April 7, 2018

What a disaster for African Art History programs to see this blatant hostility toward their students and prospective students (if any!).

I've written about Kristen Windmuller-Luna before, but I need to talk about her again, based on something in this new NYT article, "Amid Opposition, Brooklyn Museum Stands by Its New Curator of African Arts, Who Is White":
Marla C. Berns, a director at the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, which highlights art and material culture from Africa, among other regions, said on Friday that there were not a lot of curators and academics of African-American or African descent who specialized in African arts.

“Graduate departments seek diversity in making decisions about admissions,” she said, “but the pools of candidates still remain predominantly white.”...

Steven Nelson, the director of U.C.L.A.’s African Studies Center, agreed, saying on Friday that he was “one of a very small number of African-American specialists in the field.” Art history as a whole has done “a very poor job of recruiting a diverse pool,” he said, adding that “African art history in the U.S. is primarily white and female.”
Who are these white women who choose to specialize in African art? They have their motivations. White males don't feel drawn to these field, apparently, and black students — male and female — also go elsewhere.  What is an African Art History program to do? Imagine teaching this subject to a whole lot of white women and knowing what's happening to Kristen Windmuller-Luna, an accomplished young lady who found a job and got lambasted for lacking the one credential she's powerless to acquire, a different skin color. She's made to look like a fool for choosing this field.

By the way, as noted in my earlier post, her research is on "cross-cultural exchange, early globalization, transcultural art, and the depiction of non-Western cultures in museums and popular media." Her dissertation was "Building Faith: Ethiopian Art and Architecture during the Jesuit Interlude, 1557-1632." It seems that she's focused on the role of white people in Africa, but I have no idea whether that's racially humble or arrogant. I presume that to get along in this world, Windmuller-Luna approached African art through criticism of the colonialists and hope for a better form of "cross-cultural exchange."

But the cross-cultural exchange going on now is: Get out of the field that belongs to black people.

Even though black people (it seems) don't want to work in this field.

And why should they?

I'm sure African Art History programs are desperate to answer that question as white female students wake up from their dream of a cross-cultural exchange and get the hell out of a program that releases them into a world of stumbling blocks — where instead of getting welcomed for choosing to study the artwork of black people they are regarded as one more cog in a system of racism.

47 comments:

rhhardin said...

They're honoring tribalism.

Rob said...

Obviously they should have hired an undocumented immigrant. They're the people you employ to do the work (black) American's won't do.

iowan2 said...

This is not a new debate. If only Blacks can speak about, or serve, or offer scholarship on Blacks, is not the reverse true?
I live in Iowa. Wide swaths of the population has no Black presence. But I am lectured that a school that has a 8% Black population requires Black administrators, because diversity. But when the population reaches 51% then ONLY Blacks can be interviewed for those jobs because, shut up
I will hang around and maybe someone can square this circle for me.

policraticus said...

Disgraceful! This kind of blinkered thinking is ruining academics. One of my favorite teachers, a profound historian of 17th century Puritanism, was a refugee from the Chinese Communist Revolution. He spent months walking across war torn China and then years in camps, sometimes starving and abused, until he reached freedom. His Chinese heritage was an asset to his scholarship of a culture, time and place that were about as different from his own as can be imagined. I read these current stories with disgust. To think that the color of our skin or the accident of our sex should determine what we can study or how we can understand and experience art, culture, or history is just bonkers. Hannibal ad portes. The Barbarians are at the gates, if they aren't already in the Groves of the Academy.

David Begley said...

“Building Faith: Ethiopian Art and Architecture during the Jesuit Interlude, 1557-1632.”

I’m sure it has been all downhill since 1632.

Ralph L said...

I'm guessing all Art History is all but totally white and mostly female.

Eleanor said...

If there are not enough black people interested in curating museums featuring historically significant black art, and white people are not accepted into the field by the black community, the logical solution is to close the museums.

Michael The Magnificent said...

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." -- Martin Luther King

"You are the wrong color! Get out!" -- today's left

MadTownGuy said...

People who will promote the preferred narrative are sought. Those who insist on fusty scholarship are out.

