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Department of History of Art


The department is committed to developing a more global history of art, moving beyond traditional, Eurocentric canons and methodologies. With support from the University’s Global Humanities initiative, we have introduced a new scheme of Visiting Professorships in Global Arts based in the department. In 2021-22 we welcome leading specialists in African, Asian, and Islamic art as our first three Visiting Professors, for further details of the appointees and their activities see the dedicated webpage.

Cambridge Visual Culture (CVC), an interdisciplinary centre that integrates department with colleagues in the university museums and other clusters of visual research across Cambridge, has a key role in taking our global agenda forwards. Recent events organized and supported by the CVC include research seminars on African Americans in Soviet Art and Chicana art in the United States, together with a major conference on post-colonial approaches to Latin American art. CVC identifies synergies and knits together initiatives across departments, museums and colleges, for example the exhibition on the Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander at Jesus College and associated symposium.

In its drive towards a more global art history, the Department has encouraged applications to major funding bodies by early career scholars. In recent years we have welcomed Leverhulme Early Career Fellows working on late Ottoman visual and material culture, contemporary Latin American art, and now cultural exchange in the Early Modern Mediterranean. Our research-led teaching has led to a significant renewal and expansion of our curriculum, encompassing both our first-year core teaching and advanced options in the Global Middle Ages, Chinese art from the Bronze Age to Mao, medieval Islamic art, and post-war conceptual and protest art in Latin America. We are also extending our horizons through our multiple research seminars, which increasingly have a global scope (for example, our current series On the Move – Artists, Ideas, Objects, convened by our graduate students). The Kunst graduate seminar on the German foundations of global art history, hosted by the Department and the Ecole Normale Supérieure, has an attendance of fifty graduate students and faculty from all over the world, attracting a larger audience since going online. Our annual Slade lectures provide further opportunities to bring eminent scholars to Cambridge from underrepresented fields in the University, with recent and future series on art and anthropology, Mesoamerican visual culture, and Indian art of the Early Modern period.

Research by existing staff has also moved beyond Eurocentric canons. Polly Blakesley’s publications and exhibitions on Russian art shed new light on this hitherto neglected area. Laura Slater and Donal Cooper are developing their research interests in the medieval and Renaissance Mediterranean as an arena of cultural exchange, building on the pioneering work of our Professor Emerita Deborah Howard. Caroline Van Eck’s brings an interdisciplinary aspect to the global through her work bridging anthropology and art history.

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