Research and Publications

From architectural history to color theory workshops, to art/design trends and topics across cultures and times, research is fundamental to the study of Art History, and research is a key strength of our department.


Following is a brief overview of books, articles, and catalogues that have been produced to document research, exhibits, and courses within the Department of Art History.

Book cover of Dr. Chang Tan's publication, "The Minjian Avant-Garde."

The Minjian Avant-Garde: Art of the Crowd in Contemporary China

The Minjian Avant-Garde studies how experimental artists in China mixed with, brought changes to, and let themselves be transformed by minjian, the volatile and diverse public of the post-Mao era. Departing from the usual emphasis on art institutions, global markets, or artists' communities, Chang Tan proposes a new analytical framework in the theories of socially engaged art that stresses the critical agency of participants, the affective functions of objects, and the versatility of the artists in diverse sociopolitical spheres.

Drawing from hitherto untapped archival materials and interviews with the artists, Tan challenges the views of Chinese artists as either dissidents or conformists to the regime and sees them as navigators and negotiators among diverse political discourses and interests. She questions the fetishization of marginalized communities among practitioners of progressive art and politics, arguing that the members of minjian are often more complex, defiant, and savvy than the elites would assume. The Minjian Avant-Garde critically assesses the rise of populism in both art and politics and show that minjian could constitute either a democratizing or a coercive force.

This book was published with generous support from the George Dewey and Mary J. Krumrine Endowment.

Author: Chang Tan
Publication date: 2024
Link: Project MUSE - The Minjian Avant-Garde (

Book cover of Robin L. Thomas's publication, Palaces of Reason.

Palaces of Reason: The Royal Residences of Bourbon Naples

Palaces of Reason traces the fascinating history of three royal residences built outside of Naples in the eighteenth century at Capodimonte, Portici, and Caserta. Commissioned by King Charles of Bourbon and Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony, who reigned over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, these buildings were far more than residences for the monarchs. They were designed to help reshape the economic and cultural fortunes of the realm.

View the book release conversation between Robin Thomas and B. Stephen Carpenter II (Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Dean in the College of Arts and Architecture), available here: Book Release Conversation - 'Palaces of Reason: The Royal Residences of Bourbon Naples' (

Author: Robin Thomas
Publication date: 2023
Link: Penn State Press

Black and orange book cover showing people carrying signs

Verge Studies in Global Asias

A multidisciplinary journal publishing scholarship from Asian Studies, Asian American Studies, and Asian Diaspora Studies

Verge: Studies in Global Asias showcases scholarship on “Asian” topics from across the humanities and humanistic social sciences, while recognizing that the changing scope of "Asia" as a concept and method is today an object of vital critical concern. Responding to the ways in which large-scale social, cultural, and economic concepts like the world, the globe, or the universal (not to mention East Asian cousins like tianxia or datong) are reshaping the ways we think about the present, the past and the future, the journal publishes scholarship that occupies and enlarges the proximities among disciplinary and historical fields, from the ancient to the modern periods.

Editor: Chang Tan
Publication date: 2022
Link: Project MUSE – Verge: Studies in Global Asias Fall 2022, volume 8 issue 2 (

Additional Publications