Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. He is author of
Art History after Globalization: Formations of the Colonial Modern
Summing up insights from the Annotating Art’s Histories series, which introduced methods for the comparative study of modernism on a global scale, this chapter argues that problems of presentism and inclusionism that preserve monocultural narratives of modern art can best be overcome by taking account of the multiple modernities thesis in theories of globalization put forward in the sociology of culture. Rather than an additive or supplemental model, conjunctural analysis of cross-cultural dynamics in the colonial encounter, whether in Aboriginal Australia, preindependence India, or modern Nigeria, enables a holistic understanding of interdependent transactions in which the agency of selective appropriation and intercultural translation features prominently, as it did in the American Negro Exhibit curated by W. E. B. Du Bois in Paris in 1900, where photographic self-representation exemplified a modernist pursuit of critical self-reflection.