Global Arts: decentering modernity (1800 on)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Module overview

Building upon Global Arts: connected histories (to 1800) (Term 1), this module develops an understanding of the arts of Asia and Africa from the 19th century to the present, encompassing the period when many regions were impacted first by European colonialism and later by nationalist and postcolonial movements. In this period new modes of production, patronage, artistic education and circulation transformed the arts of Asia and Africa.

If Term 1 established globalization as precolonial phenomenon in Asia and Africa, in Term 2 a key theme will be ‘decentering Modernism’. By examining a series of individual works of art in the context of their production and reception, this module aims to challenge the universalist assumptions of Western modernist avant-garde discourse and its colonial antecedents. This will demonstrate both the rich variety of modern and contemporary art across Asia and Africa and develop a more inclusive global art history.

In sum, this module establishes a broad foundation for understanding modern and contemporary art in Asia and Africa from 1800 to the contemporary diaspora.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the social, religious and political contexts for the production of art in Asia, Africa and their diasporas from the 19th century to the present.
  • Examine the role of colonialism, nationalism, postcolonialism, globalization and diaspora to the production and use of art.
  • Critically analyse objects from Asia, Africa and their diasporas using appropriate vocabulary.
  • Demonstrate a range of skills in visual and literary analysis, research and other study skills for successful academic and vocational pathways.


  • Lectures: 2 hours per week
  • Seminars: 1 hour per week

Scope and syllabus

The examples of objects and works of art produced in Asia - including the Middle East, South, Southeast and East Asia - and Africa and their diasporas from the 19th century AD to the present will vary each year but may include examples of sculpture, paintings, prints, photographs, installations and other media.

Method of assessment

  • One exam (worth 35%)
  • One 500-word object analysis (worth 25%)
  • One 1,500-word essay/report (worth 40%)

Suggested reading

  • Michelle Antoinette and Caroline Turner, eds., Contemporary Asian Art and Exhibitions : Connectivities and World-Making (Canberra: ANU Press, 2014).
  • Iftikhar Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010)
  • Charlotte Horlyck, Korean Art : From the 19th Century to the Present (London: Reaktion Books, 2017).
  • Partha Mitter, Indian Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
  • Elaine O'Brien et al. (eds.), Modern Art in Africa, Asia, and Latin America: An Introduction to Global Modernisms. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
  • Gitti Salami and Monica Blackmun Visonà, eds., A Companion to Modern African Art, (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell, 2013).
  • Alex Dika Seggerman, Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019).


Dr Polly Savage


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules