Elizabeth Harney

Associate Professor
100 St. George Street, Room 6037A, Toronto, ON M5S 3G3



Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies

Fields of Study


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

  • "The Persistence of Primitivism and the Debt Collectors" in ArtMargins 11, 3 (MIT, February-June 2023).
  • "William Fagg: The Inadvertant Modernist" RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics (University of Chicago Press, Winter 2023
  • "Face to Face with Primitivism in the 21st Century" in Forni Silvia, Julie Crooks and Dominique Fontaine (eds.), History, Art, and Blackness. Exhibiting Black Art in Canadian Institutions (Vancouver, UBC Press, in press, Spring 2023).
  • "Penning the Promises of Bandung: AfriqueAsie and the Solidarity of Practice" in Salah Hassan and Carina Ray (eds.), Axis of Solidarity: Landmarks, Platforms, Futures (Sharjah: The Africa Institute/Cornell University Press, in press, 2023).
  • "Postwar Imaginings—Negritude legacies and thwarted universalisms in Dakar and Paris" in Postwar—A Global Art History, 1945-1965, Okwui Enwezor and Atreyee Gupta (eds.) (Duke University Press, in press, 2023).
  • "Intentions rétromodernes à Dakar: trouver le moderne dans le contemporain"  in Maureen Murphy and Mamadou Diouf (eds.), Dakar: Scènes, actors, et décors artistiques: Reconfigurations locales et globales? (Dijon: Les presses du réel, 2020): 165-189.
  • "Re-imaginings of Global Modernity in the Age of Neo-Liberal Patronage: The History Paintings of Julie Mehretu" in Jordan Bear and Mark Phillips (eds.) Re-thinking History Painting (McGill-Queen’s University Press, Fall 2019): 234-253.

Elizabeth Harney Inscribing Meaning; Ethiopian Passages; Mapping Modernisms; In Senghor's Shadow

Honours, Awards and Grants

  • 2021-2025 SSHRC Insight Grant, "The Retromodern: African Art in the Age of the Contemporary"
  • 2016-2020 Co-lead "Museums and Public History Quadrant" Aesthetic Education: A South-North Dialogue, a Mellon Foundation collaborative project (Centre for Humanities Research, University of Western Cape and Jackman Humanities Centre, University of Toronto)


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

Administrative Service

Associate Chair, Graduate Studies, 2022-2023
Associate Chair, Graduate Studies, 2018-2021