Liza Oliver

Liza Oliver
liza.oliver@wellesley.edu
(781) 283-2035
Art
South Asia Studies
B.A., University of North Florida; M.A., University of South Florida; M.A., Ph.D., Northwestern University
Liza Oliver
Associate Professor of Art

Art historian focusing on 18th- and 19th-century Europe and South Asia, and visual cultures of colonialism, slavery, and global trade.

My research concerns aesthetic and intellectual exchange between Europe, South Asia, and the West Indies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and attendant methods for interpreting material and visual culture both within and beyond colonial frameworks.
 
My current book project, Empire of Hunger: Representing Famine, Land and Labor in Colonial India, explores the many famines that devastated South Asia in the second half of the nineteenth century and how photographs aided in the constitution of British colonial policies around famine, land, and agricultural labor. Uniting art historical analysis with political ecology and environmental and food studies, it aims to illuminate the fraught convergence of economic liberalism and colonial humanitarianism around the issue of famine in colonial India.
 
My first book, Art, Trade, and Imperialism in Early Modern French India (Amsterdam University Press, 2019), examined the integration of the French East India Company with the eighteenth-century textile industries of India's southeast coast to examine three main themes: Indian textiles' role in the emergence of global capitalism and the slave trade, the integration of Indian artisanal practices with European botanical study, and the complicated role of Tamil intermediaries in developing French trade, diplomacy, and imperialism in India. It was a finalist for the College Art Association’s 2021 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award.
 
In addition to my book manuscript, I am currently engaged in several other research projects, including an article on textile samplers made in a Calcutta orphanage in the late eighteenth century and a contribution to the forthcoming volume Colonisations: Notre Histoire (Éditions du Seuil, 2022). I am also engaged in work on British prints pertaining to abolition and the Haitian Revolution in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century to understand the similarities in pro- and anti-slavery rhetoric’s use of sentimentality. I regularly write for public forums, and my essays and opinion pieces have been published in The New York Times, Boston’s NPR blog Cognoscenti, and the Boston Review.
 
I teach lecture courses on South Asian Art and Architecture (ARTH/SAS 239), Arts of Europe's Enlightenment (ARTH 259), and Nineteenth-century Art (ARTH 289). My seminars include Art and Imperialism in the Long Nineteenth Century (ARTH 312), Empires, Merchants, and Missionaries in Early Modern Eurasia (ARTH 313), and Decolonial Art History: Theory, Method, and Praxis (ARTH 390). I have also co-taught with Professor Wes Watters in Astronomy a first-year seminar, The Art of Science since the Scientific Revolution (ARTH/ASTR 112Y).

 

Selected Publications

Complete CV