Dr. Suzanne Gott
Associate Professor, Art History & Visual Culture
Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
The University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus
CCS 176, 1148 Research Road
Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7
I’ve always had a special interest in global arts and visual cultures. In 1987, I completed a Master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin with a concentration in Mesoamerican and Hispanic popular arts. At Indiana University, Bloomington, I completed two doctoral degrees in African art and visual culture: a Ph.D. in Folklore in 1994; and an M.A. and Ph.D.in Art History in 2002. From 2000-2006, I was the non-Western art historian in the Liberal Arts faculty of the Kansas City Art Institute, and then a faculty member of Brandon University’s Department of Visual and Aboriginal Arts from 2006-2008.
My research and publications focus on the art and visual culture of southern Ghana’s Ashanti Region. I’m particularly interested in exploring issues of gender, comparative aesthetics, display, and performance; and in investigating continuities and/or transformations of precolonial art and aesthetics in colonial, postcolonial, and contemporary art and visual culture. I approach the teaching of global arts and visual cultures from a broad multidisciplinary range of theoretical, historical, and ethnographic perspectives. I’ve developed and taught introductory and upper-division courses on the arts and visual cultures of Africa and the African diaspora, Native North America, Mesoamerica, and the South Pacific, as well as senior seminars focusing on Western primitivism, Western representations of the ‘other’, and tourist art and global popular culture. As a member of UBC’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, I’m committed to the development of a more global art history program.
Dr. Gott draws on her combined expertise in art history, anthropology, and folklore in developing and teaching courses on African and global arts and visual cultures from a multidisciplinary range of theoretical, historical, and ethnographic perspectives.
Recipient, US Fulbright Scholar Grant for 2012-2013
The grant, administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, will fund 10 months of scholarly activity in Ghana, with the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies (IAS) as host institution. The first 5 months of the award period will be spent at the Institute of African Studies as guest lecturer and assisting in the development of the IAS Art History Program. The final 5 months will be spent in Kumasi, conducting research on the creation, performance, and reception of Asante women’s funerary presentations.
My research and publications are informed by and seek to advance the theoretical insights provided by feminist theories, cultural studies, postcolonial theory, semiotics, and comparative aesthetics and phenomenology. This research has centered on investigations of women’s art and visual culture within the cosmopolitan urban environment of Kumasi, the historic capital of southern Ghana’s Ashanti Region.
From the beginning, my research has been motivated by a longstanding commitment to the expansion of feminist scholarship. I focused on Ghana’s Akan-speaking peoples because their matrilineal social structure and residence patterns have resulted in a greater sense of female autonomy and maternal responsibility within Akan marriage. Additionally, I have a particular interest in exploring the profound transformations in Asante ideologies of power, status, and elite visual culture that took place in the colonial and postcolonial periods. Funerals, the most important lineage and life-cycle event in Asante society, have provided one of the earliest and most enduring contexts for non-royal appropriation and expansion of Asante modes of high status “royal” display.
In “Golden Emblems of Maternal Benevolence: Transformations of Form and Meaning in Akan Regalia,” I investigated and documented the historical development and gendered significance of a distinctive yet largely overlooked regalia form, a golden pectoral fashioned into stylized breasts symbolizing the maternal ideals of Asante kingship, and its appropriation and transformation by non-royals into the awisiaado, a funerary presentation necklace symbolizing ‘maternal’ consolation following the loss of a parent. That research stimulated my current investigation into two high visibility female-orchestrated presentations of the awisiaado and other funeral gifts, opening a new dimension in my research—female oratory.
I explored the supernatural and potentially destructive dimensions of maternity and female sexuality in the book chapter, “The Power of Touch: Women’s Waist Beads in Ghana,” in the edited volume, Dress Sense: Emotional and Sensory Experiences of the Body and Clothes (2007).
I also have a strong interest in examining the dynamics of cultural resilience and indigenous agency in the visual culture of southern Ghana during the course of over five hundred years of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial interaction. My research and publications on women’s accumulation and fashionable display of textile wealth address historical and contemporary processes of global trade and hybridization, as well as contributing to a growing interdisciplinary scholarship on African fashion. On recent research trips, I’ve tracked changes in women’s textile accumulation and display practices resulting from globalization and economic difficulties created by the imposition of World Bank and International Monetary Fund structural adjustment programs. I’ve presented my research findings in journal articles and book chapters, including a chapter in the book, Contemporary African Fashion, that I am co-editing with Dr. Kristyne Loughran, which is forthcoming from Indiana University Press. This volume will offer an important corrective to longstanding misconceptions of African societies and visual cultures as insular, static, and unchanging.
Contemporary African Fashion. Co-edited with Kristyne Loughran. Indiana University Press (forthcoming).
“Asante High-timers, and the Fashionable Display of Women’s Wealth in Contemporary Ghana,” in a special thematic issue of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body, and Culture (forthcoming).
“‘Onetouch’ Quality and ‘Marriage Silver Cup’: Performative Display, Cosmopolitanism, and Marital Poatwa in Kumasi Funerals.” In Visual Experience in Urban Africa, a special thematic issue of the journal, Africa Today 54 (2), January 2008.
“The Power of Touch: Women’s Waist Beads in Ghana” in Dress Sense: Emotional and Sensory Experiences of the Body and Clothes, edited by Donald Clay Johnson and Helen Bradley Foster, pp. 84-95. Oxford & New York: Berg Publishers, November 2007.
“The Dynamics of Stylistic Innovation and Cultural Continuity in Ghanaian Women’s Fashions,” in Mode in Afrika, edited by Ilsemargret Luttman, pp. 61-70, 79. Hamburg: Museum für Völkerkunde, 2005.
“Golden Emblems of Maternal Benevolence: Transformations of Form and Meaning in Akan Regalia,” African Arts 36 (2003) 1: 66-81, 93-96.
Guest curator for The Glass Beads of Ghana, January 30, 2008 - June 15, 2009, at The Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey.
Guest curator for the reinstallation of the African Art Gallery at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, opening May 2007.
Last reviewed 10/12/2018 10:55:47 AM