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Decolonial Meridians: Art-Histories-Theories

(*check bottom of the page for upcoming sessions)

Decolonial Meridians: Art-Histories-Theories was formed in Spring 2023 to develop a forum for reading – in collective and relational ways – intersections of art (artistic form/iconography/genre), historiography (histories/narratives/schools), and epistemology (knowledge/thought/theory).

While the concept of meridian combines time, space, and transit, its construction historically is tied to colonial reordering of geographies. By using “decolonial” meridians we are rejecting this rationality and also forging potential “relational” (Glissant) lines – of dialogues, intersections, and even conflict – between 20th and 21st century artistic thought from widely disparate geographies. This includes the decolonizing worlds of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin Africa, as well as counter/hegemonic art and visual practices in European, East European, and North American contexts.

We feel that while there is a growing thirst among students/scholars to read non-Eurocentric texts/histories/forms, there is also a potential danger that arises from reading the “non-Eurocentric” in dissociation with Euro-American (mostly hegemonic, or even the marginal therein) spaces. Such dissociation (suggested in current decolonial thought, for instance, via the concept of “de-linking”) – while theoretically and politically critical – is historically unsustainable given the entangled nature of such geographies. Decolonial Meridians thus aims to develop a social-intellectual space and conceptual vocabularies for connecting geographies/artistic epistemes historically and critically – via contradictions and difficulties as much as via affinities and potentials.

In our meetings, we are reading across texts, images, histories, and methods – from disconnected or resonant geographies – addressing among others, the following themes:

  1. Decolonial thought – via historical temporality, aesthetic interventions, and theoretical structures
  2. Artistic modernisms and radical aesthetics from counter/hegemonic contexts, spanning 20th+21st century practices
  3. Plural and contesting notions of freedom, liberation, independence that have connected disparate geographies via geopolitics of Cold War and decolonization
  4. Solidarity and its limits (political or geographical) that sought to imagine a decolonizing world otherwise 
  5. Indigeneity and vernacularity, in bringing back to the questions of “tradition”, the “other”, and “subaltern struggles”– the politics radical alterity and theories from below
  6. Methods – of connected, comparative, relational aesthetics, thinking beyond the bounds of geographies – particularly from non-Euro-centric vantage points and scholarship
  7. The question of the archive – in alternative, non-institutional, embodied, or spectral forms

We are particularly aware of the different difficulties that we will confront in such a project, for instance,

  1. How do we put in dialogue resonant or dissonant geographies as well as opposite geopolitical paradigms – in other words, what makes connection and comparison possible?
  2. How can we draw theories from the difference of plural histories – rather than i.e., go to histories with theory from above?

Our goals therefore are to:

  1. read shared aesthetic themes or artistic/literary forms from heterogenous geographies and histories
  2. develop a pool of conceptual vocabularies from such heterogeneity – relate them to each other to draw connected questions
  3. generate tools for writing (the “contemporary”) in historically and theoretically co-informed ways

We are colleagues across Art History and Cultural Analysis (and beyond!) – and open to researchers and early-career scholars – across the humanities – who are interested in thinking theoretically via rooted, particular histories beyond hierarchical geographies sustained by imperialism (for instance, “empire/metropole”), Cold War (for instance, “First, Second, Third Worlds”), or globalization (for instance, “Global North/South”). Instead we want to think via the concept Meridians. We are particularly open to new/PhD/Postdoc research scholars joining us.

We have begun with a reading group first and hope to develop the space into future writing workshops (reading each other’s texts), and with possibility of future public/international workshops.

If you are interested in joining Decolonial Meridians, please email Dr. Sanjukta Sunderason (s.sunderason@uva.nl)

Our Autumn 2023 sessions are:

8 September 2023, BG2 0.12, 1530-1700: We are reading Aimé Césaire, “Poetry and Knowledge”

3 November 2023, BG2 0.12, 1530-1700: We will have an artist talk from our group member, Assel Kadyrkhanova

15 December (tentative): TBA