Powerful Migrations: Identity/Security/Fluidity

April 27 & 28, 2017
University of California, Riverside
CHASS INTS 1113 & Culver Center of the Arts

Full Schedule and List of Speakers

Over the past years, new forms of terrorism, war, and the clash of opposed cultural and religious value-systems have caused unprecedented mass migrations in the modern world. They have, in turn, brought about a fundamental level of insecurity among Western Cultures, a far-reaching irritation as to how to react properly to the streams of migrants risking their lives on dangerous passages – across land, sea and air borders – to seek refuge in the more prosperous and politically stable countries of the Western World. Those recent events demand a closer look into the history and nature of migration, its manifold causes, forms, and effects.

Joint interdisciplinary efforts in thinking about migration as a cultural, political, and social phenomenon have never been more urgent than they are now. Only if we understand the literal migrations of people and objects across existing borders in both a larger cultural and a historical perspective, will we be able to broaden our understanding and perhaps re-evaluate the current political discussions on national security and the resulting societal discourses on inclusion vs. exclusion. This applies in particular for the overdue disentanglement of the categories of migration and terrorism, so easily juxtaposed with issues of (inter)-national stability and security.

The Powerful Migrations conference is rooted in the realization that the obvious monopolization and linking of debates around migration and security in political and military discourse need be set on a broader intellectual footing – an endeavor that by necessity must be interdisciplinary. Within our framework, the concept of ‘fluidity’ will serve as a tentative paradigm to re-examining questions of migration, identity and security both in history and in recent times of globalization.


UCR Center for Ideas and Society
UCR Office of International Affairs
CHASS Dean’s Office
UCR Artsblock
World Affairs Council of Inland Southern California

Conference Organizers

Jeanette Kohl (Associate Professor and Chair, Art History, UC Riverside)
Kelechi Kalu (Vice Provost of International Affairs, UC Riverside)

Download flyer

The conference and all associated events are free and open to the public.

The Material of Form: Concrete Art during the Second Industrial Revolution


Some thoughts about how the “second industrial revolution” changed the shape and texture of art in Brazil and Argentina

In 1956, Tomás Maldonado, the Argentine-born artist and pedagogue, referred to his current era as the “second industrial revolution.” This was a particularly apt description of Latin America at the time, as several nations were rapidly industrializing.  In this paper, I consider the swift response by young avant-garde artists working in Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro who debated the role of art in their modernized society. In their view, artworks should be “universal,” and integrated into every-day life, functioning more like commercial goods than masterpieces.  In painting and sculpture they hoped to achieve this by dedicating their efforts exclusively to geometric abstraction, which they considered to be a “universal” visual language, rejecting all forms of representational art. They also began to experiment with new paints and supports developed by the industrial sector.  These artworks, which were the product of recent technological innovations, became inextricably linked, both formally and materially, to the social and political changes then underway.  For this reason, I argue that it is imperative to consider sculptures and paintings in multiple dimensions, examining the sides, the back, and the top, as well as the composition on the front.  I describe this approach as holistic formalism because it goes far beyond conventional formal analysis and calls attention to the shape and size of an object, its surface quality, and the particularities of framing and installation; it also addresses each of these factors with historical specificity, thereby revealing how these objects are culturally and materially distinct from geometric abstract works realized elsewhere. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 5:10pm in ARTS 333

Not Set in Amber

Dr. Faya Causey
Head, Academic Programs
National Gallery of Art

Faya Causey’s lecture title, Not Set in Amber, might suggest something about the subjects she will speak about on January 19, 2017.  Her most important publications have been centered on ancient art, a few contemporary artists, Paul Cézanne, and the fossil resin, amber — its nature, importance to humans over history as a high-value substance used for ornament, as amulet, as medicine and for incense especially in the ancient world.  Although her first jobs as a professor seemed to indicate a life in academe, Causey took a different path in 1994 when she left a tenured position as an art history professor to work at the National Gallery of Art in the Education Division as the Head of the Academic Programs Department.  Her career was not fossilized! In addition to an overview of her fascinating work at the ArtCenter Pasadena, California State University Long Beach, at the National Gallery of Art, Causey will speak about alternative career paths for students interested in art, art history, archaeology, and the humanities.


