Sarah Cahalan '14 | March 3, 2019
If you take courses in Notre Dame’s department of art history, you can learn a lot about the art of ancient Greece and Rome, medieval France and the contemporary United States. But until recently, you couldn’t learn much at all about the art of China or Japan.
This semester, the University launched its first-ever course in Asian art history — and its instructor says the new offering is but a harbinger of the greater change to come.
“Notre Dame has a long history with teaching and understanding art history, particularly rooted in the Western tradition,” says Fletcher Coleman, a visiting assistant professor in the art history department and the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies who teaches the course. “But I think in recent years there’s been a push to expand into global art history in the department here. The department, as it moves toward the future and looks to expand, is really looking toward the global world.”
Like much of society — think the #OscarsSoWhite debacle, or the law firms and congressional intern classes that have been lambasted online for their lack of visible minorities — the field of art history is in the midst of a diversity renaissance. ARHI 20703: Introduction to the Arts of Asia is one of Notre Dame’s efforts to join in.
Coleman attributes much of the rising interest in Asian art in particular to simple economics, joking that, as an undergrad in the mid-2000s, he was among the last group of college students to study Mandarin out of pure cultural interest rather than a desire for economic gain. Art historians, he claims — like professors of language or business — have followed the money in recent decades as countries like China and Japan have become increasingly significant economic powers.
In support of that theory, several of the 27 students in ARHI 20703 are business majors fulfilling their fine arts requirement with a course that’s relevant to their career aspirations. But many more are art and art history students or just curious enrollees from other departments, whose reasons for signing up vary widely.
Read more here.