Patterns: Toward an Ontology of Shang wen

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Fang yi (after Bagley 1987, pp. 439, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1974.268.22)

Thursday, February 23, 2023
2:00 PM - 3:45 PM
Bunche Hall 10383

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Patterns: Toward an Ontology of Shang wen

The nature of Shang visual culture has been contested for over a hundred years. As Kesner noted thirty years ago, the central debates largely boiled down to a disagreement over whether Shang art was representational or not. Largely at an impasse since that time, most art historians and archaeologists have moved on to other topics, leaving the nature of Shang visual culture as an unresolved (and possibly unresolvable) mystery. But what if, instead of querying the nature of Shang representation, we questioned the concept of representation itself? What if, instead of asking what or whether Shang designs mean, we asked how? Following in the path of Willard Peterson, Jessica Rawson, Pauline Yu and Lothar von Falkenhausen, this talk will explore the ontology of Shang representation, or perhaps better, relationality.

Roderick Campbell is associate professor of East Asian archaeology and history at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. He has spent his career since graduating from Harvard in 2007, researching and publishing on the Chinese Bronze Age, and especially Shang dynasty Anyang. He has published Violence and Civilization: Studies of Social Violence in History and Prehistory (editor, Oxbow, 2014); Archaeology of the Chinese Bronze Age: from Erlitou to Anyang (Cotsen Institute, 2014); Violence, Kinship and the Early Chinese State: the Shang and their World (Cambridge UP, 2018) as well as many journal articles and chapters on topics ranging from Shang bone working to early complex societies. His archaeological field work in China has been focused on reconstructing the Shang economy and he is currently writing a Cambridge element on that topic. Campbell is also working on a book on Shang visual culture.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies