Teaching and Research in Art History and Implications for Museological Practice

Statement about the conference “Areas and Disciplines” by Monica Juneja

My presentation will address the following issues relevant to teaching and research in art history and their implications for museological practice:

The “global turn” in the humanities has in the recent years meant a shift of emphasis towards fluidity, blurred boundaries and circulatory practices. Attention is being increasingly paid to recognizing “commensurability” across cultural distance – relationships in a global context are being theorized in terms of a “production of commensurability” (Sanjay Subrahmanyam). I begin by raising a number of questions and pointing to some of the challenges the tension between the “commensurable” and the “incommensurable” involves.

One of the many issues art history – when framed transculturally – has begun to investigate is the meaning and practice of vision and visuality beyond the Western world which involves (a) a recovery of synaesthetic practices of seeing which had undergone erasure through the diffusion of modern taxonomies across the globe and (b) the attempt to bring together vision and materiality, generally conceptualized as opposite poles.

Bringing materiality to the heart of art historical enquiry is also relevant to understanding how fields of study were constituted in the first place following the logic of mobile objects which had travelled from other parts of the world to Europe – the field designated as “Islamic Art” is one such example.

Finally what are the implications of the presence of this large volume of objects for museological practice today – especially that which strives to overcome taxonomic distinctions such as between “art” and the “ethnological object” by bringing the “world” under the roof of a single “universal” museum, or by transforming erstwhile colonial ethnographic collections into museums of “art”? Yet on what terms does the “world” get assimilated into the spaces of the metropolitan West?


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