 4. Said also developed a critique of the discipline of Oriental Studies, with its origins in the scholarship initiated by Napoleon in Egypt, for the way in which it reinforced the conceptual framework of the inferior other through the power imbalances created by knowledge acquisition. His argument drew on Michel Foucault's theories in which knowledge functioned as power in society.⁶ Said contended that in all aspects of the West's relationship with the ‘Orient’, the structures of European societies, politics, religion and culture kept those of non-European states in the Middle East and Asia in a permanent condition of exclusion and inferiority. This not only provided a justification of colonial rule (political and legal), Christian evangelisation and the imposition of western cultural values, but also constructed a framework in which the colonised seemingly accepted and participated in the colonial endeavour.⁷

Among the many scholars who have responded to Said's work have been numerous art historians. One of the earliest to do so was the American art historian Linda Nochlin. The prompt for her work came from the large body of so-called Orientalist painting produced during the nineteenth century, a period in which large swathes of North Africa and the Middle East came under European control, most notably work by French artists such as Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme. The underlying stereo­typing and denigration of the Oriental peoples, cultures and societies within these artworks, as Nochlin shows in her essay ‘The Imaginary Orient’ (Section 1), can be interpreted as another dimension to the colonial discourse critiqued by Said.

The scholarship on French Orientalist art since Nochlin is extensive. Some have challenged Said's and Nochlin's interpretation of Orientalism, among them John MacKenzie, who contended that Orientalist art was produced and functioned on a more respectful and positive level.⁸ More recently, scholars have moved beyond the East–West binary construct of Orientalism at the centre of Said's hypothesis to a more nuanced reading of Orientalism as (in the words of Jill Beaulieu and Mary Roberts) ‘an engagement with Orientalism as heterogeneous and contested’.⁹

Taking a different perspective, but also looking beyond the binary power dynamic implied by Said's Orientalism, Roger Benjamin has analysed closely the politics and imagery of colonialism, conceiving Orientalist art as products rather than drivers of colonialism.¹⁰ Benjamin's work on the Orientalist art of French North Africa considers the beginning of the twentieth century up to 1930, thereby encompassing modernist artists’ engagement with these cultures and situating them firmly within the context of French imperial hegemony in the region. The implication is that although the avant-garde developments of the early twentieth century and their appropriation of non-western artistic forms can be seen as progressive in western art terms, they are also part of the colonial hegemony (see Section 5). Section 5 also considers the debates on Primitivism and the ethnographic museums and collections in which many avant-garde artists first saw artworks from African and Oceania.

Scholarship on French Orientalist art, until recently, has tended to be much more extensive than consideration of British Imperialism. The Tate exhibition Art and Empire: Facing Britain's Imperial Past interrogated Britain's colonial and imperial history and legacies within a range of artworks and objects.¹¹ Britain Imperialism in India is the focus of Section 4 and its approach forges new ground in studying, from a European perspective, the colonial encounter and its impact on perceptions of Indian art.

Postcolonialism and Subaltern Studies

Highly relevant to the issues explored in this Reader is the broader field of Postcolonial Studies. Postcolonialism and Postcolonial Studies engage with debates and concepts associated with the legacies of colonialism.¹² Postcolonial Studies traces its origins back to the works of Said, along with scholars and writers on colonialism such as Fanon, in their characterisations of the drivers and consequences of European hegemony across the world. Postcolonial scholarship is perhaps furthest developed in the sphere of literary studies, and is elucidated by literary scholars Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin:

Post-colonial theory involves discussion about experience of various kinds: migration, slavery, suppression, resistance, representation, difference, race, gender, place and responses to the influential master discourses of Imperial Europe such as history, philosophy and linguistics […].¹³

Each of these different types of experience leaves a trace in the global cross-cultural interactions explored in this Reader. For example, slavery is part of the debates in Section 3; suppression, resistance and representation are explored in Section 4; difference is a key concept in Section 2 and place is considered in Section 1, to mention a few. Among the scholars who have contributed to the development of Postcolonial Studies are Homi K. Bhabha, whose work is included in Section 1, Stuart Hall, included in Section 5, and many others. Indeed, most of the critical approaches included in this Reader engage with the issues and debates of Postcolonialism in some way.