2016 Work in Progress Series
A Sculpture, a Blood Libel, and the Power of Portraiture in Renaissance Italy
Jeanette Kohl, Ph.D. Professor of Art History

On Easter Sunday 1475, the dead body of a 2-year-old Christian boy named Simon was found in the cellar of a Jewish family’s house in Trent, Italy. Town magistrates arrested eighteen Jewish men and five Jewish women on the charge of ritual murder. In a series of interrogations that involved liberal use of judicial torture, the magistrates obtained the confessions of the Jewish men. Eight were executed in late June, and another committed suicide in jail. The accusation was torture, strangulation and bleeding the infant to death in order to use his blood for the preparation of the Passover bread.

The case of Simon of Trent went down in history as one of the most brutal blood libels against a Jewish community in Early Modern Europe. What is lesser known is the debate and the visual propaganda it set in motion within the catholic church, which had a split opinion about the case, and in the cities and courts of Northern Italy and Southern Germany. In my work-in-progress talk, I will discuss a new identification of one of the major Renaissance sculptures at the Getty, presenting new conservatory and iconographic evidence for the object as a possible key work in the ferocious, anti-semitic propaganda around the Trent blood libel of 1475.

The Department of the History of Art Has Unanimously Approved the Following Statement in Response to the Presidential Election of 2016


The Department of the History of Art is committed to the intellectual inquiry and rigorous analysis of artistic practices from across the globe and across time. It is our belief that a socially and politically responsible art history produces encounters with and the study of diverse cultures, which inspires both tolerance and ethical conduct, reminding us of our shared humanity.  The repeated instances of xenophobic, racist, and misogynist language that characterized the recent presidential election is antithetical to the principles of this department which stands for the inclusion of a plurality of views. This rhetoric and the actions it engenders threaten the core values of our department, our university, and the UC system as a whole. Echoing the words of UC President Janet Napolitano, we “remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance.“ We are concerned that some now face  heightened risk of harassment and as a department we condemn discrimination, marginalization, and violence against any member of our community. We affirm our commitment to the diverse student population of UCR and offer our support and protection to students who feel vulnerable, due to their immigration status, gender or nationality.   The current political climate has only sharpened our convictions about the imperatives of studying histories and diverse visual cultures.  Critical thinking, factual argumentation, and lucid debate are even more vital in a climate of derisive language, images, symbols, and behaviors.  One cannot underestimate the value of understanding history in shaping our collective future.

Jason Weems has won the Fred B. Kniffen Book Award for Best Authored Publication, and the John Gjerde Prize for the Best Book on Midwestern History awards for his book, “Barnstorming the Prairies: How Aerial Vision Shaped the Midwest.”


Barnstorming the PrairiesWriting a book is an all-encompassing commitment,” Weems said. “As scholars, we do it because of a belief that we can bring about a better understanding of the world. When trusted colleagues suggest that you might be succeeding in that effort, it is very special.”

The book offers a panoramic view of the transformative nature and power of aerial vision that remade the Midwest in the wake of the airplane. It addresses how fight led to a new view of the Midwest, and how aerial vision helped to recast the Midwestern landscape amid the technological change and social uncertainty of the early 20th century.

The Fred B. Kniffen Book Award for Best Authored Publication is awarded by the International Society for Landscape, Place and Material Culture Studies (ISLPMC). The ISLPMC encourages and recognizes books by authors regarding North American material culture, which is the physical evidence of culture, such as objects and architecture. Named for the renowned geographer, Fred Kniffen, the prize in his honor is granted annually for the best book in the field published within two years of the award.
The Jon Gjerde Prize for the Best Book on Midwestern History is awarded by the Midwestern History Association to the best book authored on a Midwestern history topic during a calendar year. In the award announcement, it was noted that “Weems directs our attention to bird’s-eye-view maps, historic atlases, the paintings of Grant Wood, Frank Lloyd Wright plans, Farm Service Administration photos, as well as aerial photographs, to explore both the physical and the imaginative landscape of the Midwest.”