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Native American Art

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - 10:30am

Anthropology 340
Fall 2016 Native American Art 

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 – 12:00
location TBA 

Instructor, Lucy Fowler Williams, PhD
Associate Curator and Senior Keeper, American Section, Penn Museum 

From petroglyphs to performance art, this course offers a survey of the diverse and ever changing material and expressive culture of the indigenous peoples of North America, from prehistory to the contemporary period. We will study art from across the region including the High Arctic, Northwest Coast, Southwest, Great Plains, and East Coast. We will read texts by native artists, native and non-native scholars, leaders, and activists who offer insight into different theoretical approaches, indigenous epistemologies, historical contexts, and the political agendas (from dispossession to re-possession) that continue to shape Native American expression in its lived contexts today. Case studies will explore a variety of topics including Pueblo architecture, the Northwest coast potlatch, Santa Fe Indian Market, repatriation, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Native American hip hop, fashion, and tribal museums. We will discuss the importance of place, colonialism, trickster humor, activism, sovereignty, and ethics. Several class sessions will be taught in Penn Museum’s special Mainwaring Study Room (MSR) where students will engage directly with material objects in the University’s collection. Through readings, object observation and analysis, individual research, and special writing assignments, students will gain the knowledge and skills needed to begin to understand and meaningfully interpret Native American art. 

This course is open to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. Because of the use of the Museum Study Room the number of students is limited.