Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers

Author (Faculty Member): 

Migration, whether freely chosen or forcibly imposed, has been a defining feature of twentieth-century modernity—and much of twentieth-century art. Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers examines life-changing journeys that transplanted artists and intellectuals from one cultural context to another, making clear the critical and creative role that migration, exile, and displacement have played in shaping the story of modern art. Whether manifested in the striking architectural innovations of Nigerian modernism in the 1920s or postmodern works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and black British filmmakers in the 1980s, the multidirectional appropriation and borrowing described in these essays give us new perspectives on twentieth-century art and modernity.

Distinguishing between exile and diaspora, emigration and immigration, and “the stranger” and “the other,” the book examines the different conditions that structure the artist’s experience and aesthetic strategies. From indigenous artists and the question of authorship to the influence of émigré art historians on art history, from the aesthetics of the African diaspora to Adrian Piper’s metaphorical exile between philosophy and art, these connections and disconnections in a network of traveling cultures continue art history’s efforts to come to terms with the postcolonial turn.

The MIT PRess | March 2008 | ISBN: 978-0-262-63358-1 | Pbk., 232 pages

View Kobena Mercer’s faculty page: Kobena Mercer