Postcolonialism is an interdisciplinary field which has permeated the humanities and social sciences, including literature, history, anthropology, archaeology, political studies and art history. The postcolonial theorist Robert J.C. Young summarises the key points of debate within the field in ‘Ideologies of the Postcolonial’ (1998), highlighting questions ranging from migrancy and dislocation; race, ethnicity and gender; connections to theories of Marxism and poststructuralism, to its impact on theories of aesthetics.¹⁴ Postcolonialism is also concerned with concepts of self and other, objectification and exoticism of the other, the power imbalances of the colonial encounter, issues of language and translation across cultural boundaries and hybridity. It is concerned to interrogate and subvert the western knowledge systems which underpin all aspects of colonialism, and to a degree, the postcolonial discourse itself. There is recognition that the legacy of colonialism is not just in the past but has ongoing impacts in the contemporary globalised world; that the activities of western imperialism have not ended and that the contemporary globalised world is still negotiating the consequences of continuing western hegemony.¹⁵

Art historians who have explored postcolonial approaches within art history include James Clifford and Annie Coombes, who consider ways in which non-western art and culture have been framed within the hegemonic structures of colonialism and western art history.¹⁶ A particular topic of concern for them is the role of the museum in representing and framing non-western art and culture. This issue is intrinsic to the watershed moment of the 1984 MoMA exhibition ‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, related to the material in Section 5. The exhibition was critiqued by Clifford in his essay ‘Histories of the Tribal and the Modern’ for its Modernist and Eurocentric approach to and presentation of ‘Primitivist’ art.¹⁷

Particularly relevant to this Reader and the case study in Section 4 on India is the sub-discipline of Subaltern Studies, which applies many of the insights of the broader framework of Postcolonialism to the particular case of South Asia. Subaltern Studies is concerned to interrogate and address the circumstances and voice of the subaltern: the suppressed, marginalised colonial other. Most prominent in this field is the Indian scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who, in her essay ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ explores the circumstances in which colonised people in India during British rule had their voices silenced by colonial policy, political subjectivity and cultural dominance.¹⁸ She argues that the continuing domination of western knowledge systems and the legacies of colonialism mean that the subaltern still struggles to be heard.

Globalisation and Art History

As outlined above, Postcolonial Studies has had an impact on art-historical approaches and stimulated consideration of the consequences of globalisation. Globalisation broadly suggests that the world has become more closely interconnected through political, economic, business, social and technological developments. The idea that the discipline of art history might recognise and develop greater global interconnections has generated many initiatives over recent decades which have sought to respond to the challenges of Postcolonialism and explore more global strategies.¹⁹ However, many have recognised the limitations and constraints of Eurocentrism within the discipline and the challenges of developing method­­ologies and interconnectivity which is not rooted in the western tradition.

For art history, there has been substantial debate on how to address this challenge, some of which is presented in Section 1. Approaches to this challenge can broadly be categorised into two distinct alternatives. The first, which may broadly be termed Global Art History, has considered the question of how the discipline and its methodologies pursue closer integration. It has, however, proved difficult to escape its western origins. The extract in Section 1 by James Elkins sets out some of the different ways in which art history's methodologies, institutions and terms are rooted in a western discourse, in turn, shaped and compromised by colonial and imperial histories. Exemplary in this respect is the way that western art historians use terms such as ‘space’ in a way that privileges traditions of the artistic developments deriving from the Italian Renaissance. Some of the issues relating to perceptions of non-western art during the Renaissance are explored in Section 2.

The second approach, known as World Art Studies, offers a different strategy, one in which a looser network of art-historical interventions encompasses contributions from across the world without attempting to provide a unified disciplinary methodology for studying any and every work of art, regardless of their origin. With both approaches, however, there remains the problem that the driving force for these initiatives often comes from within the western discipline of art history.

A further consideration, addressed in Section 5, has to do with the circumstances of global contemporary art. Among the developments encompassed by this term is the growing popularity of world art fairs and biennales showcasing international contemporary art. Texts included in Section 5 consider to what extent the global art world continues to be driven by western artistic and market priorities. Bringing the debates up to the present, this section of the Reader questions whether or not the idea of the global remains simply another western construct.