MadisonMan said...

People in general should spend less time worrying about the racial and gender balance of any single University Department and focus on this instead: Is the work being done there good and worthwhile? How can the scholarship be better?

Birkel said...

Maybe it is easier and will produce better results if we all choose to reject the Leftist Collectivist horse shit that is modern-day Democrat racism.

Kindly shove your intersectionality, your systemic racism, your Marxism, your identity politics and whatever new way of describing horse shit onto the ash heap of hiatory. Both logic and ineluctable truth stand in the way of this nonsense which was created to destroy people like me.

You'll have to find your fucking kulaks elsewhere.

Bob said...

She is not curating for Africans or ancestry, she's curating for white patrons. I suspect (without knowing anything) that it is much like a music critic. It's not what you know about music, it's what you can say about music.

rhhardin said...

Maybe art history is hard. Takes IQ or something.

They ought to hire east Asians.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Progressives get themselves into a corner where no matter what a person of Northern European ancestry does or says, if they venture into "other" cultures, they do something wrong: cultural appropriation, or implicit bias, or softening the harsh "unacceptable" stuff by paternalism--treating people like children.

Taking a step back: who has done the most to preserve, curate and study the cultures of the world? We're not supposed to say Northern Europeans, because they've done so much to destroy things. But: the same French army under Napoleon that took shots at the Sphinx, and broke off pieces that had been intact for many centuries, also found the Rosetta stone, allowing the translation of hieroglyphic. European leaders and governments loved foreign artifacts so much, they insisted on removing them from their original sites and taking them to Europe. Taking Egypt as only one example, the only "local" people who took an interest in the pyramids, for a long time, were looters--but even looters ended up contributing to European collections. Vast treasure troves of stuff came out of China--by hook, by crook, sometimes by fairly honest deals--in the early 20th century when there were constant wars there. In a way the "local" people, if they still have faith in their artifacts, may want to use them for specific purposes, but otherwise leave them undisturbed. Indigenous people in North America don't want burials subjected to "Western science," partly (I suspect) because they want to protect the narrative that there was one great aboriginal group, not different warring groups; but also because burial grounds are sacred, and should be left alone. Modern Western people are the people who think they are above all cultures, free to explore, enjoy, analyze; but this may mean not truly being a part of, or sharing, any.

Fernandistien said...

Ethiopians invented the "big sad eyes" style of painting, which is so important in modern Western culture.

Roger Sweeny said...

I seem to remember that in 1964 discriminating on the basis of race was considered a bod thing and was even made illegal. When was that law repealed?

MadisonMan said...

The snarky MadisonMan, who comes out occasionally, would say that White Women go into Art History because they don't want to be teachers, which is where many many former pre-Mrs degree women gravitate because other subjects are hard and/or don't offer opportunties.

That doesn't address the racial component of this post however. Because I've been trained not to talk about race because racism.

Larry J said...

It's easy to guess the reaction if a museum said that it is inappropriate to have black curators for collections that are predominately white or Asian.

rehajm said...

I'm content to let them all wallow in the absurdity they've wrought.

FullMoon said...

They will hire a black figurehead and let the white people do the actual work.

Sally327 said...

I'm supposing it's not just white women who choose to major in AAH but more particularly white women from affluent backgrounds. It's possibly more about economics, if that's the right word, than it is about race. Black people, historically poor and striving to better their financial circumstances, much like poor white people, wouldn't have an orientation towards study in those fields that aren't obviously designed to increase opportunities to improve financially. Of course, nothing is about anything except race in America.

cyrus83 said...

We must destroy African Art History to save it, or something like that.

It is ironic how much the left is working to restore the racial divide. Obviously if whites are to be shunned for having anything to do with a culture outside their own, increasingly whites will band together, vote together, and have an insular culture excluding other influences. All at the behest of their cultural betters you see.

This is very literally the opposite of diversity, which itself was really only ever a project to favor certain groups over others without calling it that. This is just the next phase, actively shunning the disfavored. It really wouldn't surprise me if the ultimate goal of the left is to establish something like a new Apartheid with whites being the group on the bottom of the social order.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Who are these white women who choose to specialize in African art? They have their motivations.

