Section times and class locations in UC Berkeley Class Schedule
Liquescence: A Cultural History of Water (graduate seminar)
The massive water crisis that now effects more than eighty percent of the world’s population has transformed the way we think of human interaction with the natural environment. The present water crisis, and the ecological predicament more generally, have precipitated an environmental turn in the social sciences and the humanities. In line with this new turn, the seminar explores the interconnected ecologies of water systems and social and cultural practices. Rather than focusing on specific sites or temporal periods, each week will be dedicated to particular forms of hydrological thinking through themes such as flow, depth, surface, and networks. Our case studies will range from Fernand Braudel’s La Méditerranée, early modern hydrology, display of sea life in colonial aquaria, maritime technology and oceanic trade to ecological thought in recent art, literature, and cinema. Our aim will be to familiarize ourselves with the new methodologies of environmental humanities as a transdisciplinary engagement with the natural environment.
The Matter of Material: Towards Planetary Art Histories (graduate seminar)
The globe is on our computers. No one lives there. It allows us to think we can aim to control it. The planet is in the species of alterity, belonging to another system; and yet we inhabit it, on loan.
– Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 2003
Taking Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s notion of planetary inhabitance as a point of departure, this seminar aims to read the rhizomatic entanglements between matter (that is, the physical substance that constitutes our planet) and the material of art and architecture. This line of enquiry is certainly not new. From the millennia-old trade in lapis lazuli from Afghanistan to the circulation of American cochineal in the early modern period, art history has always attended to the material world that is at the center of art production. Our embattled ecological present, however, demands new histories of material that belongs to another register of thought, one in which the material of art (dyes, metal, fiber, rocks – the archive is inexhaustible) can be reconfigured beyond existing accounts of global trade and techno-aesthetic connectedness. Stone, in such a reconfiguration, can then simultaneously be a natural substance, a living being, and the material of architecture and sculpture. Rather than merely a natural resource, plants might reveal the unfolding of a vegetal aesthetic that offer a more capacious view of the planet that we share with other species.
In this seminar, we will use specific case studies to explore how global histories of material can be overwritten by forms of planet thinking that are attentive to indigenous epistemologies, interspecies friendships, the desires of nonhuman life forms, and other minor ways of being in alterity that have been marginalized by colonialism, capitalism, and the economies of natural resource extraction. In tandem, we will turn to allied disciplines such as anthropology (Eduardo Kohn; Michael Taussig) and philosophy (Jane Bennett; Bruno Latour) to explore the transdisciplinary methodologies necessary to write art histories that disturb the rationalist imperatives of global histories of material.
Stronach Travel Graduate Seminar: Indian Ocean Art Histories: Goa; Bombay; Kochi
Bringing together art history, environmental humanities, and maritime history, this seminar examines the social, cultural, and economic significance of oceanic waters. Our deliberations will be situated around the Indian Ocean, the third largest water body and the world’s oldest cultural continuum that has facilitated the mobility of people, objects, and ideas over millennia. Connecting Europe, East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, East Asia, and South and Southeast Asia through maritime networks, Indian Ocean trade has long played an important role in world history. The seminar maps the ways in which such oceanic networks also shaped the global history of art from the early modern period to the contemporary by focusing on Goa in the early modern period; Bombay (now Mumbai) under British rule; and the contemporary in Kochi via the 2018 Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Over the course of the Spring Break, students in the seminar visited these three port cities in India, thanks to a generous gift to the Department from the Estate of Judith Lee Stronach. Participants of the seminar also presented their research papers at a symposium in honor of the Seminar’s benefactor.
Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art (graduate seminar)
Nuclear disasters. Acid rain. The mass extinction of animal and plant species. The devastating environmental crisis that the planet faces today has fundamentally transformed the way we perceive human interaction with the natural environment. New forms of thinking such as postcolonial ecophilosophy, actor-network theory, new materialisms, and posthumanism have challenged Enlightenment distinctions between natural and human history. Can art history, a discipline primarily engaged in the study of human creativity, also breach the natural/human history binary? What, this seminar asks, would such a history of art and architecture look like? As a discipline, art history takes objects, structures, and artistic representations produced by humans as its principal archive and locus of analysis. Consequently, artists, patrons, and audiences emerge as the primary agents in this history. But could intersubjective paradigms such as floraesthesis (life patterns of plants in relation to human and nonhuman ecologies) allow us to see visual representations of the natural world as something other than a mode of human ordering of the environment? Could an engagement with the vital materialism of stone lead us to rethink the history of lithic architecture Inescapably located in deep time, the ecological is omnidirectional and rhizomatic in its scalarity. Therefore, rather than focusing on specific sites or temporal periods, the seminar will explore the interconnected ecologies of planetary systems and art and architecture practices across space and time through specific case studies. Our case studies will range from hydrology in the ancient worlds, medieval bestiaries, early modern landscape painting, and the biopolitics of colonial tropicalism to media images of environmental catastrophes and the ecological turn in recent art.
Silent Archive/s (graduate seminar)
The 1980s arrival of an archive fever, le mal d'archive, saw the development of new methods of fieldwork and research in visual studies and art history. This, in turn, provoked a questioning of the conceit of the archive as a panoptical repository of objects and documents. The move towards reading the archive-as-subject (ethnographies of the archive), rather than the archive-as-source (study of objects housed in an archive), leads us to reexamine the archive function in both history and historiography. Our aim in this seminar will thus be twofold:
(i) Through an engagement with key theories on the archive as both a literal and a figural site, we will critically approach questions of marginalities, anxieties, silences, and erasures in the archive of visual studies and art history. How do we recover marginal voices in the archive? How do we read the archive against itself to explore (mis)representations of silence? Can performative bodies, oral histories, and literary texts operate as archive/s for visual studies? Might there be an inappropriate archive? What marks the limits of archival retrieval? Students are expected, indeed encouraged, to think about the theory and praxis of the silent archive/s in relation to their own research.
(ii) We will delve into a museum and a private collection of colonial print culture in San Francisco to engage with the practical aspects of archiving. Simultaneously, Skype conversations with museum professionals in New York, Amsterdam, New Delhi, and Hong Kong will allow us to engage with the hermeneutics of the archive in a global field. We will also experience the affective drama of archiving that exceeds all forms of theorizations by participating in the Berkeley South Asian Radical History Walking Tour. <photos on flickr>
Visualizing the Enlightenment in the Colony (graduate seminar)
In the recent past, scholars have argued that the Enlightenment and the emergence of the modern European subject was intricately linked to the knowing, classifying, museumizing, eroticizing, and the othering of non-Europe. Scholars thus read the visual economies of post-Enlightenment (Western) modernity as an epistemic violation enabled by colonialism. But how were such visual economies remade and creatively reinscripted by the colonized? What would the contours of the Enlightenment look like if we rethought early modern and colonial visual cultures through Michael Taussig’s “mimetic excess,” Homi Bhabha’s “forked tongue,” and Gayatri Spivak’s “Enlightenment from below”? The aim of this seminar is to develop a critical methodology to engage with the visual cultures of colonialism – a methodology that neither subsumes colonized subjectivities as merely products of a universalizing Western modernity, nor rejects the Enlightenment as simply colonial domination.