Sections 2 to 5 of the Reader provide case studies for applying and testing the debates and perspectives outlined in this introduction. Although these case studies cannot step outside Art History's western methodologies, they aim to explore how, within each period, artistic practice and theory are shaped by and contribute to global cross-cultural interactions. The selection of case studies allows for consideration of a wide range of encounters extending over some seven hundred years. Starting with early exploration and initial contact from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, they move on through the flourishing of international European trade and colonialism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and take in the nineteenth-century era of Imperialism as exemplified by Britain in India. Finally, through a consideration of the artistic innovations and emancipatory politics of the twentieth century, the narrative comes up to date, raising the question of the continuing hegemony of western discourse in the contemporary art world.


1 See for example, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000); Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee et al., India's Struggle for Independence (New Delhi: Penguin, 1989); Peter Fryer, Black People in the British Empire (London: Pluto, 1988); James Rotberg and Ali Mazrui, Protest and Power in Black Africa (New York: Open University Press, 1970).

2 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1978, 1995, 2003).

3 Earlier interventions include the poet Aimé Césaire, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land) (1939), which explores African black cultural identity, and Frantz Fanon, who further explored the issues of black identity in Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961).

4 See particularly, Said, ‘The Scope of Orientalism’, in Orientalism, pp. 31–110.

5 Said, Orientalism, p. 87.

6 Especially, Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970), The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith and Rupert Sawyer (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972) and Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977).

7 Said developed his theories further in Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993) where he analysed western culture, interrogating the colonial dynamics in works such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899), Jane Austen's Mansfield Park (1814) and Persuasion (1817), and works on postcolonial issues by Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul.

8 John M. MacKenzie, Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).

9 Jill Beaulieu and Mary Roberts (eds), Orientalism's Interlocutors: Painting, Architecture, Photography (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), p. 2.

10 Roger Benjamin, Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism, and French North Africa 1880–1930 (Berkeley, CA and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003).

11 Art and Empire: Facing Britain's Imperial Past (25 November 2015–10 April 2016) (London; Tate Enterprises Ltd, 2015).

12 The term Post-Imperialism, on the other hand, has a more political and economic inflection associated with international development and multinational business. See for example, David G. Becker, Richard L. Sklar, Sayre P. Schatz and Jeff Frieden, Postimperialism: International Capitalism and Development in the Late Twentieth Century (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 1987). There are a wide range of introductions to Postcolonial theory including, for example, Leela Gandhi, Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998).

13 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin (eds), The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, 2nd edn (London and New York: Routledge, 1995, 2006), p. 2. See also on Postcolonial literary studies, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literatures, 2nd edn (London and New York: Routledge, 1989, 2002).

14 Robert Young, ‘Ideologies of the Postcolonial’, Interventions, vol. 1, no. 1 (1998).

15 See for example, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA and London, Harvard University Press, 2000).

16 James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature and Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988); Annie Coombes, Reinventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in late Victorian and Edwardian England (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1994) and Annie Coombes, ‘Inventing the Post-Colonial: Hybridity and Constituency in Contemporary Curating’, New Formations, Winter (1992), 39–52.

17 James Clifford, ‘Histories of the Tribal and the Modern’, in The Predicament of Culture, pp. 189–214.

18 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Donna Landry and Gerald M. MacLean (eds), The Spivak Reader: Selected Works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (New York and London: Routledge, 1996).

19 Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: A History of European Reactions to Indian Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977); Anthony D. King (ed.), Culture, Globalization and the World-System: Current Debates in Art History 3 (Binghamton, NY: Department of Art and Art History, State University of New York at Binghamton, 1991); David Summers, Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism (London: Phaidon, 2003); Clare Harris, ‘The Buddha Goes Global: Some Thoughts Towards a Transnational Art History’, Art History, vol. 29, no. 4 (2006), 689–720; James Elkins (ed.), Is Art History Global? (New York and Abingdon: Routledge, 2007); Partha Mitter, ‘Decentring Modernism: Art History and Avant-Garde Art from the Periphery’, Art Bulletin, vol. 90, no. 4 (2008), 531–548; Kitty Zijlmans and Wilfried van Damme (eds), World Art Studies: Exploring Concepts and Approaches (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2008); Jonathan Harris (ed.), Globalization and Contemporary Art (Malden, MA and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011); Monica Juneja, Die Universalität der Kunstgeschichte (The Universality of Art History), Theme Issue, kritische berichte, Zeitschrift für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften, Heft 2, 2012 (edited with Matthias Bruhn and Elke Werner); Matthew Rampley, Thierry Lenain and Hubert Locher (eds), Art History and Visual Studies in Europe: Transnational Discourses and National Frameworks (Leiden: Brill, 2012); Jill Casid and Aruna D'Souza, Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014).


