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Visual Modernities 

How has the visual shaped modernity and how has modernity shaped the visual? In this module we will explore how cultures around the globe have used visual mediums to imagine themselves as ‘modern’, and how avant-garde and modernist ways of seeing help construct social realities in modernity. Instead of defining modernity in relation to the tension between European metropolitan and peripheral spaces, this module will explore how exchanges between local, global, national, and regional cultures shaped avant-gardism and modernism. For example, how did empire and colonialism structure modern ways of seeing? Conversely, how did colonial, postcolonial, and decolonial cultures use visual forms of representation to challenge colonialism? Rather than moving chronologically from early to ‘high’ modernism, we will move geographically across a range of local spaces and their visual cultures, including Latin America and the Caribbean, North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Jewish diaspora. In this way, we will be driven by the question ‘Where was modernism?’ rather than ‘When was modernism?’ 

Indicative subjects (subject to change): 

  • Jewish visual cultures: other ‘Europes’ and Israel/the Levant 
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: avant-garde spaces and contemporary contexts 
  • Iran: Glocal Paradigms 
  • Shanghai in the 1930s: Picturing Photography, Cutting and Pasting Landscapes 
  • Framing Modernity: The Cinema of Late Imperial and Early Soviet Russia 

Indicative reading list (subject to change): 

  • Bao, Weihong. Fiery Cinema: The Emergence of an Affective Medium in China, 1915–1945. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015. 
  • Chakrabarty, DipeshHabitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002. 
  • Doyle, Laura and Laura Winkiel, edsGeomodernisms: Race, Modernism, Modernity. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005. 
  • Gabara, Esther. Errant Modernism: The Ethos of Photography in Mexico and BrazilDurham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008. 
  • Gruber, Christiane, and Sune Haugbolle, eds. Visual Culture in the Modern Middle East Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. 
  • Hochberg, GilVisual Occupations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015. 
  • Jay, Martin and Sumathi Ramaswamy. Eds. Empires of Vision. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014. 
  • Milani, FarzanehVeils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers. London: I.B. Tauris, 1992. 
  • O’Brien, ElaineModern Art in Africa, Asia, and Latin America: An Introduction to Global Modernisms. Malden, MA/Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 1-14. 
  • Said, Edward WOrientalism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978. 
  • Schaefer, WilliamShadow Modernism: Photography, Writing, and Space in Shanghai, 1925-1937. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. 
  • Sell, MikeThe Avant-Garde: Race, Religion, War. London ; New York: Seagull Books, 2012 
  • Williams, Raymond. ‘The Metropolis and the Emergence of Modernism’. Modernism/Postmodernism. Peter Brooker. Ed. New York: Longman, 1992 
  • Williams, Raymond. ‘When Was Modernism?’. New Left Review. I/175. May-June 1989.