A Chair in the History of Art, Science and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute

Project Summary

This project is hosted by: Warburg Institute

Research interests:
Communities, Classes, Races
Project period:
01-Jul-2018 - 30-Sep-2020
Project summary:

From the outset Warburg’s project, while analytically dense and rigorous, was notably synthetic.  It brought together disciplines that until then had been studied in relative isolation.  The history of visual culture could not, for Warburg, be understood outside the context of developments in the histories of science and of popular practices.  In examining the continuities between high and elite cultures on the one hand and popular and alien ones on the other he also discerned the productive tensions between them, and saw how one polarity fructified the other.  Hence his continued refusal of the traditional Enlightenment distinctions between reason and superstition, science and magic.  Indeed, he frequently emphasized the importance of building bridges between these often disparate fields – a process that Warburg himself called Brückenbau.  He drew out what seemed to him the dialectics between different cultures, and in their polarities saw the opportunities for reconciliation and the release of productive energies.  In this process he turned dialectic into dialogue.  

In the course of the 20th century these broad ambitions came to be tempered by the narrowing of disciplinary boundaries, and the policing of their intellectual perimeters.  At the same time, the Institute itself effectively renounced the imaginative and cross-disciplinary aspects of the Warburgian heritage, and the fundamental energies of Warburg’s own thought were drained.  The time has come to reclaim them.

Management Details

Lead researcher & project contact:

Name Position Institute Organisation Contact
Professor John Tresch john.tresch@sas.ac.uk



Funder Grant type Award
Mellon Foundation Arts and Cultural Heritage Program £415,732.00