HISTART 294-002

Special Topics
Topics in Indigenous Art of North America

M W 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
3 Credit Lecture

This course offers an introduction to the diversity of Indigenous art of this continent. These lands encompass the ancestral homelands of hundreds of distinct nations, whose citizens continue to live and thrive in every region of North America. From Inuit storyknife drawings to Diné weaving traditions, and from a Tsėhésenėstsestȯtse-language billboard in Times Square to a tent carved from Athenian marble, we will study cases from disparate regions and periods that demonstrate the diversity and vitality of Indigenous art.

The course provides an introduction to ancestral arts alongside cross-cultural and postmodern practices such as video art and installation. Students will gain understanding of core theoretical positions developed by Indigenous scholars, such as visual sovereignty, decolonization, cultural appropriation, and what David Garneau calls critical care. Not least, we will study how the discipline of art history has contributed to settler colonial practices, and examine how art has aided resistance to colonial power.

Through personal writing assignments, you will also have the chance to research the history of your own home community, whether home is Michigan (the traditional territory of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi, among other peoples) or anywhere else in the world.

Course Requirements:

  • Engagement (in person and/or online): 10%
  • Brief reading response essays: 30%
  • 2 short or 1 longer artwork or event report (essay or audiovisual project): 30%
  • Final exam: 30%
  • Personal history reflection paper (required, but not graded)

Course format: Two 80-minute lectures including question and discussion periods, occasionally supplemented by guest lectures/artist talks and field trips to regional or campus museums.

Textbooks/Other Materials: All required readings will be uploaded to Canvas.

    Recommended (but not required) textbooks:
  • Janet Catherine Berlo and Ruth B. Phillips, Native North American Art, second edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).
  • Nancy Marie Mithlo (ed), Manifestations: New Native Art Criticism (Santa Fe: IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, 2011).

Image credits: top: Rebecca Belmore, Biinjiya'iing Onji (From Inside, 2017), Marble, 140 × 200 × 200 cm, Weinberg-Terrassen, Kassel, Germany. Photo: Swen Pförtner.
bottom: Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, In Our Language, 1982

Estimated Cost of Materials: $0-$50

HISTART Distribution Requirements: Modern and Contemporary and Europe and the U.S.