Our Head of Department says
As I’ve said in my School of Arts welcome on the landing page… It has been a tough year and I'd like to commend everyone on their endurance and resilience, given all the upheavals and disruptions to life and studies caused by the Sars-2 pandemic since early 2020. I know that many people will have had to face isolation and some also personal losses. In the Department, as in the School of Arts in which the Department belongs, we want to offer a supportive community and a place to learn and develop together, both personally and academically. The pandemic has profoundly changed the way we learn and live but the key message is: we are open for business and looking forward to the 2021-2022 academic year. All our staff are getting prepared to help and support students through their studies and any challenges they may face.
Who we are:
Our research and teaching focusses on objects of art and material culture from the arts and cultures of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and their global diasporas. In this respect our location in central London, surrounded by museums, galleries and cultural centres, contributes to an unforgettable and enriching student experience. We are also deeply committed to thematic and theoretical investigations into art, architecture, archaeology and museology: we want to foster the kind of critical thinking that we believe our graduates should have in order to face the challenges of and make a difference in our changing world. As such, we stand against racism, antisemitism and all forms of cultural, ethnic and religious chauvinism as has been outlined in the SOAS Charter.
Our academic staff:
Our colleagues are leading authorities on the arts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and their diasporas, and with this we are able to offer a unique range of courses. Curating, object analysis and work-related skills are integral to our programmes. We are increasingly interested in digital and interactive arts, including AR and VR, and are exploring new ways to study the artistic aspects of gaming, capitalising on our expertise in visual cultures and narratives and on the interdisciplinary environment of the School of Arts, where we work alongside colleagues in musicology, film and screen studies and creative and cultural industries.
Our academics are actively involved in arts projects internationally and many of us are also curators, involved in exhibitions and gallery installations close to home and in the regions we research. My own current project is an exhibition on the arts of the Mongol world in the long thirteenth century at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, while Christian Luczanits and Louise Tythacott have been working with monks in the Himalayas redisplaying the collections in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. We are also home to the transformational Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (SAAAP), funded by the Alphawood Foundation, which has so far provided a hundred scholarships to students from Southeast Asian countries to study Hindu-Buddhist art and architecture in antiquity at SOAS and also supported many significant publications, career development, networking events and outreach activities at SOAS and across the region.
On campus, our academics help to shape the exhibitions schedule and its programming at the Brunei Gallery. We are very proud to have Dr Gus Casely-Hayford, formerly Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington DC and now founding Director of V&A East, as our Professor of Practice: look out for announcements about the masterclasses that we will be hosting at SOAS! We are also home to the Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art, offering full time and short courses on the art and archaeology of Asia, from the neolithic to the contemporary. Check out their YouTube channel and Instagram for free in-depth content!
We welcome several academics joining the Department this year:
- Dr Richard Hylton, Lecturer in Contemporary Art - read Dr Hylton's interview
- Professor Louise Tythacott, Professor of Curating and Museology
- Dr Panpan Yang, Lecturer in the Arts and Visual Cultures of Modern China
Some of our recently published books include:
- Simon O’Meara, The Ka’ba Orientations. Readings in Islam’s Ancient House (Edinburgh University Press, 2020).
- Timon Screech, The Shogun's Silver Telescope
God, Art, and Money in the English Quest for Japan, 1600-1625 (Oxford University Press, 2020).
- Timon Screech, Tokyo before Tokyo: Power and Magic in the Shogun's City of Edo (London: Reaktion Books, 2020).
- Louise Tythacott and Panggah Ardiyansyah (eds), Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution (NUS Press, 2021).
The graduates of our programmes, from BA to PGDip, MA and PhD, go on to enjoy successful careers across the globe across the arts: in museums and galleries – as directors, curators, exhibition and education officers, conservators, registrars and fundraisers - as well as in auction houses, libraries and archives, academia, arts-based charities and fashion design.