Confronting Art History: overviews, perspectives and reflections

Diana Newall


The texts in this section have been selected to foreground some of the key theoretical interventions relevant to an exploration of art and its global histories, since Edward Said published Orientalism in 1978, to frame the debates in the rest of the Reader. The selection has been made to foreground arguments that reflect the increasing degrees of questioning about the methodologies, disciplinary principles and possible future trajectories of art history within the context of globalisation.

The first pair of texts consider the legacy of past European colonial and imperial activities to illustrate the foundations of the colonial and postcolonial debates. The extract from the introduction to Said's Orientalism establishes the conceptual core of his arguments about the western construct of an inferior ‘Orient’. Said analyses texts and literature in Orientalism but the relevance of his work to art-historical scholarship is demonstrated by the second text, Linda Nochlin's ‘The Imaginary Orient’ (1989), which discusses nineteenth-century French Orientalist art. Nochlin explores how this art, almost subliminally, constructed a stereotypical perception of the Middle East and the character of the inferior ‘Oriental’.

The second set of extracts are taken from Homi K. Bhabha's The Location of Culture (1994), a collection of essays that interrogate concepts of self and other within the colonial relationship and challenge the idea of ‘pure’ cultural identity. He provides insights into the developing concepts within Postcolonialism which move beyond the issues of power imbalance, which Said identified. While Said analyses how European colonial and imperial discourse established the colonised identity as an inferior Oriental other, Bhabha interrogates relationships and interactions between coloniser and colonised to reveal ways in which the coloniser's hegemony is disrupted. For Bhabha, hybridity at the interstice of the colonial relationship is the agent of disruption. In the first extract, from ‘The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination and the Discourse of Colonialism’, Bhabha suggests the differentiation of otherness in the colonial relationship is inherently unstable. In the second extract, from ‘Articulating the Archaic: Cultural Difference and Colonial Nonsense’, Bhabha interrogates British fiction of the Imperial era to further problematise the nature of the colonial relationship.

The remaining texts explore the challenges for art history within the current trend towards globalisation. They set out the different issues for a Eurocentric discipline in negotiating its position and methods as a globalised discourse, which many critical approaches in the Reader confront. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann's text tracks the historiography of the changing ways in which art history has been structured geograph­ically. The extract from James Elkins's ‘Why Art History is Global’ (2011) sets out key points of debate on the question of a global art history concerning the western-ness of its methodologies, institutions and terms. Although Elkins does not provide solutions, he sets out the challenges faced by a globalised art history.

Parul Dave Mukherji's ‘Whither Art History in a Globalizing World’ offers a perspective on the current position and future trajectory of art history from a South Asian perspective. She looks back on debates relating to a global art history and reveals the continuing problems of ethnocentri­city. Mukherji, however, concludes with some optimism that in losing ‘its connecting thread’, art history may find a new and more expansive future.

Critical approaches

1.1 Orientalism

Edward W. Said (1935–2003) was born in Jerusalem, in the region of British Mandatory Palestine. He joined Columbia University in 1963 and held visiting professorships at other universities through his career, including Yale. He published extensively on colonial and imperial debates within literature. Orientalism emerged from early scholarship on works such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899), and signified his strong sense of how the rich and diverse cultures of his experience in the Middle East had been negatively stereotyped. The extract from the introduction outlines the foundations of his hypothesis on Orientalism in European colonial initiatives, representations and power.
Linda Nochlin (b. 1931), is perhaps most well-known for her publications on feminist deconstructions of the western art-historical discourse. This extract builds directly from Said's hypotheses in analysing the artistic manifestation of Orientalism in the art of the nineteenth century. It analyses Jean-Léon Gérôme's Snake Charmer (late 1860s), one of several French Orientalist works discussed in the essay. Through analysis of the absences within the work she reveals a stereotyping of an inferior Orient which parallels Said's conclusions from the analysis of literature and texts. [Diana Newall]

a) Edward W. Said, ‘Introduction – II’, in Orientalism (London: Penguin, 1978, 1995, 2003), pp. 4–9

I have begun with the assumption that the Orient is not an inert fact of nature. It is not merely there, just as the Occident itself is not just there either. We must take seriously Vico's great observation that men make their own history, that what they can know is what they have made, and extend it to geography: as both geographical and cultural entities – to say nothing of historical entities – such locales, regions, geographical sectors as ‘Orient’ and ‘Occident’ are man-made. Therefore as much as the West itself, the Orient is an idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, imagery, and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West. The two geographical entities thus support and to an extent reflect each other.

