Contemporary African Arts and Theory

Fiona Siegenthaler's picture
Call for Papers
January 14, 2020
Illinois, United States
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, African History / Studies, Fine Arts, Philosophy, Anthropology


CFP: Contemporary African Arts and Theory

ACASA 18th Triennial Symposium on African Art, Chicago, June 17-21, 2020

Panel chair: Fiona Siegenthaler (University of Basel and University of Johannesburg)


Postcolonial and decolonial theories have been key to the understanding and validation of contemporary art production in Africa and by the African diaspora. They deconstructed Eurocentric perceptions and receptions of ‘African art’, questioned the exclusivity of the Western canon and therefore contributed to the decolonial project in the field of aesthetics. However, while scholarship on ‘traditional’ art continues to focus on emic aesthetics and cultural practices, the scholarship on ‘contemporary’ art tends to embrace a more globalized approach informed by international intellectual discourses and art circuits. While this may be a logical consequence considering the global activities and networks of many artists on the African continent and the diaspora today, there is a danger to perpetuate centric discourses in contemporary art theory by replacing the Eurocentric with the global. Indeed, often it seems that the main difference between ‘contemporary African art’ and other African artistic practices is its framing as participating in a global context and employing or relating to ‘globalized’ aesthetics. As a consequence, theoretical analysis tends to source predominantly from aesthetical concepts and art theory informed by a (postmodern) globalized art tradition that continues to take Western aesthetics and epistemologies as its reference point. What role does art theory then have in the contemporary call for decolonial aesthetics? Who produces such theories and what consequences do they have on how ‘contemporary African art’ is conceived, perceived and discussed? What kinds of centrisms are being perpetuated? If there is still a need to emphasize the ‘Africanness’ of contemporary art production by African and African diasporic artists, how does this reflect in contemporary art theories? What contribution can the notion of ‘contemporary African art theory’ (as theory about ‘African art’, but also as ‘African theory’ of art) make to contemporary art theory more generally?

The panel invites papers that reflect these questions on a theoretical level through exemplary analysis of particular art theories, aesthetic practices and discourses.


Deadline: 14 January 2020

How to submit a proposal
Please submit a paper proposal directly to the chair:
It should include: 1) your name and title 2) your affiliation 3) your email 4) the title of your proposed paper and 5) an abstract of no more than 100 words.


Contact Info: 

Fiona Siegenthaler, University of Basel and University of Johannesburg