Zirwat Chowdhury & Kailani Polzak - Art and Empires: New World Views

Tuesday, March 15, 2022, 6:00 pm6:00 pm


Event Description

Cosponsor(s): The Graduate School and Center for Collaborative History

Join us for the second event in the series “Art and Empires: New World Views.” Speakers Zirwat Chowdhury and Kailani Polzak will present their recent work on empire and enlightenment in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Both scholars work between multiple geographies, including the Atlantic, South Asian, and Pacific worlds, and across British, French, and Russian contexts of empire. How did philosophical and scientific rhetorics shape and complicate the pursuit of empire during this period? How was this dynamic instantiated, replicated, or challenged through images? And what are the ways we might articulate empire as both a global and highly localized phenomenon? In this seminar-style event, we will discuss these and other questions related to art and empire in Chowdhury’s and Polzak’s work. 

Zirwat Chowdhury is Assistant Professor of 18th- and 19th-Century European Art at UCLA. Her current book, “Enlightened Relations: Extensions of Empire in 18th-Century British Art” reads “extension” as a compositional device in Lockean aesthetic philosophy productively at odds with Locke’s political theory of property. Tracing the legacy of Lockean extension in British painting, it examines four paintings in which family, war, commerce, and whiteness appear as forms of imperial relation.

Kailani Polzak’s research focuses on European visual culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with particular attention to histories of science, aesthetic philosophy, race, colonialism, and intercultural contact in Oceania. Her current book project, "Difference Over Distance: Visualizing Contact between Europe and Oceania," examines the graphic and printed works created in relation to so-called “Voyages of Discovery” conducted by Britain, France, and Russia in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaiʻi in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and traces how these pictures were marshaled in arguments about the origins of human difference in Europe. She also maintains a methodological interest in the questions raised by writing about and curating colonial histories from multiple perspectives. To that end, she co-curated an exhibition, “ʻThe Field is The World': Williams, Hawaiʻi, and Material Histories in the Making," at the Williams College Museum of Art in 2018.

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