Having said that, one must go on to state a number of reasonable qualifications. In the first place, it would be wrong to conclude that the Orient was essentially an idea, or a creation with no corresponding reality. When Disraeli said in his novel Tancred that the East was a career, he meant that to be interested in the East was something bright young Westerners would find to be an all-consuming passion; he should not be interpreted as saying that the East was only a career for Westerners. There were – and are – cultures and nations whose location is in the East, and their lives, histories, and customs have a brute reality obviously greater than anything that could be said about them in the West. About that fact this study of Orientalism has very little to contribute, except to acknowledge it tacitly. But the phenomenon of Orientalism as I study it here deals principally, not with a correspondence between Orientalism and Orient, but with the internal consistency of Orientalism and its ideas about the Orient (the East as career) despite or beyond any correspondence, or lack thereof, with a ‘real’ Orient. My point is that Disraeli's statement about the East refers mainly to that created consistency, that regular constellation of ideas as the pre-eminent thing about the Orient, and not to its mere being, as Wallace Stevens's phrase has it.

A second qualification is that ideas, cultures, and histories cannot seriously be understood or studied without their force, or more precisely their configurations of power, also being studied. To believe that the Orient was created – or, as I call it, ‘Orientalized’ – and to believe that such things happen simply as a necessity of the imagination, is to be disingenuous. The relationship between Occident and Orient is a relationship of power, of domination, of varying degrees of a complex hegemony, and is quite accurately indicated in the title of K.M. Panikkar's classic Asia and Western Dominance.¹ The Orient was Orientalized not only because it was discovered to be ‘Oriental’ in all those ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be – that is, submitted to being – made Oriental. There is very little consent to be found, for example, in the fact that Flaubert's encounter with an Egyptian courtesan produced a widely influential model of the Oriental woman: she never spoke of herself, she never represented her emotions, presence, or history. He spoke for and represented her. He was foreign, comparatively wealthy, male, and these were historical facts of domination that allowed him not only to possess Kuchuk Hanem physically but to speak for her and tell his readers in what way she was ‘typically Oriental’. My argument is that Flaubert's situation of strength in relation to Kuchuk Hanem was not an isolated instance. It fairly stands for the pattern of relative strength between East and West, and the discourse about the Orient that it enabled.

This brings us to a third qualification. One ought never to assume that the structure of Orientalism is nothing more than a structure of lies or of myths which, were the truth about them to be told, would simply blow away. I myself believe that Orientalism is more particularly valuable as a sign of European-Atlantic power over the Orient than it is a veridic discourse about the Orient (which is what, in its academic or scholarly form, it claims to be). Nevertheless, what we must respect and try to grasp is the sheer knitted-together strength of Orientalist discourse, its very close ties to the enabling socio-economic and political institutions, and its redoubtable durability. After all, any system of ideas that can remain unchanged as teachable wisdom (in academies, books, congresses, universities, foreign-service institutes) and from the period of Ernest Renan in the late 1840s until the present in the United States must be something more formidable than a mere collection of lies. Orientalism, therefore, is not an airy European fantasy about the Orient, but a created body of theory and practice in which, for many generations, there has been a considerable material investment. Continued investment made Orientalism, as a system of knowledge about the Orient, an accepted grid for filtering through the Orient into Western consciousness, just as that same investment multiplied – indeed, made truly productive – the statements proliferating out from Orientalism into the general culture.