Proseminar in Art History: Genealogies, Methodologies, Practices, Horizons (graduate seminar)
In the last three decades, a range of political and methodological interjections have substantively reshaped the idea of art history. If postcolonial theory and deconstruction have undermined the notion of a stable seeing and knowing subject, new methodologies such as sensory histories and digital humanities have expanded the scope and scale of what falls within the domain of art history. Where do we go from here? The thrust of this proseminar is both historiographic and pragmatic. Beginning with the Enlightenment and the birth of modern disciplinarity, we will track the histories, genealogies, methods, and debates that have shaped art history. We will pay close attention to authors and texts that have come to define the discipline. We will be equally attentive to voices that have remained outside of such (mostly western) exemplary discursive paradigms in order to tease out the global contours of art history. Debates in allied fields such as visual anthropology and cultural studies will also allow us to situate the questions and concerns of art history within a wide intellectual horizon. Then, moving from historiography to practice, we will attend to the pragmatics of fieldwork, grant writing, and archival research. Our aim will be not only to think critically about art history but also to interrogate our own subject position in relation to the field. The Proseminar is required of first-year PhD students in the History of Art Department.
Theorizing the Global Early Modern, South Asia 1550–1850 (graduate/undergraduate seminar)
The recent past has seen a renewed scholarly focus on the mobility and global circulation of people, objects, and ideas across the early modern world. Historians have now come to understand the early modern as fundamentally transcultural, a form of “globalization” before modernity. But what role did early modern trade networks and diplomacy, commodities and consumption, warfare and intrigue play in the production of objects? How did technology transfer reshape aesthetic taste? Conversely, in what ways did material objects participate in the development of the global early modern as a political, social, and intellectual condition? With these questions in mind, we will closely focus on one object each week to generate a theory of things circulating across the early modern world. Our interrogations will focus on the Mughal empire (1526–1858), the largest centralized Islamic state in this period, at the crossroads of European colonialism, inter-Asian trade networks, and exchanges across the Islamic world. Consequently, our visual archive will range from South Asian material in European kunstkammers to Chinese porcelain collections, the hybridization of animals and plants from Latin America, Islamic cartography, maritime engineering, automatons, and Jesuit print culture in the Mughal court. Our readings and discussions will also radiate outwards from Mughal South Asia to Europe, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Indian Ocean littoral. At the same time, we will visit the Asian Art Museum to study paintings in order to engage with the materiality of early modern things. Bringing together postcolonial theory and global art history, our aim will be to intercept and transcript the plurotopic transculturality internal to the early modern world.
Art Across the High Seas: Maritime Trade and the Global before Globalization (undergraduate seminar)
Bringing together maritime history, environmental humanities, and art history, this seminar will examine the social, cultural, and economic significance of oceanic waters. Our deliberations will be situated around the Indian Ocean, the third largest water body and the world’s oldest cultural continuum that has facilitated the mobility of people, objects, and ideas over millennia. Connecting Europe, South America, East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, East Asia, and South and Southeast Asia through maritime networks, Indian Ocean trade has long played an important role in world history. Our task will be to map out the ways in which such oceanic networks also shaped the global history of art. Our discussions will unfold through specific case studies. Visits to the Berkeley Art Museum and the Hearst Museum of Anthropology will allow for a hands-on study of objects and artifacts. This engagement will be complemented by a close reading of a variety of primary texts including travel accounts by Arab and European explorers and treatises on maritime navigation. We will conclude in the 1700s, when European trading companies came to dominate the Indian Ocean shipping routes, ushering in a globalized economy of extractive colonialism. Our aim in this seminar will be to trace an art history of the global before the beginning of modern globalization.
Maximum City: Visualizing the South Asian Metropolis (undergraduate seminar)
Every city feels different, sounds different, smells different, and has distinctive urban cultures. We walk, we stroll, we see. But what do we see when we walk in the city? To what extent is our perception of the city mediated by the work of individual architects and urban planners? To what extent is our perception of urbanity mediated by representations of the city in art, literature, and performative practices? This course will utilize major metropolitan centers such as Bombay, Delhi, and Jaipur to analyze how we perceive and experience urbanity, both real and metaphoric. While each of these cities generated a distinctive urban culture, they were also emblematic of wider global tendencies. Thus, diverting from conventional roadmaps, we will jaywalk in medieval and early modern urban pasts. Our examination will range from the work of specific architects and planners to art, literature, and performative practices that have emerged out of and reflect the context of the metropolis. This engagement will be complemented by key texts on early modern urbanity, colonialism and nationalism, and postcolonial theory to understand building practices, philosophical debates, and contestations over space that have produced the South Asian city. Our aim will be to develop a critical vocabulary to engage with urbanisms, representational conventions, and the global flow of ideas more broadly.
