Oceania: Art and Material Culture


This course will introduce the art and material culture of the inhabitants of one third of the surface of the Earth, focusing on their encounters with incoming peoples from other parts of the world from the eighteenth century onwards, notably those of European origin. These encounters had far-reaching consequences for all concerned, including changes in the uses of materials, social organization and religious practices, and governance. The seminar will examine the art and material culture of Oceania along four axes: the importance of place, materials and techniques, cultural encounters, and challenges for museums. The work of the seminar will include the first-hand investigation of Oceanic items during three class visits to the study room of the Brooklyn Museum in collaboration with the curator responsible, Meghan Bill. The seminar will also visit and discuss the appropriate galleries of American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Students will prepare four succinct papers for posting on the course wiki in the course of the semester, one on each of the four themes, focusing on objects or sites of their own choice. There will be no final paper. 3 credits. Satisfies the non-Western requirement.