SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

Global Issues in Contemporary Art

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1
This course will focus on the ways in which modern and contemporary artists and curators from Asia have played a role in undoing “Asia.” Key to understanding these interventions is a focus on race relations in the formation of “Asian Art,” and the emphasis on ethno-national identity in cultural and art historical interpretations of artworks by Asian-born artists. We will begin by looking at the conceptualization of Asian art as a category of study in the modern context, conceived through transnational networks of artists, intellectuals, and institutions and set against the emerging ideology of Pan Asianism. Other topics will include case studies from Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, and Pakistan, in which artists such as Yoko Ono, Lee Wen, and Naiza Khan have used materials and their bodies to contest ideas of “Asian values” and their aesthetic forms. We will also look at the politics of representation in photography and the moving image, noting how new media has pushed boundaries of tradition, cultural identity, and historical narrative in Thailand and the South Asian diaspora. Ultimately, we will gain a broader understanding of how “Asia” has been visualized as a space, place, and a concept, subject to stereotype and appropriation, and in the contemporary context, intervention.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Articulate the modern context in which “Asian Art” was conceived as a field of study
  • Problematize the geographical and cultural construct of Asia
  • Address problems in the historiography and interpretation of modern Asian art
  • Understand the ways in which contemporary art and new media intersect with social and political issues in the Asian region
  • Develop critical theoretical approaches to art and visual culture



Two hours Lectures

Method of assessment

Two 1 500 words essays (worth 20% each);one two hours exam (worth 60%)

Suggested reading

  • Berghuis, Thomas et al. Suspended Histories. Amsterdam: Museum Van Loon, 2013.
  • Bradley, Mark, and Patrice Petro. Truth Claims: Representation and Human Rights. Rutgers University Press, 2002.
  • Clark, John, Maurizio Peleggi, and T. K Sabapathy, eds. Eye of the Beholder: Reception, Audience, and Practice of Modern Asian Art. Sydney: Wild Peony, 2006.
  • Desai, Vishakha, ed. Asian Art History in the Twenty-First Century. Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007.
  • Hsu, Claire, and Chantal Wong (eds.), Mapping Asia. Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive, 2014.
  • Kee, Joan. Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method. University of Minnesota
  • Mercer, Kobena, ed. Discrepant Abstraction. MIT Press, 2006.
  • Nakamura, Fuyubi, Morgan Perkins, Olivier Krischer, and Howard Morphy, eds. Asia through Art and Anthropology: Cultural Translation across Borders. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.
  • Prashad, Vijay. Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World. New Press, 2008.
  • Yoshimoto, Midori. Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York. Rutgers University Press, 2005.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules