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Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers

Book relating to a publication, 2008
Published by: MIT Press/iniva
Year published: 2008
Number of pages: 224
ISBN: 978-1-899846-45-0

image of Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers

One of four books in a series titled Annotating Art’s Histories, jointly published by The MIT Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts and iniva the Institute of International Visual Arts, London. Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers was published in 2008 and edited by Kobena Mercer.

From the book’s back cover: “Migration throws objects, identities and ideas into flux across a global network of travelling cultures. Examining life-changing journeys that transplanted artists and intellectuals from one cultural context to another, Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers offers a thematic overview of the critical and creative role of estrangement and displacement in the story of 20th-century art.

Revealing the traumatic conditions that shaped numerous variants of modernism - among indigenous artists in Australia and Canada as much as émigré art historians from Central Europe - these critical studies also highlight multidirectional patterns of cross-appropriation that trouble the settled boundaries of national belonging, whether manifested in 1920s Nigeria or in post-modern works by black British artists of the 1980s. Coming up to date with historical perspectives on conceptual art’s engagement with alterity, Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers makes a unique contribution to art histories rapprochement with the post-colonial turn.”

The book’s contributors were: Jean Fisher and Kobena Mercer, Middlesex University; Sieglinde Lemke, Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg; Amna Malik, Slade School of Fine Art; Steven A. Mansbach, University of Maryland; Ian McLean, University of Western Australia; Ikem Stanley Okoye, University of Delaware; and Ruth B. Phillips, Carleton University.

The book’s contents:

Introduction, Kobena Mercer

Unmapped Trajectories: Early Sculpture and Architecture of a ‘Nigerian’ Modernity, Ikem Stanley Okoye,

The Turn of the Primitive: Modernism, the Stranger and the Indigenous Artist, Ruth B. Phillips

Aboriginal Modernism in Central Australia, Ian McLean

The Artifice of Modern(ist) Art History, Steven A. Mansbach

Diaspora Aesthetics: Exploring the African Diaspora in the Works of Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sieglinde Lemke

Adrian Piper, 1970-1975: Exiled on Main Street, Kobena Mercer

Conceptualising ‘Black’ British Art Through the Lens of Exile, Amna Malik,

Diaspora, Trauma and the Poetics of Remembrance, Jean Fisher

List of Illustrations

Select Bibliography



The book’s flyleaf carried the following endorsements:

“In this fourth volume in the Annotating Art’s Histories series Kobena Mercer and his collaborators offer a brilliant re-reading of the themes of the conventional histories of contemporary art. Eschewing the abstract generalities of high theory for an approach more grounded in individual works and artists, these essays bring an original, more dialogic, exilic, ex-centric, “traveling cultures” perspective to bear on the migratory routes and cross-cultural entanglements through which - they argue - modern art actually emerges. They challenge us to radically rethink the conventional assumptions and accounts of that “formalist universalism” within which the narrative of contemporary art is traditionally told.” Stuart Hall, Emeritus Professor, Open University.

“A Duchampian gesture in colonial Nigeria? Aboriginal counter-appropriation? If diaspora is synonymous with dispersal, so Kobena Mercer disperses our notion of it as fixed and its consequences as homogenous. These texts respond to his call for fresh analytical tools and historical paradigms for investigating the contexts and complexities of diasporic aesthetics, remapping the nuanced terrain from which it originates. The route across this terrain is charted via a refined relationship to the language of cultural dispersal itself, where necessary distinctions between “exile, émigré, immigrant, expatriate and refugee” transform our understanding of the generative circumstances, impulses and processes that migrate within visual expression from the Canadian Arctic to the Australian outback.” Lisa Graziose Corrin, Director, Williams College Museum of Art.


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