Who’s Who: Renate Dohmen

Who are you and what do you do at the OU? What modules are you involved in/have been involved in?

I am Renate Dohmen and I am an art historian. I contributed a discussion of women’s street art in Tamil Nadu, South India, to A844, the second year of the MA in Art History.

I was involved in the production of A344, Art and its global histories as editor and author for Block 3 Empire and Art: British India. I authored the chapters ‘Painting, Prints and Popular Art in British India’, and ‘Design Reform, Indian Crafts and Empire’ for Empire and Art: British India, the printed book for the block published by Manchester University Press. I also selected and introduced the texts for the block in Art and its global histories: A Reader, the course reader for A344, edited by Diana Newall and published by Manchester University Press. This work relates to my research on fine art exhibitions in British India at the time of the British Raj, for which I was recently awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

What are your main research areas?

My main research focus is art history in relation to the global, which I explore in contemporary art and with regard to the visual culture of British India. I am interested decoloniality, indigeneity, gender and race, as well as issues of cultural translation and the transcultural.

In contemporary art I have worked on relational aesthetics in view of the global. In my monograph Encounters beyond the Gallery. Relational Aesthetics and Cultural Difference, I explore the work of the international art nomad Rirkrit Tiravanija, indigenous arts of the Shipibo-Conibo Indians of the Amazonian rainforest in Peru and the street art of women in Tamil Nadu, India. In the book I adopt Deleuze-Guattarean approaches to difference prevalent Eurocentric approaches in discussing these arts. More recently I am exploring questions of indigeneity and the contemporary in the work of the Cree artist Kent Monkman, one of the most prominent contemporary artists in Canada.

What Open Arts Objects films have you done? Are they related to your research or a module?

I have recorded a film on Tipu’s Tiger, 1780s or 90s (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) (I also wrote a ‘Traveling Object‘ on this work too).  I made a film on the Pilkington Album (1893-94), (University of Cambridge). The album was created by Millicent Pilkington, a well-to-do young British woman who spent time in British India in 1893 visiting friends and family and who recorded her experiences in water colours, photographs and ephemera which she carefully assembled in an album. The album is an example of the prominent but now forgotten visual practice of women in the nineteenth century.

Together with Kathleen Christian I have also made a short film on the complexities entailed in the term essentialism.

What did you love most about doing an Open Arts Objects film?

I am excited about Open Arts Objects because it allows me to communicate my passion for visual objects and their histories to a larger audience.

What is your most significant publication or latest publication? How does it relate to the films?

The book Empire and Art: British India which I co-authored and edited relates to my discussion of Tipu’s Tiger.

My research presented in the article ‘Memsahibs and the “Sunny East”: Representations of British India by Millicent Douglas Pilkington and Beryl White’ and my book chapter ‘Material (Re)collections of the ‘Shiny East’: A Late Nineteenth-Century Travel Account by a Young British Woman in India ’ inform the film about the Pilkington Album.

What got you interested in Art History?

I started out as a practitioner with an interest in painting, printmaking and the graphic arts and became hooked on art history through my artistic research into the visual world.


Dohmen, R. (2019) ‘Counter-epistemologies of the global South: Indian floor drawings re-envisaged’, South Asian Popular Culture, vol. 4, no. 2, pp.1-10.

Dohmen, R. (2016) Encounters beyond the Gallery. Relational Aesthetics and Cultural Difference?, London, I.B.Tauris.

Dohmen, R. (2015) ‘Material (Re)collections of the ‘Shiny East’: A Late Nineteenth-Century Travel Account by a Young British Woman in India ’, in Henes, M and Murray, B H (eds) Travel Writing, Visual Culture and Form, 1760-1900, Basingstoke, Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 42-64.

Dohmen, R. (2012) ‘Memsahibs and the “Sunny East”: Representations of British India by Millicent Douglas Pilkington and Beryl White’, Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 40, no. 1, pp.153-177.

For more information about my publications and research interests, please see my OU people profile.


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