Gramsci has made the useful analytic distinction between civil and political society in which the former is made up of voluntary (or at least rational and noncoercive) affiliations like schools, families, and unions, the latter of state institutions (the army, the police, the central bureaucracy) whose role in the polity is direct domination. Culture, of course, is to be found operating within civil society, where the influence of ideas, of institutions, and of other persons works not through domination but by what Gramsci calls consent. In any society not totalitarian, then, certain cultural forms predominate over others, just as certain ideas are more influential than others; the form of this cultural leadership is what Gramsci has identified as hegemony, an indispensable concept for any understanding of cultural life in the industrial West. It is hegemony, or rather the result of cultural hegemony at work, that gives Orientalism the durability and the strength I have been speaking about so far. Orientalism is never far from what Denys Hay has called the idea of Europe,² a collective notion identifying ‘us’ Europeans as against all ‘those’ non-Europeans, and indeed it can be argued that the major component in European culture is precisely what made that culture hegemonic both in and outside Europe: the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European people and cultures. There is in addition the hegemony of European ideas about the Orient, themselves reiterating European superiority over Oriental backwardness, usually overriding the possibility that a more independent, or more skeptical, thinker might have had different views on the matter.

In a quite constant way, Orientalism depends for its strategy on this flexible positional superiority, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relationships with the Orient without ever losing him the relative upper hand. And why should it have been otherwise, especially during the period of extraordinary European ascendancy from the late Renaissance to the present? The scientist, the scholar, the missionary, the trader, or the soldier was in, or thought about, the Orient because he could be there, or could think about it, with very little resistance on the Orient's part. Under the general heading of knowledge of the Orient, and within the umbrella of Western hegemony over the Orient during the period from the end of the eighteenth century, there emerged a complex Orient suitable for study in the academy, for display in the museum, for reconstruction in the colonial office, for theoretical illustration in anthropological, biological, linguistic, racial, and historical theses about making and the universe, for instances of economic and sociological theories of development, revolution, cultural personality, national or religious character. Additionally, the imaginative examination of things Oriental was based more or less exclusively upon a sovereign Western consciousness out of whose unchallenged centrality an Oriental world emerged, first according to general ideas about who or what was an Oriental, then according to a detailed logic governed not simply by empirical reality but by a battery by desires, repressions, investments and projections. If we can point to great Orientalist works of genuine scholarship like Silvestre de Sacy's Chrestomathie arabe or Edward William Lane's Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, we need also to note that Renan's and Gobineau's racial ideas came out of the same impulse, as did a great many Victorian pornographic novels (see the analysis by Steven Marcus of ‘The Lustful Turk’³).

And yet, one must repeatedly ask oneself whether what matters in Orientalism is the general group of ideas overriding the mass of material – about which who could deny that they were shot through with doctrines of European superiority, various kinds of racism, imperialism, and the like, dogmatic views of ‘the Oriental’ as a kind of ideal and unchanging abstraction? – or the much more varied work produced by almost uncountable individual writers, whom one would take up as individual instances of authors dealing with the Orient. In a sense the two alternatives, general and particular, are really two perspectives on the same material: in both instances one would have to deal with pioneers in the field like William Jones, with great artists like Nerval or Flaubert. And why would it not be possible to employ both perspectives together, or one after the other? Isn't there an obvious danger of distortion (of precisely the kind that academic Orientalism has always been prone to) if either too general or too specific a level of description is maintained systematically?

My two fears are distortion and inaccuracy, or rather the kind of inaccuracy produced by too dogmatic a generality and too positivistic a localized approach. In trying to deal with these problems I have tried to deal with three main aspects of my own contemporary reality that seem to me to point the way out of the methodological or perspectival difficulties I have been discussing, difficulties that might force one, in the first instance, into writing a coarse polemic on so unacceptably general a level of description as not to be worth the effort, or in the second instance, into writing so detailed and atomistic a series of analyses as to lose all track of the general lines to force informing the field, giving it its special cogency. How then to recognise individuality and to reconcile it with its intelligent, and by no means passive or merely dictatorial, general and hegemonic context?

b) Linda Nochlin, ‘The Imaginary Orient’, in The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), pp. 34–39


What are we to make […] of Jean-Léon Gérôme's Snake Charmer, painted in the late 1860s (now in the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass. (Figure 1.1))? Surely it may most profitably be considered as a visual document of nineteenth-century colonialist ideology, an iconic distillation of the Westerner's notion of the Oriental couched in the language of a would-be transparent naturalism. (No wonder Said used it as the dust jacket for his critical study of the phenomenon of Orientalism!)¹ The title, however, doesn't really tell the complete story; the painting should really be called The Snake Charmer and His Audience, for we are clearly meant to look at both performer and audience as parts of the same spectacle. We are not, as we so often are in Impressionist

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