Elizabeth Harney

Associate Professor


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Modern and Contemporary, African


As a scholar, curator, and critic of modern and contemporary African art, my research documents, analyzes, and publicizes the work of artists who have been active in Africa and its diaspora since the beginning of the 20th century. I engage broadly with the scholarship, across disciplines, which is now re-defining the ways we understand the global faces of modernity. African painters, sculptors, photographers and other “modern” artists have been ignored or marginalized, even when they have participated in the great artistic movements of the 20th century. In my art historical writings, I have tried to complicate these interactions between artistic modernism and Africa’s arts and artists. In my curatorial and art critical practices, I have been particularly interested in contemporary artists whose work helps us think through the archive of modernity. 

Selected Publications

  • “Contemporary Musings” in Hans Belting, Jacob Birken, Andrea Buddensieg (eds.): Global Studies: Mapping Contemporary Art and Culture (Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, September 2011): 314–31.
  • “A Nomad’s Revolutionary Beauty: the Works of El Anatsui” in NkA: Journal of Contemporary African Art 28 (Summer 2011).
  • Inscribing Meaning: African Arts of Writing and Inscription, co-edited with Christine Mullen Kreamer, Polly Nooter Roberts, and Allyson Purpura (National Museum of African Art/UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History). Five Continents Press, 2007.
  • In Senghor’s Shadow: Art, Politics, and the Avant-Garde in Senegal, 1960-1995. Duke University Press, 2004. Recipient of the Arnold Rubin Outstanding Book Award (2004-2007), from the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.
  • Ethiopian Passages: Dialogues in the Diaspora.National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2003.



PhD, University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, 1996