HAA 81 - Art of Monsoon Asia: Interconnected Histories





Jinah Kim

Monsoon Asia refers to the area of the globe where climates are determined or profoundly affected by the monsoon, from the Himalayas, to the islands of Indian Ocean, all the way to the Japanese archipelago. Focusing on the impact of monsoons in South and Southeast Asia, the course explores the common patterns and traits of the art of Monsoon Asia. How was the monsoon and its impact conceptualized in art?  The main learning goal of the course is to understand how artistic means were harnessed to conceptualize, cope with, and tame environmental challenges posed by monsoons and long-distance travels, often facilitated by the monsoon winds, in pre-modern times. From water management to water symbolism, from impressive temples that mark auspicious arrivals to itinerant objects like ivories and amulets that moved with travelers across Monsoon Asia, we will look at diverse sites and objects that date between the fifth through the sixteenth centuries and attempt to connect the dots between ports and uncover hidden narratives of long-distance travels and travails of dealing with environmental challenges in pre-modern times. The course challenges the diffusionist model of influence in understanding trans-regional interactions and introduces ways to discuss interconnected histories using digital tools. The course will introduce basic tools of digital art history and students will be asked to contribute to a course exhibition site with annotated maps and research pages as part of their final projects.