Europe in Asia: The Visual Culture of Colonialism, 1500–1850 (undergraduate seminar)
Spices. Porcelain. Silk. Diamonds. Asia was seen as the exotic other and a land of astonishing wealth in European accounts of travel, trade, and empire from the Roman times onwards. But it was only in the 16th century that European presence in Asia vastly increased with the development of new technologies of maritime trade and the rise of a mercantile economy in Europe. Over the next three hundred years, trading companies based in England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands expanded their influence in South Asia (contemporary India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh), Southeast Asia (contemporary Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, and Vietnam), China, and Japan through trade and colonial occupation. Focusing on Europe in Asia in the age of colonialism (otherwise known as the age of exploration), the seminar will examine how European technologies, materials, scientific knowledge, artistic and architecture styles, and attitudes were exported to Asia to reinforce European presence in the continent. We will study how European objects and techniques were, in turn, transformed, subverted, and restyled by indigenous actors as a form of resistance and subversion. This emphasis on cross-cultural encounters will lead us to analyze the ways in which objects from Asia simultaneously reshaped the cultural worlds of Europe, thus challenging the insularity of the concept of both “Asian” and “European” art.
HA 105 Eco Art: Art, Architecture, and the Natural Environment
Nuclear disasters. Acid rain. The mass extinction of animal and plant species. The environmental crisis that the planet faces today has fundamentally transformed the way we perceive human interaction with the natural environment. What can art, architecture, sustainable design, urban planning, cinema, and performance practices offer to current debates on climate change and environmental justice? Bringing together the arts and the sciences, the course will examine the role of visual and urban cultures in shaping economic, political, engineering, agricultural, and scientific experiments centered on the earth’s ecosystem in the past and in the present. We will analyze key ecological concepts such as energy flow, waste, technology, conservation, and environmental politics as it relates to global visual and urban cultures. Case studies will range from North American indigenous arts to Asian gardens, from colonial medicine to eco-activism in the Global South, from Renaissance experiments in botany to biotech, from urban planning in the ancient world to contemporary green infrastructure. Fieldtrips will include sustainability projects on campus and in the Bay Area.
HA136C South Asia after Europe: The Visual Cultures of Colonialism
This course focuses on the visual cultures – architecture, painting, sculpture, print culture, photography, and early cinema – that arose out the colonial project in South Asia. On the one hand, we will engage with the representational regimes mobilized by the British Empire to see, know, and thus control the colony. On the other hand, we will examine indigenous appropriations of the Empire’s visual technology of control and dominance. How, we will ask, did Gandhi use photography, the very medium used by the colonial government to classify and categorize “natives,” to assert an anti-colonial politics? Why did indigenous artists depict Hindu gods and goddesses wearing European clothes? At the same time, we will be attentive to the role of the colony in transforming the visual cultures of Europe. How did the movement of artifacts and images from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to England, or even the presence of “natives” in London, affect British visual culture? Key texts on colonialism and postcolonialism will allow us to better situate this history of visual practices within theoretical and discursive paradigms presented by colonialism, nationalism, the modern remaking of religion, and the formation of modern states.
