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Institutional and Methodological Aims

The network “Arts and the Transcultural” was built upon the vital initiative of the Cluster when it instituted the chairs of Global Art History and Visual and Media Anthropology, as well as the foundation laid by the research projects of the Cluster during its first phase that contributed to mapping the field and initiating cooperations with partners across the globe.

Art history has remained anchored in the institutions and cultural values of the nation state, while anthropology has predominantly sidelined urban and transnational art practices and agents by focusing largely on a highly ethnicised notion of indigenous production, authenticity and institutional frameworks. The circulation and emplacement of art from different local contexts within “global” spaces, the new structures of exhibition and display and the forms of spectatorial experience they induce, all have challenged the frameworks of existing disciplines which deal with practices of visual representation and cultural identity.

The methodology developed by this research network drew upon and extended the debates on and understandings of the dynamics of transculturality within the Cluster. Historical units and boundaries were not taken as given, but rather, constituted as a subject of investigation, as products of spatial and cultural displacements. Our specific interest was to analyze transcultural conditions that make the arts visible, create global taxonomies, and foster changing practices of spectatorship. We proceeded with interdisciplinary approaches to help overcome the existing boundaries of visual or/and cultural studies that often remain confined to the regional and disciplinary conventions.

The search for alternative paradigms requires the collaborative efforts, the disciplinary, linguistic and cultural expertise of a plurality of regional specialists. Methodological and conceptual exchange is also a continuous process of cross cultural translation, without which transculturality as a research perspective and practice cannot be credibly pursued. Our collaborative network of scholars cut across the boundaries of disciplines and regional foci, and addressed issues arising from visual practices during different historical and contemporary moments. We also advanced a particular interest in training and grooming young scholars in this field who would go on to spearhead new discussions on transcultural research (see programme).