Nonwestern Art and Western Art History

Based on the readings (essays and book chapters by Craig Clunas, Diana Eck, Esther Pasztory, and Christopher Steiner) construct an essay that considers the problems and complexities of addressing art beyond the Western world. Attempt to summarize what you consider the key problems for an art history of nonwestern art and describe how you think these should be resolved. As you develop your essay, consider the following questions (but as always, please do not structure your essay as a series of replies):

Does it make sense to apply the notion of art to cultures beyond the Western context? Is this a misrepresentation of what’s happening in other traditions?

How does the use of the objects shape our understanding of them? Does their ritual, religious or political significance matter? Or should we limit ourselves discussing questions of form instead of context and function?

Do other cultures have similar ideas of artistic individuality? How do you write art history without “great artists”?

What media, genres, and traditions were most important to other cultures? Does it make sense to discuss painting, sculpture, and architecture as we do in Western art history?

Finally, ask whether the problems associated with “Nonwestern” art might reveal something about art within the West? Does Egyptian art, for example, or the art of Ancient Greece present similar predicaments? Does the grand narrative (“from the dawn of art in prehistory to the age of the cathedrals”) of art history obscure these problems?