Before starting my PhD at Heidelberg University, I had been a literary studies scholar. For my PhD, I chose to research the wall paintings of Shekhawati in Rajasthan. Unsure of which academic discipline this research should be pursued under, I was guided by Professor Monica Juneja, who encouraged me to conduct this study under the aegis of transcultural studies, supporting me by graciously accepting a student with no prior training in art history. True to the theoretical aspects of transculturality, her guidance allowed me to create research that is not neatly contained within the analytical and methodological boundaries that define disciplines.
Her own scholarship has been instrumental in familiarizing me not only with art historical analytical frameworks but the possibility of analysing the visual with and beyond these frames.
I am immensely grateful to Monica.[i] Her conceptualizations of what transcultural art history is and does have been deeply formative for me, and I would not be where I am today without her continuous support. Thank you for that, for the numerous inspiring exchanges, and for your friendship!
I first met Monica when I was still a graduate student. I was working on a Ph.D. thesis that sought to critically expand mainstream contemporary art discourse in a global framework through the lens of contemporary Chinese art. Based on my expertise in art history and Sinology, and equipped with tools of post-colonial theory I adopted a bottom-up approach on the global, hoping to offer new insights into how installation art in China had been constituted through regionally specific yet transculturally entangled narratives and aesthetic idioms of art. In so doing, I sought to provincialize the universalized Euro-American aesthetic narrative of installation art as challenging modernist medium specificity, conceptualize cultural difference as performatively negotiated, and engaged in creating a critical awareness of the transcultural complexity of contemporary art. Continue reading “A Tribute to Monica – Practicing Transcultural Art History: “The ability to navigate multiple scales””
by Margrit Pernau, Max Planck Institute for Human Development Berlin
Buildings are more than mere stone and concrete; their design shapes the encounters taking place within and around them, while they, in turn, become infused with the memories of these encounters. The India International Centre is one such space, and as so many other South Asia academics, Monica Juneja and I have spent many hours there, sipping tea in the lounge or sitting outside, exchanging the latest news, or planning new activities. Our conversations were always punctuated by friends and acquaintances passing by nodding their greetings or joining us, the rule limiting the number of chairs you are allowed to pull to your table gently enforced by the staff. We have shared many meals in the dining hall and the buffets that accompanied conferences and seminars there, and, of course, participated in the formal and informal discussions of these academic events.
I am not sure when I started to think that something was fundamentally awry in U.S. mainstream politics, but it was the impetus for my current book project. The following remarks adapted from that work in progress are my tribute to Professor Monica Juneja whose leadership on pivoting the focus of art history from a national culture model to one that stresses transcultural processes has been effective institutionally and inspirational to many students and colleagues, myself included.[i]
One watershed event that stands out for me is the horrifying moment when the ‘Pussy Tapes’ appeared and the Republican Party maintained its support of Trump’s candidacy for President anyway. This betrayal of all women is etched in my consciousness because that day I had to meet my undergraduate seminar, consisting mostly of women about to graduate, and I could not wrap my head around the fact that a major political party in the United States was supporting such a gross display of sexism and misogyny. Nor could I stay silent. I am now writing post-retirement from my tenured university position with new-found freedom as an independent scholar. The sorry history of racial violence and injustice in the United States is front and center today, on the first-year commemoration of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and exactly one century after the long-suppressed Tulsa, Oklahoma, Race Massacre in 1921. At the same time, in Brazil, in Monica’s India, Covid-19 is raging out of control. The uneven playing field and the historical and political causes of social oppression around the globe are also on full view. Yet the success of efforts to enact social justice reforms, such as ensuring the basic right to vote and protecting people of color from police violence, is far from assured even and especially in the United States, the “land of liberty.” Continue reading “Seeing with the Third Eye – For Monica on her 65th Birthday”
On the occasion of Monica’s symbolic birthday I would like to reflect on how I met Monica in Salzburg in 2011 and how, since then, she has become an invaluable person to me, encouraging me to write my first monograph and consequently undertake and pursue my long-term research on South Asia and Central Europe.
