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MSU Arts Prof Awarded Humboldt Research Fellowship

Karin Zitzewitz

Karin Zitzewitz, associate professor of Art History and Visual Culture, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, a competitive and prestigious award that gives scholars from around the world the opportunity to travel to Germany for extended periods of time to do research.

As part of the fellowship, Zitzewitz will learn to speak German and will spend the upcoming academic year at the Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, where she will work on her next book, which focuses on the rapid formal and institutional changes in contemporary art in India and Pakistan from 1991 to 2008, or the period from the liberalization of the Indian economy to the global financial crisis.

It will be among the first books on Indian and Pakistani contemporary art published by an academic press in the United States.

“The field of contemporary Indian art research in the United States is extremely new, offering an unusual opportunity for truly groundbreaking scholarship and to provide a strong foundation for further research,” Zitzewitz said. “The book I propose to write during the fellowship will be a substantial contribution to my primary fields of South Asian modern art history and South Asian studies, particularly because its transnational focus is so unusual in those fields.”

Five Years of Research

Zitzewitz has been doing research for the book for the past five years.

“What I am looking at is the effects of the opening of the Indian economy to outside foreign investment in 1991 and the way that transformed the infrastructural basis for contemporary art, by which I mean everything from the materials available and the economic shifts that allowed for the development of a robust art market,” Zitzewitz said.

That period saw rapid changes in the form of art and in art institutions, which was largely due to the influx of Internet companies during the dot-com boom.

“Most of the changes were about the expansion of thought and the expansion of creativity. People started to work in this new form and that radically changed art,” Zitzewitz said. “I did the research for my first book during this period and so I witnessed a lot of these events, but I wasn’t really tracking it in a serious way. So what I am doing is going back and looking closely at that period of change.”

Zitzewitz is ultimately interested in figuring out ways for people to understand this period of art, both in its own terms and in terms that enlarge the conversation about modern and contemporary art in general.

“The idea is not to create a separate stream of Asian contemporary art studies, but to think about the way that both modern and contemporary art have always been about the kind of movement of artists and art ideas around the world on equal footing,” Zitzewitz said. “I’m hoping that what we can do is start to have rigorously documented and imaginatively thought through frameworks for this period of contemporary art history. Things happened really quickly, and it wasn’t that long ago. It’s time to look back and see what was really going on.”

This will be Zitzewitz’s second book. The first, The Art of Secularism: The Cultural Politics of Modernist Art in Contemporary India, was published in 2014 and tracks how the rise of Hindu nationalist politics affected the practices of four modernist artists and the character of art world spaces.

  • more via the College of Arts and Letters website

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