Art Before History: Interdisciplinary Research on Ancient Andean Art and Visual Culture

Lisa Trever
History of Art
UC Berkeley

This project supported the research of five faculty members from four campuses who were critically assessing methods and theories for the interpretation of pre-literary art and visual culture of South America. They met twice over the course of the grant term to workshop research problems in Berkeley and to present papers within a conference on “Art before History” in Lima, Peru. Although “Pre-Columbian art history” has been a subject of inquiry within academic programs in the US since the 1960s, in Peru the study of pre-Hispanic art and visual culture remains fixed within the discipline of anthropological archaeology. Meanwhile, some US art historians are moving in increasingly interdisciplinary directions of “visual studies” and taking theoretical cues from other disciplines including anthropology. This group addressed the stakes and possibilities for interdisciplinary study of non-Western, pre-modern traditions of art and visual culture for which no written history survives.