African Art Reframed

Reflections and Dialogues on Museum Culture
Author: Bennetta Jules-Rosette and J.R. Osborn
Foreword by Simon Njami
New ideas on display and diffusion
Cloth – $125
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 06/22/2020
Cloth: 06/22/2020
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

Once seen as a collection of artifacts and ritual objects, African art now commands respect from museums and collectors. Bennetta Jules-Rosette and J.R. Osborn explore the reframing of African art through case studies of museums and galleries in the United States, Europe, and Africa.

The authors take a three-pronged approach. Part One ranges from curiosity cabinets to virtual websites to offer a history of ethnographic and art museums and look at their organization and methods of reaching out to the public. In the second part, the authors examine museums as ecosystems and communities within communities, and they use semiotic methods to analyze images, signs, and symbols drawn from the experiences of curators and artists. The third part introduces innovative strategies for displaying, disseminating, and reclaiming African art. The authors also propose how to reinterpret the art inside and outside the museum and show ways of remixing the results.

Drawing on extensive conversations with curators, collectors, and artists, African Art Reframed is an essential guide to building new exchanges and connections in the dynamic worlds of African and global art.

* Publication of this book was supported in part by a grant from the University of Illinois Press Fund for Anthropology.

About the Author

Bennetta Jules-Rosette is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and director of the African and African-American Studies Research Center at the University of California, San Diego. Her books include Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and Image, Black Paris: The African Writers' Landscape, and The Messages of Tourist Art. J.R. Osborn is an associate professor of communication, culture, and technology at Georgetown University. He is the author of Letters of Light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design.

Also by this author

Black Paris coverJosephine Baker in Art and Life cover


"Jules-Rosette and Osborne succeed in their intention to illustrate a historical reconstituting of public perception of the African object--from ethnographic curiosity, to influence on other artistic movements, to embrace of the gamut of creative expression." --Choice

"The authors' enthusiasm for their analytical approach is admirable . . . very timely and insightful work." --Ethnic and Racial Studies

"At just under 400 pages, this splendid and impressively researched book has eight chapters that divide thematically into three parts. . . . The main themes centre around artworks, artists, museum exhibits and others, while interviews with artists and curators close each chapter." --Theory, Culture, and Society

"African Art Reframed is a masterwork that interweaves theoretical innovations and critical analyses of the power dynamics in museum displays of African art." --Journal of African American History

"African Art Reframed is a qualitative study of the circulation and exhibition of African art in ethnographic and art museums and galleries in Europe, Africa, and the United States. Drawing on years of ethnographic observations, interviews with museum professionals and artists, and extensive archival and visual materials such as museum catalogs, Jules-Rosette and Osborn examine how African art is created, framed, and reframed in museums across three continents." --Symbolic Interaction


"This book is nothing less than a major breakthrough in museum studies. It is the first to systematically connect museum display practice to the recalibration of 'ethnic identity' that happens after colonialism. Its focus is on the global display of art and crafts from Africa and the African diaspora. But it is essential reading for anyone who wonders about what we want to hear from our forebears as we compel them to speak from behind glass, standing on plinths, and hanging on walls."--Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class

"An important intervention featuring new approaches to 'unmixing' in the exhibitionary complex of African and African American Art. It features interviews with French and US-based curators and museum directors engaged in emerging contexts and legacies of ethnographic display."--Peter J. Bloom, author of French Colonial Documentary: Mythologies of Humanitarianism