Arts and Culture
Global history has gained significant traction in the past decades by uncovering the wide-ranging trajectories of ideas and objects, and by revealing sites of encounter, patterns of exchange, and global networks operating well before the modern era. But by necessity, these narratives have often overlooked the specifics of transit between sites of transcultural encounters. This panel seeks to shift between macroscopic and microscopic views of global history by exploring what it meant for the global to be local, and for materials and objects to move over great distances between localities. Chinese ceramics, one of the most abundant artifacts to travel across early modern continents and oceans, will serve as our common ground to define the concept of global locality.
Approaching ceramics from the overlapping fields of art history, material culture studies, museology, history of collecting, and history of science and technology, the panelists in the twin panels will discuss specific case studies to trace the lives of Chinese ceramics at a granular level. We investigate the origins, paths, destinations, and representations of materials, shapes, subjects, styles, and socio-cultural biographies of Chinese ceramics within transcultural contexts and various institutional backgrounds. The twin panels approach the objects from two paths, “historical and material” and “institutional and cultural economic,” and ask the following questions: Why did Qing-dynasty technician-official Tang Ying (1682-1756) claim a series of “Western enamels” decorating ceramics to be “invention of this dynasty?” How did Kangxi period Jingdezhen blue-and-white vases become Saxon monuments? What was the role of Islamic local garden culture in the emergence of the blue-and-white? How did Chinese punch bowls represent the locality of Canton with panoramic riverscape on global art market? What could French archives reveal about the locality of Chinese ceramics? How did global art market shape the shifting public interest towards Chinese porcelain, and how could museum display contribute to the dynamics? Answering the questions with particular investigations, the presentations all together contribute to the conceptualization of global locality as an analytical term for research of Asia and Europe within each other.
Chinese ceramics, whether construed as objects of wonder, commodities, luxuries, or gendered materials, provide the potential for researchers to reassess overarching narratives of the global. Building upon the substantial amount of existing scholarship, the presenters will redefine global objects through their localities in the early modern period, and shed light on how Asian objects located in Europe on historical, conceptual, and methodological levels.