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Middle East / Diaspora Contemporary Art


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Currently in my second year of a top MA program in Art History, came in wanting to concentrate on Mod/Contemporary and especially interested in Middle East/diaspora art, post-colonial issues, identity, globalization, feminism, etc. etc.

Have been soundly discouraged from pursuing this route due to lack of much of an academic field at this point, (African diaspora scholars, you are SO lucky)

...and so I'm doing my MA thesis on an 18th century European topic that deals with issues of cultural identity/exchange, issues of representation between Europe and the Middle East/S.Asia, sort of a pre-Orientalism situation, and chance to test out a different "period."

I do want to get a PhD, but am feeling very conflicted about how to choose a field, as my interests are obviously quite thematic. I don't even know if there's anybody at any institutions even open to supervising dissertations on any of these topics, so it's quite frustrating. I'm open to going as far back as 1750 and then somehow looking forward, but also need whomever I work with to be open to my being interested in writing about and curating contemporary art along with work in a more art historical field.Basically, I'm looking for a program/professor who is rigorous, but not necessarily conservative, and open to a more globally-minded and multidisciplinary approach to art history.

Any thoughts/suggestions from those more experienced than I, or interested in similar things? Any faculty that seem to be open to these types of topics? Thanks for any ideas!

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On the IFA website there is a phd student with contemporary Middle East as one of her interests. They also have a Colloquium for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Middle East and South Asia that could be of interest to you.

Good luck!

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I know Jaleh Mansoor at UBC has published on Mona Hatoum, but I don't know how deep her interests in Middle Eastern art are. TJ Demos at UCL might also be someone to look at. He seems to have a PhD student at the moment who is doing work on the Middle East. The presence of Tamar Garb and Briony Fer would be pretty awesome as well.

I'd look further afield than just Art History departments though. Maybe Berkeley Rhetoric? Or even trawl History/Literature departments for potential committee members... there's probably a lot more going on in the area in French departments, for example.

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To make yourself marketable, you need to find a broader niche. So either be a modern/contemporary world art person, with a special interest in the middle east, or an Islamist with a special interest in contemporary art. Your choice of grad school is dependent on which niche you choose to fill.

I can't imagine any program with a decent modern/contemporary faculty that wouldn't welcome you. I'd say that you should try for a strong secondary background in the whole history of Islamic art and architecture (if your primary is modern/cont.) So a program with good contemporary that also has an Islamist on the faculty would be ideal.

I think Harvard, Texas, Columbia, Michigan--those come to mind immediately.

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