Art and Ecology in the Pre-Modern World

Over the past twenty years the mounting environmental crisis of global scale has led many scholars to question the dominant anthropocentric models of interpretation inherited from the Enlightenment. A growing repertoire of frameworks embraces post-human, post-colonial, and materialist standpoints to challenge binary distinctions between nature and culture and write histories in which human and material agencies come to converge. Art history and its associated fields have been averse to engaging with this trend thanks to their foundational investment in creativity as an archetypal act of mastery, marking humankind’s transcendence over its material and zoological conditions. Nature is of interest only in as much as it is a subject of representation amenable to iconographic and cultural decoding. The aim of this course is to bring out the neglected ecological implications of a broad range of pre-modern art historical materials. We will draw on recent writings in new materialism, technicity, network theory, and craft studies to explore the biopolitical belief systems that conditioned processes of artistic manufacture, display, and reception across different regions of the Eurasian continent. In so doing, we hope to re-center our interpretations around issues of socio-material interconnectedness and justice and recover art and material culture as powerful resources in facing our current environmental challenges. 3 credits. Satisfies either the geocultural or chronological requirement.