HISTART 393-003

Undergraduate Seminar: Arabesques and Airplanes: Art and Cultural Exchange in Modern North Africa

Tappan Hall 210
MW 11:30 - 1:00
3 Credit Seminar

North Africa's arts and visual cultures bear testimony to an extensive history of movement and exchange across Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the region's location at this geographical and cultural crossroads placed it at the center of political and economic competition among European, Ottoman, and local authorities and, at the same time, transformed it into a locus of transcultural expressions of and debates over artistic modernity. In this class, we will examine diverse case studies—including a Moroccan sultan's experimentation with photography in the 1890s, innovative decorative arts designed by Maghrebi artists in the 1920s and 30s, colonial architecture in Tunisia and Libya, and modernist painting and film in Egypt and Algeria—in order to interrogate the diverse media, social relationships, and networks of artistic exchange through which artists working from North Africa accessed and influenced the globalizing cultural field of the twentieth century.

Students will explore how transformative social phenomena of the era—from new technologies for long-distance travel to the rapidly expanding global art market—facilitated the movement of and ensuing encounters among individuals, communities, and material things across North Africa, with important artistic consequences. We will consider the specific visual and conceptual problems addressed by artists and audiences situated in transcultural spaces like those of modern North Africa: for example, what does it mean to make or consume art from the imagined spatial positions of border, periphery, or center; and, how might the visual arts express or be interpreted in relation to conditions of transience or rootedness, cultural diversity or cohesiveness? This course will introduce students to recent approaches to the arts of Africa and the Middle East in relation to the emerging subfield of global modernisms.

Estimated cost of materials: $0-50.

HISTART Concentration Distributions: 4. Modern and Contemporary, A. The Middle East (includes Western and Central Asia, and North Africa), B. Sub-Saharan Africa

This course fulfills the LSA Humanities distribution requirement.