James Elkins

(Art history depends on Western conceptual schemata.)
Perhaps the most surprising fact about worldwide practices of art history is that there may be no conceptually independent national or regional traditions of art historical writing. Chinese art history, for example, demands expertise in very different kinds of source materials and formal concepts, but its interpretive strategies remain very Western. Chinese art historians, both in China and in universities in the West, study Chinese art using the same repertoire of theoretical texts and sources — psychoanalysis, semiotics, iconography, structuralism, anthropology, identity theory. They frame and support their arguments in the same ways Western art historians do: with abstracts, archival evidence, summaries of previous scholarship, and footnoted arguments.
I think it can be argued that there is no non-Western tradition of art history, if by that is meant a tradition with its own interpretive strategies and forms of argument.

One thought on “James Elkins

  1. shinichi Post author

    Is Art History Global?

    by James Elkins

    It can be argued, against the previous claim, that some of the best scholarship in the field is done by writers who know a lot about theories, and conversely that scholars who are not conversant with theories run the risk of producing texts that are out of touch.


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