My work on material culture addresses intersections among history, art history, anthropology, and philosophy. My principal scholarly concern is to mobilize non-written traces of the past to illuminate aspects of the lives of human actors that would otherwise remain obscure. As well as writing individual historical case studies on topics ranging from seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, to Roman baroque sculpture, Native American baskets, and Congo textiles, I work on the philosophical plane of second order questioning. While on the faculty at Cambridge University, I collaborated with the late Salim Kemal to edit a ten book series of multi-author volumes, Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and the Arts. I have organized numerous experimental exhibitions at Harvard University, where I taught and curated between 1991 and 2011. I am the author, editor, or co-editor of sixteen books, and have contributed to numerous journals and edited volumes in history, art history, and philosophy.

Selected Recent Publications

“Against Theory—Again (Though with Reservations).” In Contemporary Aesthetics 20, 2022

The Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture. Edited with Sarah Anne Carter. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

“Works of Art and Mere Real Things—Again.” In British Journal of Aesthetics 60, 2020, pp. 131-149.

“A Role for Empathy in Decolonizing Aesthetics: Unlikely Lessons from Roger Fry.” In Contemporary Aesthetics 17, 2019

“Race, Aesthetics, and Shelter: Towards a Postcolonial Historical Taxonomy of Buildings” In Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 77, 379-390. Oxford University Press, 2019.

“Concord Migrations.” In Cultural Heritage, Ethics and Contemporary Migrations, edited by Cornelius Holtorf, Andreas Pantazatos, and Geoffrey Scarre, 89-109. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

“Joining the Club: A Tongan ‘akau in New England.” In Curatopia: Museums and the Future of Curatorship, edited by Philipp Schorch and Conal McCarthy, 176-190. Manchester University Press, 2019.

“For the Union Dead: Memorial Hall at Harvard University, and the Exclusion of the Confederate Fallen.” In Philosophical Perspectives on Ruins, Monuments, and Memorials, edited by Jeanette Bicknell, Jennifer Judkins, and Carolyn Korsmeyer, 262-274. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

“Portraiture Portrayed.” In Portraits and Philosophy, edited by Hans Maes, 9-23. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

Selected Courses

871 Thinking with Things in North America

876 Tangible Things: Observing, Collecting, Sorting

883 Damage, Decay, Conservation

912 Curatorial Practice and American Art at the Metropolitan Museum

915 History and Material Culture: New Directions

932 The American Civil War: Art and Material Culture

967 Oceania: Art and Material Culture