HA136B Visual Cultures of Early Modern South Asia, 1200–1800
Today, the idea of a “clash” between “Western” cultural values and “Islamic” theocratic regimes has gained significant popular currency. Yet, the world is not, and never was, polarized through such definitional binaries. This course interrogates the idea of a “clash of civilizations” by focusing on one of the largest centralized Islamic states in the premodern world. In the twelfth century, Islam emerged as a major political force in South Asia. The new Muslim rulers introduced innovative artistic practices including calligraphy and manuscript painting, dazzling jewelry, ceramics, textiles, and new forms of architecture, all of which constitute the core material archive for this course. We will engage with the philosophy of mosque architecture, navigate the soundscape of early modern cities, and conceptually smell the perfumed fragrances of Islamic gardens. In parallel, we will engage with early modern science by examining Islamic experiments in water management, cartography, maritime engineering, and the crossbreeding and hybridization of animals and plants. Our intention will be to examine the translation of science into art through material objects such as compasses, maps, jewelry, and carpet design. In turn, our engagement with art, science, and material practices will allow us to approach a range of social, cultural, and political questions. How, for instance, did the new Muslim rulers produce a visual vocabulary of kingship? Might the role of women as powerful patrons or the representation of desexualized male bodies in painting allow us to reengage questions of gender and sexuality in Islamic visual cultures? The course will conclude with South Asia’s encounter with Europe and the material culture of colonialism and early mercantile capitalism.
HA 136A Promiscuous Gods, Gendered Monsters, and Other Urban Beasts: Art in Early India
Tricksters. Multiple realities. Androgynes. Animals. Monsters. Evil. Bestiality. Nirvana. Early India is a rich source of creative myths, literary texts, and visual practices that offer a glimpse into the social, cultural, and political complexities of the ancient worlds. How did the ancient city develop into a laboratory for cosmopolitan creativity and thought? How might we fathom the libidinous sexual desires of Hindu gods? How did the philosophy of yoga regulate the body? Could we produce a gendered reading of monsters and the monstrous body through a feminist lens? How might we read the transgressive masculinity of the Buddha’s body? Our examples will be drawn from the first urban formations around the river Indus in present-day India and Pakistan to art and architecture produced up to 1200 CE. We will examine aesthetic conventions, religious ideals, and urban cultures by focusing on the painting, sculpture, and architecture traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Equally important will be artistic exchanges with China, Southeast Asia, and the Roman world through the geo-politics of early empires and global trade.
HA 30 Introduction to the Art and Architecture of South and Southeast Asia
The course offers an introduction to the art and architecture of South and Southeast Asia from ca. 2500 BCE to the colonial period. Proceeding in a chronological order, we will engage with key moments of artistic production in the region. We will locate art and architecture within the larger world of political economies, religion and philosophy, gender and sexuality, urbanity, and state formations to generate the depth and context required for understanding South and Southeast Asia through a historical frame. Thus, we will study Buddhism and Hinduism in the Early Common Era, early modern Islamic art, and encounters with Europe fueled by colonialism. Simultaneously, visits to museums and Hindu temples in Berkeley will allow us to understand South and Southeast Asian visual culture in the Bay Area. We will also develop critical skills to study art and architecture more broadly.
HA 101 Theories and Methods for a Global History of Art
Simply put, art history is a history of image worlds, objects, and material practices. Could art history, then, help us better understand the haptic and visual potential of the latest iPad, the deification of the natural environment in ancient India, hallucinogenic-induced apparitions in Latin America, the alchemic power of blood in medieval Christian art, or even the kinesthetic of contemporary museum display? Theories and Methods for a Global History of Art aims to do precisely that. The course is not designed to function as a history of world art or even a history of the discipline of art history. Rather, moving from the ancient to contemporary worlds, from the Americas to Asia, the course offers an indispensable toolkit for developing the required skills for visual analysis and interpretation. In the classroom, we will engage with major theoretical frameworks (for instance postcolonialism, feminism, and sexuality studies), critical methodologies (for instance formalism, sensory histories, and anthropology), and key concepts (for instance artist, mimesis, avant-garde). Our discussions in the classroom will be complemented by trips to local museums and Hindu temples to provide students with hands-on experience in fieldwork. At the same time, we will acquire a pragmatic foundation in framing research questions and writing papers in preparation for upper division coursework.