Potential Stories: The Transcultural Trajectories of Modernist Primitivism

Lecture by Monica Juneja, Heidelberg University.

The lecture explores the trajectories of the concept of primitivism, defined as the alter ego of artistic modernism, as it travelled with colonialism to those places that the modernist imaginary had envisioned as the location of the primitive. What are the potential stories, beyond a tale of epistemic violence or decolonial resistance, that a transculturally framed art history can unearth about concepts, which are reconfigured once disconnected from their place of origin? My talk traces the vicissitudes of the primitive within modernist art practice in South Asia, to query its conceptual staying power.

The lecture is open for everyone and will be followed by a reception in the Lunchroom (21.4.53).


Monica Juneja is Professor of Global Art History at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, University of Heidelberg. She has been Professor at the University of Delhi, has held visiting professorial positions at the Universities of Vienna, Hannover, Zurich and Emory University, Atlanta. The awards and fellowships she has received include: Fellowships of the Maison des Sciences de L’Homme, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, The DAAD, the Getty Research Centre, Forum Transregionale Studien and most recently, the Opus Magnum award of the Volkswagen Foundation.

Monica Juneja has written extensively on transculturality and visual representation, the disciplinary practices of art history in South Asia, the history of visuality in early modern South Asia, heritage and architectural histories in transcultural perspective.

Monica Juneja edits the series Visual and Media Histories (Routledge), is on the editorial board of Visual History of Islamic Cultures (De Gruyter), Ding, Materialität, Geschichte (Böhlau), Ästhetische Praxis (Fink/ E.J. Brill), History of Humanities (University of Chicago Press), and co-editor of Journal of Transcultural Studies. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Walter-Benjamin-Kolleg at the University of Bern, the Tate-Hyundai Research Centre, London and the Deutsches Zentrum für Kulturgutverluste that supports provenance research of objects acquired in colonial contexts.