On Monday 12th October 2020, five researchers, professors and curators gathered for a virtual roundtable, Critical Globalism: Perspectives from Early Modern Artistic Networks, led by Francesco Gusella (University of Münster) and Meha Priyadarshini (University of Edinburgh) in collaboration with IASH and ECGH. The event was originally scheduled for April 2020 but had to be postponed due to the pandemic and took place online which allowed for a wider audience, with participants joining from Helsinki to Bangalore. The aim of the discussion was to think critically about global art history by contextualizing recent academic debates on the utility of the global turn and underlining its connection to crucial issues of contemporary globalization such as the neoliberal economy, digital technologies and international migrations.
Sussan Babaie (Courtauld Institute of Art), Anna Groundwater (National Museums Scotland), Catriona Murray (University of Edinburgh), Elsje van Kessel and José Ramón Marcaida López (University of St Andrews) were first asked how their work and careers were impacted by the global turn of the discipline. The speakers retraced their professional paths as a non-linear trajectory highlighting different geographical regions and disciplinary fields.
The discussion focused on some methodological issues in global history, such as the use of concepts like interconnectivity, mobility and the global-local pattern. Speakers questioned whether scholars have privileged these concepts to the detriment of others, such as the role of conflict in restricting artistic exchanges. Building on that discussion, the speakers have moved on to speak about the way in which the global rebranding of arts has been used to support national and transnational narratives.
In the final part of the discussion, the speakers and audience were asked to imagine new directions in global art history. The discussion offered suggestions such as further integration of disciplinary fields, more participatory museum practices, improving competences in extra-European languages and building international partnerships beyond the Anglophone area. The event was the initial step within a larger project aiming to generate a critical discussion across the discipline.