Nancy Um to speak at Leiden University

On April 6, 2018, Nancy Um will deliver a lecture in the Gravensteen Lecture Series at Leiden University
From Ship to Shore: Commercial Privilege and Material Culture in Eighteenth-Century Yemen”
Abstract: Material objects played a key role in mediating the social world of overseas merchants in the deeply commercial and maritime societies around the rims of the Red Sea and the western Indian Ocean in the eighteenth century.  While foreign goods, such as Chinese porcelain, imported textiles, horses, coffee, and spices, were highly desirable in the marketplaces of the Arabian Peninsula, these objects were not just commodities. In this talk, I will demonstrate how such items were deployed in ceremonial activities in the early modern port of Mocha. Subject to site-specific hierarchies of commercial privilege, these objects thus exceeded their commercial character and their transactional value.

Tom McDonough to speak at Guggenheim Danh Vo symposium

On Saturday, April 28, Tom McDonough, Associate Professor of Art History at Binghamton, will join Joshua Chambers-Letson of Northwestern and Patricia Falguières of the French EHESS in providing readings of Danh Vo’s multivalent artistic practice, currently the subject of a major retrospective at the Guggenheim museum. For more information, visit

Binghamton at CAA 2018

The following Binghamton students and alumni are presenting at CAA 2018 in Los Angeles. View the full program here:


Time: 02/21/2018: 8:30AM–10:00AM
Location: Room 409B

“Architecting Water in Seventeenth-Century Istanbul: Art and Knowledge in Circulation”
Deniz Karakaş, Middlebury College


Time: 02/21/2018: 2:00PM–3:30PM
Location: Room 403B

Josh Franco, Smithsonian Archives of American Art


Time: 02/22/2018: 8:30AM–10:00AM
Location: Room 406A

Chair: Trista E. Mallory, The New School; Angelique Szymanek, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

“Feminist Histories and/as Critical Pedagogy”
Jen Kennedy, Queen’s University


Time: 02/23/2018: 10:30AM–12:00PM
Location: Room 501C

““Chinese Symbol” to “Chinese Problem Situation”: Wang Nanming and the Theory of Critical Art”
Meiqin Wang, California State University Northridge


Time: 02/22/2018: 2:00PM–3:30PM
Location: Room 406B

“Brazilian Avant-Garde’s Legacy of Exploring the Virtual”
Debora Faccion, Binghamton University


Time: 02/24/2018: 4:00PM–5:30PM
Location: Room 410

“Hecho a mano: Art History is Made by Hand”
Josh T. Franco, Smithsonian Institution



New publication: From Mountain to Mountain: Exchange between Yemen and Ethiopia, Medieval to Modern, co-edited by Nancy Um

Habur, Yemen, photo by Nancy Um, 2002.

From Mountain to Mountain: Exchange between Yemen and Ethiopia, Medieval to Modern

Chroniques du manuscrit au YémenSpecial Issue 1 (2017)

Edited by Anne Regourd (University of Copenhagen) & Nancy Um (Binghamton University)

Recently, scholars have been committed to studying exchanges, particularly commercial ones, across and around the rims of the Red Sea. While these connections have involved Yemen and the Horn of Africa centrally, they have rarely penetrated beyond the scope of the coasts. In this special volume, scholars consider the long history of interfaces between Yemen and Ethiopia, thus moving into the landed interior. These papers explore linguistic, diplomatic, commercial, and technological exchanges and provide evidence, albeit sometimes scanty, for movements and associations that extend from mountain to mountain, rather than simply from coast to coast. The authors rely upon an array of diverse sources, including historical chronicles and glossaries, firsthand interviews, newspapers, letters from private archives, and material culture. This special issue will be published in three installments.

Visit the volume here:

Nancy Um presents “Workshop for Graduate Students: Digital Mapping and the History of Art”

On Friday, February 16, Nancy Um and Carrie Anderson (Middlebury College) will offer the workshop “Digital Mapping and the History of Art” at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
Workshop Description: Art historians have much to gain from the opportunities provided by digital mapping. Cartographic interfaces can help visualize the migration of artists, visual practices, and objects across and around extended geographic and temporal networks. Yet, mapping itself is a critical process, which entails a number of methodological challenges. This workshop will provide guidelines on how to get started with digital mapping, as a key research tool. We will discuss ways to discover and structure geospatial data and will introduce two different mapping platforms, Google Fusion Tables and Tableau, that can be used to craft both static and interactive maps.

CfP: People, Places, and Things in the Global Eighteenth Century

Image: Francisca Efigenia Meléndez y Durazzo, Portrait of a a Seated Girl Holding Flowers, ca. 1795, tempera on ivory, 5 × 5 cm (Dallas: Meadows Museum, SMU, MM.08.01.20).

Nancy Um is chairing a research panel at the conference “Art and Architecture in the Long Eighteenth Century: HECAA at 25,” November 1-4, 2018, held at Southern Methodist University, and currently accepting proposals for presentations. See the panel abstract and submission details below.

Research Panel: People, Places, and Things in the Global Eighteenth Century
Increasingly broad in its definition, the “global eighteenth century” is often used to point to the widened geographic scope of the field, particularly in instances of visual exchange that push past perceived cultural boundaries or hinge upon the movement of artists, art objects, and visual practices across extended distances. This panel aspires to a more rigorous notion of the global eighteenth century: one that questions stable and enduring associations between people, places, and things; examines interactions, movements, and exchanges that are multi-sited rather than binary; and/or takes into account the structures and institutions that facilitated, but also encumbered, eighteenth-century travel, trade, and exchange. Please submit a proposal using this form by February 7, 2018.
More information on the HECAA conference can be found here.

Faculty Activities: Jeffrey Kirkwood at New York University

This Saturday, October 27, Jeffrey West Kirkwood will participate in the symposium The Quality of Quantity: The German Critical Tradition in the Age of Datafication at New York University. His paper is titled “An Alternative History of Facts: From Ernst Mach to Kellyanne Conway”:

During a January 22, 2017 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to President Donald Trump, introduced a phrase that would gain almost instant notoriety: “alternative facts.” Conway was responding to the heavy criticisms of White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer’s claims that the crowd in attendance for Trump’s inauguration “was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” On the one hand, Chuck Todd claimed that for Spicer aerial photographs “tell the story,” implying that they documented a reality that was self-evident. On the other, Spicer and Conway also contended that satellite and overhead images were rigged by mass media outlets to indicate a lackluster turnout when compared to previous inaugurations. The images were thus seen simultaneously as proof per se of what they depicted and likewise treated as highly manipulable instruments of deception whose truth was tied to protocols of fact production.

What the dust-up recalls is an overlooked artifact of earlier discourses about the possibilities for multiple, legitimate, counterfactual states tied to mechanical image-making technologies. Namely, it calls to mind the matter of what are called “counterfactuals.” As the paper contends, counterfactuals, and specifically counterfactual thought experiments, were a centerpiece of epistemologies rooted in optical technologies that reached their apex at the beginning of the twentieth century. From Galileo to Ernst Mach (who coined the term “thought experiment”), optical technologies did not merely provide positive evidence for real states, but also introduced methods for dealing with states that did not or could not exist.