Section times and class locations in UC Berkeley Class Schedule

Liquescence: A Cultural History of Water (graduate seminar)

Queue for collecting drinking water, Osmanabad district, India, 2013. Photo © P. Sainath, People's Archive of Rural India, Mumbai

Queue for collecting drinking water, Osmanabad district, India, 2013. Photo © P. Sainath, People's Archive of Rural India, Mumbai

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. 

HA 290.2 Silent Archive/s (graduate seminar)

Des Faquirs ou pauvres volontaires des Indes, Les Six Voyages de J. B. Tavernier, Paris, 1676

Des Faquirs ou pauvres volontaires des Indes, Les Six Voyages de J. B. Tavernier, Paris, 1676

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>

HA236 Visualizing the Enlightenment in the Colony (graduate seminar)

A brass celestial globe from India, c. 1700 (detail) © Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

A brass celestial globe from India, c. 1700 (detail) © Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

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.

HA 192A Theorizing the Global Early Modern, South Asia 1550–1850 (graduate/undergraduate seminar)

Mughal paintings displayed at the Millionenzimmer, Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, c. 1760

Mughal paintings displayed at the Millionenzimmer, Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, c. 1760

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. 

HA192A Maximum City: Visualizing the South Asian Metropolis (undergraduate seminar)

 A View of Tranquebar, c. 1658. © Skoklosters Slott/Google Cultural Institute

 A View of Tranquebar, c. 1658. © Skoklosters Slott/Google Cultural Institute

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.

HA136C South Asia after Europe: The Visual Cultures of Colonialism

Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya, A Syce Holding Carriage Horses, c. 1845 (detail) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya, A Syce Holding Carriage Horses, c. 1845 (detail) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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

Mansur, Chameleon, c. 1595-1600 (detail) © Royal Collection Trust, England

Mansur, Chameleon, c. 1595-1600 (detail) © Royal Collection Trust, England

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

 Celestial Beauty (Surasundari), Chandela, c. 10th century CE (detail) © Indian Museum, Kolkata

 Celestial Beauty (Surasundari), Chandela, c. 10th century CE (detail) © Indian Museum, Kolkata

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 Visual Cultures of South Asia

Clay icons of Hindu deities, Radhaballav temple, Kandi, West Bengal

Clay icons of Hindu deities, Radhaballav temple, Kandi, West Bengal

South Asia brings to mind conflicting images of the glamour of Bollywood and abject poverty. Yet, this vast geographic terrain has a long history of complex political cultures, multivalent religious ideals, and diverse creative expressions. Our engagement with the visual cultures of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka from ca. 2500 BCE to the colonial times will allow us to unpack the complexities that constitute South Asia. Proceeding in a chronological order, we will engage with key moments of artistic production. We will locate visual practices within the larger world of political economies, religion and philosophy, gender and sexuality, urbanity, and state formations.

Tracing intrepid exchanges between Rome and South Asia in the early common era, early modern collaborations between South Asia, Iran, and Turkey, and encounters with Europe fuelled by colonialism, we will also attend to the capacious cultural ambits of global art. Simultaneously, visits to museums and Hindu temples in Berkeley will allow us to understand South Asian visual culture in the Bay Area. Our aim will be to generate the depth and context required for understanding contemporary South Asia through a historical frame while developing a critical methodology to engage with vision and visuality in an expanded global field.

HA 101 Theories and Methods for a Global History of Art

Co-taught with Beate Fricke and Lisa Trever

Muhammad al-Idrisi, The Tabula Rogeriana; Commissioned by  Roger II of Sicily, 1154. 

Muhammad al-Idrisi, The Tabula Rogeriana; Commissioned by  Roger II of Sicily, 1154. 

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? Co-taught by faculty specializing in Latin American, European, and South Asian art and architecture, 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.