A text on the problematic terms "Western," "non-Western," "Euramerican," "North Atlantic," and others.

From the "Atlas of the Real World," a map that shows area proportional to the amount of science research. There is evidence that for North America and Europe, art historical scholarship roughly follows this pattern: i.e., total art historical research is slightly greater in Europe (with the UK) than in the US and Canada.

From the same atlas, a map proportional to internet use. The amount of internet use (which is the subject of another post for this same book project) is roughly proportional to the difference between "Western" and "non-Western" as defined in the opening paragraphs of the text posted here.

 

 

North Atlantic Art History and Its Alternatives

Chapter 2, "Some Terms"

This is a draft of chapter 2 of the book North Atlantic Art History and Its Alternatives. The chapter includes sections on the words Western, non-Western, Eurocentric, Euramerican, North Atlantic, North American, and American; and also sections on words such as local, global, regional, marginal, and peripheral.

One of the initial challenges in writing about art history around the world is choosing terms to indicate what practices of art history are taken to be central.

The concept of "Western art history"—or Western scholarship in general—is widely and properly rejected, because it carries so many unexamined notions about what counts as central. The problem this raises for a study of art history around the world is that many parts of the world outside of Europe and North America routinely describe the kinds of art history, theory, and criticism that interest them as "Western."  

The challenge, then, is double: it's necessary to find terms that can bridge that gap (between the rejection of "Western" and its routine use); and it's necessary to find working synonyms for "Western" that will allow conversations to go forward in Europe and North America. 

 

This page is part of my Live Writing Project: I am writing mainly online, and I am embedding documents live on this website. The idea is to expose the writing while it's in process, instead of writing until it's presentable or finished. Absolutely all comments, suggestions, and criticism are welcome. Please post your thoughts on my Facebook page, or on Twitter. All contributors to the book will be mentioned and thanked in print. Private messages can be sent via this website's contact form.