In 2011, I had just completed my PhD on modern art in Pakistan at the University of Vienna under the supervision of Ebba Koch when I was invited to partake in an initiative that was spearheaded by Sabine B. Vogel and Hildegund Amanshauser. This was the Global Art conference at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts. The project was later reorganized and renamed the Global Academy and then the Planetary Academy. Monica was invited to open this international conference as a speaker together with Hans Belting. Her paper reflected on traditional art-historical methodology and its insufficiency in resolving geographical hierarchies and conditions of visibilities. Her proposal for a transcultural art history that offers an analytical framework on many levels rather than simply opposing the global and the local has led me to engage with these methodological inquiries and possibilities more closely. Continue reading “Fellow Travelers”
by Jennifer Bürk, Heidelberg Centre of Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University
Exploring New Worlds
When I first met Monica Juneja, on an October afternoon in 2009, to start working as her new student assistant, little did I know how crucial this work relationship would become for my further education and how formative this work would be for developing my own research interests and nurturing my critical thinking. At the time, I was about to complete my bachelor’s degree in art history, and in retrospect, my naïve knowledge of art (history) was mostly limited to the clear-cut bounds of European western art with only some basic awareness of East Asian art, let alone the art of the Islamicate or any other regions of the world.
My tasks were mainly administrative in nature but being part of Monica’s seminars and lectures and initially, only loosely following the contents of the sessions opened up many facets of the world (or worlds) for me. These facets included the vibrant Mughal miniatures and other visual objects and collection practices across the globe, alongside challenging questions as to what the term ‘Islamic’ means in conjunction with the notion of art. Gradually, this led to realizing a keen interest in all those art objects, places, and histories that fell strangely ‘out of place’ within the master narrative of European art history. In these objects, places, and histories the complexities and negotiation processes of cultural encounters felt more tangible (and often more visible), while at the same time providing a deeper understanding of art history as a discipline constituted to not only include, but also deliberately to exclude large parts of artistic production. Consequently, I decided to write my master’s thesis about the garden manors of the Norman king, William II of Sicily. Mary Louise Pratt’s term “contact zones”[i] seemd especially fitting for Norman Sicily as it was often dealt as both exotically fascinating because of the sheer richness of multicultural artistic creations and also impossible to grasp given its history as a site of conquest and power struggle.[ii] I believed that there was more to this story that required unraveling. Thus, I raised and addressed the question of how the Normans dealt with the artistic abundance. My answer, at the time, was that the Norman kings, specifically William II, were engaged in a deliberate and selective process of reconfiguration, irrespective of issues such as ‘origin’. Of utmost importance was that the artistic outcome would be able to address a multiplicity of societal and cultural strata while at the same time artistically linking kings and princes across the Mediterranean. While not being a supervisor to this thesis, I am grateful for Monica’s enthusiasm about this topic which also allowed me to give a guest lecture on Norman Sicily in her course “Europe and the Arts of Islam” (summer term 2013) and to participate in the workshop “Art Histories and Terminologies I” held in Berlin in 2013. Continue reading “Hundreds of Facets: Reconfiguring Sight and Vision in Norman Sicily”
by Bettina Hofmann, Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Monica Junejas internationale Vernetzung und transnationale Aktivitäten, die ihre Forschungen erfordern, die aber vor allem ihren vielfältigen Interessen entsprechen, sind bekannt. In meinem Beitrag knüpfe ich an ihren Forschungsaufenthalt an der Emory University 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia an. Wie bei Ray Charles’ Song „Georgia On My Mind“ schwingt Nostalgie mit, wenn ich mich an die Woche im Februar vor dreizehn Jahren erinnere, als ich sie in Atlanta besuchte. Als Amerikanistin und Literaturwissenschaftlerin war ich besonders an den Spuren der afroamerikanischen Bürgerrechtsbewegung interessiert. Im Folgenden, so hoffe ich, werden die Schnittpunkte mit Monicas Interessen deutlich: dass Kunstwerke immer in Kontexten entstehen und eine gesellschaftspolitische Dimension beinhalten.
