Art History Department

Harney, Elizabeth MA, PhD

Associate Professor, Contemporary/Modern, African and Diaspora Arts (UT Scarborough)


As a scholar, curator and critic of modern and contemporary African art, my research documents, analyzes and publicizes the work of artists who have been active in Africa and its diaspora since the beginning of the 20th century. I engage broadly with the scholarship, across disciplines, which is now re-defining the ways we understand the global faces of modernity. African painters, sculptors, photographers and other “modern” artists have been ignored or marginalized, even when they have participated in the great artistic movements of the 20th century.  In my art historical writings, I have tried to complicate these interactions between artistic modernism and Africa’s arts and artists. In my curatorial and art critical practices, I have been particularly interested in contemporary artists whose work helps us think through the archive of modernity.

Areas of Academic Interest
  • Modern and Contemporary, African
  • Ph.D University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1996
Selected Publications
  • Inscribing Meaning: African Arts of Writing and Inscription, co-edited with Christine Mullen Kreamer, Polly Nooter Roberts, and Allyson Purpura (National Museum of African Art/UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History). Five Continents Press, 2007.

  • In Senghor’s Shadow: Art, Politics, and the Avant-Garde in Senegal, 1960-1995. Duke University Press, 2004. Recipient of the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Book Award (2004-2007), from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.

  • Ethiopian Passages: Dialogues in the Diaspora.National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2003.

  • “Contemporary Musings” in Hans Belting, Jacob Birken, Andrea Buddensieg (eds.): Global Studies: Mapping Contemporary Art and Culture (Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, September 2011): 314-331.

  • “A Nomad’s Revolutionary Beauty: the Works of El Anatsui” in NkA: Journal of Contemporary African Art 28 (Summer 2011).

  • Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens; De l’imaginaire au musée – Les arts d’Afrique à Paris et à New York (1931-2006); Picasso’s Collection of African and Oceanic Art, invited review article, Art Bulletin Volume XCIII Number 2 (Summer 2011): 379-383.

  • “The Densities of Modernism” in The South Atlantic Quarterly 109, 3 special issue on African Modernisms, edited by Salah Hassan (2010): 475-508

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