Roundtable convened by Sarah Betzer and Dipti Khera; Distillation by Eleanore Neumann, with Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Nebahat Avcıoğlu, Emma Barker, Sarah Betzer, Ananda Cohen-Aponte, Dipti Khera, Prita Meier, Nancy Um, and Stephen Whiteman

This roundtable brought together scholars from a broad array of geographical foci and institutional perspectives, who have been at the forefront of efforts to rethink approaches to thinking, researching, and, crucially, teaching the art and material culture of an interconnected “long” eighteenth century. Participants were invited to anchor short presentations by way of a salient episode: a syllabus, a course session, an assignment, or a digital project. Understanding that it is not possible to capture in any one event a comprehensive account of the myriad perspectives and approaches being developed by our colleagues, we envision this roundtable as one of many such discussions that are taking place and that will continue to transform research and teaching in the future. The distillation was conceived as a resource along the lines of the indispensable Journal18 crowdsourced timeline edited by Zirwat Chowdhury, Blackness, Immobility, & Visibility in Europe (1600-1800). At the forefront of our interests was a desire to explore how the stakes of a “long” eighteenth century come into focus or shift when considered from different vantage points, and particularly as we account for the histories of colonialism, enslavement, and the extraction of bodies and lands, objects and knowledge. How is our inquiry transformed when we think outward from our pedagogical practices? We invite you to learn more about how our colleagues have approached the “long” and “broad” eighteenth century in their classrooms and research clusters in what follows.

Learn more about each of these episodes and discover open-access resources to use in your own teaching by navigating the grid below. Explore objects and their entangled histories on Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism, the website collaboratively developed by Anna Arabindan-Kesson and her students. Find the syllabus Nebahat Avcıoğlu designed for her graduate seminar, “Scrutinizing the Western Gaze: The 'Turk' in Eighteenth-Century European Art," which resulted in a collectively produced bibliographic article on “Turquerie” for Oxford Bibliographies. Visit the website Travelling Objects: European Art and the Wider World, a supplemental resource for the textbook Art, Commerce and Colonialism 1600-1800 edited by Emma Barker. Learn about how Ananda Cohen-Aponte partnered with the Multicultural Resource Center in Ithaca, NY, on a project for her undergraduate Latin American survey course as part of the initiative, “Pathways to Art History." Check out the syllabus for the undergraduate seminar, “Africa in the Indian Ocean World,” which Prita Meier designed to focus on mobile objects and their relation to the agency of enslaved and laboring bodies. Engage with the interactive mapping project created by Nancy Um for her graduate course, “Art History in the Digital Age,” to introduce new modes of critical thinking. And delve into the syllabus Stephen Whiteman produced for the year-long MA course, "Beijing and Beyond: Art and Empire in Early Modern China,” to interrogate the entanglements of local and world historical time. You can also watch the lively discussion in the Q&A with speakers.

Interloping & Looking Forward

Together, these presentations attest to the varied pedagogies being brought to bear in teaching the “long” eighteenth century: from the object-centered approaches taken by Arabindan-Kesson and Meier to the focus on local temporalities proposed by Whiteman; and from the comparative approach championed by Barker to the collaborative and non-hierarchical methods demonstrated by Avcıoğlu, Cohen-Aponte, and Um.

If we consider the question of periodization specifically in relation to pedagogical practices, a number of points begin to emerge from the presentations. Strikingly, none of the participants framed their episodes within the “long” eighteenth century. Meier engaged the framework of the Indian Ocean in her undergraduate seminar, while Cohen-Aponte’s community-based project was part of her chronologically sweeping survey of Latin American art. Some participants even referred to themselves as "interlopers," given that their own research is primarily focused on different periods. Nebahat Avcıoğlu framed her undergraduate seminar more narrowly within the eighteenth century in order to interrogate the historical and historiographical origins of turquerie. Though Whiteman refocused his year-long course from the Early Modern period to what is effectively the “long” eighteenth century in China, he did not employ that terminology in his own classroom. The conceptual and chronological shift at once allowed him to focus on the problems to which he was drawn, and directed his students’ attention to what he considered to be most salient in the context of the course.

One implication of the assembled episodes is that in the classroom, the conceptual utility of the “long eighteenth century” – or perhaps even the “eighteenth century” tout court – becomes more attenuated as it extends in length and breadth, in time and across place.

Nearly every educator turned to digital technology when Zoom replaced their physical classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel was disrupted, technology allowed for the inclusion of a newly expansive range of voices. Meier, for instance, invited multiple guest lecturers to her class via Zoom, such as Nancy Um and Athman Hussein Athman, Keeper of Heritage at the National Museums of Kenya, Mombasa. Online resources that were already set up for distance learning, including those from institutions such as the Open University, took on added importance. This difficult moment has, nonetheless, presented an opportunity moving forward to not just teach with digital technologies, but to embrace digital humanities. The term has been variously defined, but Um’s interactive mapping project offers a clear illustration. Sharing space, whether through collaborative teaching or guest speakers, decenters a single authoritative voice and invites the multiplicity and complexity of new voices.

Many of the roundtable speakers reaffirmed the vitality of new approaches to eighteenth-century materials and artefacts activated through the reciprocal processes of teaching and learning. Even though for her it was a familiar topic, Avcıoğlu approached the subject of turquerie anew, and framed the work of scholarly interpretation as a living process by way of her seminar design. Um learned to use Leaflet, a JavaScript Library for interactive web maps, so that she could simultaneously teach her graduate students and transform her own research. Such accounts as these attest to the generative nature of pedagogical experimentation for scholars' research questions and methods.

At the same time, if students are engaged through intentional and critical pedagogies, they become active participants in their own education. Cohen-Aponte emphasized the need to respond to the fact that students are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, and suggests that there is much to learn from pedagogical literature, even if it is largely targeted to K-12 educators. Approaching research and teaching as dialogical processes, as vividly demonstrated in Arabindan-Kesson’s work with her students on Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism, presents an opportunity to learn from the diverse, contemporary perspectives that students will inevitably bring to eighteenth-century material and to reconfigure the traditional structures of power and stories of art narrated within the academy.


The roundtable, held on April 23, 2022 as a Zoom webinar, was convened by Sarah Betzer, University of Virginia, and Dipti Khera, Department of Art History and Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, with assistance from Eleanore Neumann, University of Virginia. The event and its digital afterlives were made possible thanks to funding from the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures (IHGC) at the University of Virginia and from the UVA Department of Art. We would like to thank IHGC Interim Director Bruce Holsinger for his support and for his introduction. Warm thanks are also due to the IHGC team: Anne Gilliam, Caroline Whitcomb, and Joseph Wei. We thank Victoria Valdes, UVA Visual Resources Collection, for her monumental post-production video labors.

The distillation of the roundtable was conceived by Sarah Betzer, Dipti Khera, and Eleanore Neumann. The site was developed in July 2021 by Eleanore Neumann and Shane Lin, UVA Library Scholars’ Lab. We are grateful to Shane for his creativity and generosity. Special thanks go to Jennifer Henel for her indispensable advice on developing this digital feature and to Hannah Williams for her guidance throughout the process.