I thought Spike Lee explained this quite clearly

William said...

She was an Art History major who found a real job that paid a decent wage. You don't hear of that very often, but now this. Maybe she'll go on to marry well. Many art history majors do.

LarsPorsena said...

"..Art history as a whole has done “a very poor job of recruiting a diverse pool,...”

Just lower your standards and increase the pool.

Michael said...

Perhaps white people should have left the splendid African "art" in Africa. And should leave the financing, building, display and curating of African "art" to African American experts on all things African from the Cape to the Med, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Because Kunta Kinte. Because fuck you.

Mark said...

Who are these white women who choose to specialize in African art?

Imperialist, gentrifying, culturally appropriating progressives who are all too eager displace and shove out of the way the minorities they purport to be in solidarity with.

mockturtle said...

Most 'African-Americans' have never set foot in Africa and know nothing about African culture. And, indeed, why should they?

WK said...

There is too much freedom of choice in allowing people to pick their own career paths. We end up here with not enough of the “right” people to fill different positions. Perhaps we need a “Council of Vocations” to slot people appropriately to avoid this mess.

Gahrie said...

How long until they start demanding that the government take away land from White farmers and give it to Black people?

Mountain Maven said...

Pull all the govt money out of "Art" and let it sort itself out. Including the tax deductions. I'm tired of paying for this junk

n.n said...

White people, white women, in Africa as slaves?

Anyway, character doesn't matter, color diversity is progressive (i.e. monotonic).

Phil 3:14 said...

It seems they're having the same arguments in Africa.

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Sal said...

Art history as a whole has done “a very poor job of recruiting a diverse pool,” he said, adding that “African art history in the U.S. is primarily white and female.”

In other words, where would African art history be in the US without white females? Dead as a doornail. "Black Pride" is something put on a t-shirt and strut around with. That's about the extent of it.


The Cracker Emcee Classic said...

As others have noted upper middle-class White females are the demographic that can most afford to risk majoring in art and drama. If it doesn’t work out, Dad will pay for the Accounting classes or help you get that Ed Master’s.

langford peel said...

Jeez...they need Affirmative action in the African History Department.

Can't they excell in anything besides basketball and tap dancing?

mccullough said...

Nice to get paid for a hobby whatever race or sex or ethnicity you are. African Art is safer than African medicine

John said...

Even with perfect diversity the hiring pool would only be 13% black.

Add Asians anvd Hispanics figure 15%

The hiring pool is still 72% white.

These folks don't seem to be very good at math.

Also, seems like a good reporter would ask the complainer for some names of qualified black curators.

John Henry

langford peel said...

Maybe they just don't want their museum to turn into Baltimore.

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Ken B said...

She is culpable for her knowledge and we for our ignorance.

RigelDog said...

It's all so wsaddening and maddening. I know a brilliant young man who graduated with high marks from an Ivy league school with a degree in African studies. Very idealistic. He fully intended to pursue post-graduate degrees in the field, but was not accepted into the grad school program because he isn't black. Just for that.

Just an old country lawyer said...

I believe that the primary source of employment for art history majors is major auction houses, cataloging, appraising and describing consignments. Then they may meet some rich art collector who wants to marry a curator for his collection.

Martin said...

Well, OK, but then no African-Americans can curate European, Asian, North African, or mainstream American (Native, colonial and post-colonial) art.

Fair deal?

And yes, those African art programs better get cracking because this is a huge signal to all those whites who are interested in African history or culture that it is a career dead-end and they need to look elsewhere.

"Diverse" = "Not diverse at all." O'Brien (1984) would be pleased.

Milwaukee said...

Some of that crazy stuff Picasso did was inspired by African art. Of course, Africans never got credit, Picasso got all the credit for being a genius. People with three eyes and women with five tits.

Gretchen said...

Black Americans who grew up in America have blood in common with Africans, nothing more. They have no knowledge or understanding of culture or life in in Africa during history. Why does the left have an obsession with blood. Skin color or ethnicity doesn't impart knowledge, scholarship does.