Ausgehend von unserem gemeinsamen Bezugspunkt Atlanta möchte ich im folgenden Blogbeitrag untersuchen, wie Afroamerikaner*innen auf das Versprechen des amerikanischen Traums von der Kolonialzeit bis heute reagiert haben. Zugegebenermaßen kann das nur in einem sehr gerafften Überblick erfolgen. Continue reading “Georgia On My Mind – Monica In My Heart”
Hintergrund und Ausgangspunkt der folgenden Betrachtungen bilden Erfahrungen sowohl mit Selbstzeugnissen der anhaltinischen Prinzessin und späteren lippischen Fürstin Pauline (1769-1820) als auch mit solchen ihrer Zeitzeugen, die mit ihr in Kontakt standen und sich schriftlich über sie äußerten. Anlässlich ihres 200. Todestages am 29. Dezember 2020 hat der Verfasser dieser Zeilen einen biographischen Essay über diese Vertreterin des deutschen Hochadels veröffentlicht.[i] Herangezogen wurden Briefe, Gedichte, Vorträge und veröffentlichte Traktate, die sie von ihrem 15. Lebensjahr an als Prinzessin seit 1784 verfasste, sowie Stellungnahmen, Kommentare und Entscheidungen, die sie als Fürstin seit 1796 und dann als vormundschaftliche Regentin des Fürstentums Lippe seit 1802 niederschrieb und veranlasste.
Bei dieser aus dem alten Adelsgeschlecht der Askanier stammenden Frau handelt sich um eine herausragende Figur der westfälischen und insbesondere der lippischen Erinnerungskultur. So nehmen unterschiedliche Gruppierungen und Institutionen dieser ostwestfälischen Region bis in die unmittelbare Gegenwart hinein auf sie Bezug,[ii] zumal sie dem lippischen Fürstenstaat zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts durch ihr außenpolitisches Engagement und diplomatisches Geschick wiederholt die politische Unabhängigkeit sicherte. Darüber hinaus ist ihr in der Diakoniegeschichte[iii] und in der jüngeren Frauen- und Gendergeschichte[iv] wiederholt gedacht worden. Denn als lippische Fürstin und Regentin trat sie ungewöhnlich durchdacht und auch entschieden mit juristischen und staatsrechtlichen sowie pädagogischen und wohlfahrtstaatlichen Initiativen und Maßnahmen hervor. Continue reading “Witz – Ironie – Camouflage: Erfahrungsräume und Erwartungshorizonte gebildeter Frauen zwischen 1770 und 1820”
by Jo Ziebritzki, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University[i]
Meeting the muse
It’s early April 2017. The last couple of hours I was immersed in a typescript on ancient Buddhist temples in the library of the University of Vienna. As I now descend the grand staircase leading into the inner courtyard, my consciousness slowly emerges from the ancient past returning to the present. Outside, behind the arcades, the bright pavement reflects the spring sun. What a beautiful moment to stumble upon after a long morning in the library. Looking around, I suddenly notice an odd shape on the ground, like a shadow, but huge, and made of dark grey stone. I walk onto it, trying to decipher its contours. It is much longer in proportion to its width. I follow its length and realize that it resembles a human figure. When I reach the figure’s feet, I involuntarily smile: the shadow is wearing high heels. That was unexpected. I guess I had associated the human shape with the chalk figures at crime scenes – placeholders of evidence for someone hurt, escaped, or dead – sketched to decipher a cruelty. My eyes travel upwards along the leg of the figure, taking in the steady standing position, following the shape of the upper body, where one hand rests on the hip while the other one is raised with a clenched fist. The head of the figure is slightly tilted and framed by a bob haircut that seems to vibrate with vigorous movement. “Dear revolutionary shadow figure, would you tell me your story?”
Wenn ich an Monica denke, fällt mir immer das „Kleine Deutsche Sprachdiplom“ ein, das sie damals in Paris mehr so en passant erworben hat, wobei sie das niemals so ausdrücken würde, ich sage es nur, weil ich so beeindruckt davon war, wie akzentfrei Monica dieses „Kleine Deutsche Sprachdiplom“ aussprach, die deutschen Worte klangen aus ihrem Mund ganz anders, liebenswürdiger, nobler, vielleicht auch makelloser. Sie sprach Französisch, Italienisch, Englisch, Hindi und ich vermutete, dass sie wahrscheinlich auch Sanskrit sprach, während ich noch im Clinch mit dem subjonctif de l’imparfait lag. Continue reading “Für Monica”