Wesleyan portrait of Peter A. Mark

Peter A. Mark

Professor of Art History, Emeritus

Davison Art Center, 200


BA Harvard University
MA Syracuse University
MAA Wesleyan University
PHD Yale University

Peter A. Mark

I am a cultural historian of West Africa. I have written five books that cover pre-colonial history, art history, and 16th through 19th century European-African interaction. My early work focuses on the Casamance region of Senegal, its history and masking traditions. More recent work looks at Portuguese Jewish (Sephardic) merchants in 17th century Senegambia. I am currently studying the history and iconography of pre-colonial century Luso-African ivories from Upper Guinea. This work articulates a methodology for the historically contextualized study of pre-colonial material culture. Other current research focuses on the diverse forms of captivity and unfree labor on the Upper Guinea Coast before the expansion, ca. 1650, of the Atlantic slave trade. This work also compares West African and North African captivity. I have recently co-edited (with two Wesleyan students) a new book, "The Mountains in Art History" (Wesleyan University Press, 2017). As a life-long climber and skier, I continue to write about the mountains, and I am completing a book of essays about living in Berlin, which means living with the burden of recent history, but also living in a place where people treasure books.

I am the Editor (2016) of "The Journal of Mande Studies" and the Co-Director of a joint Portuguese-Brazilian research project studying the Luso-African ivories. 

Trained as both an art historian and an historian (at Harvard and Yale), I moved from studying the Italian Renaissance, to looking at European depictions of West Africans, to studying the Jola peoples of Senegal (West Africa). I was a post-doctoral Fellow at the Frobenius-Institut before coming to Wesleyan. His work on Sephardic history and on the ivories has taken him to Portugal. He has been a visiting scholar at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes (Paris), an Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellow (2006) at Goethe-University, Frankfurt-am-Main; a Senior Fellow in Berlin at Re:work (Humboldt-Universitaet), and Visiting Cathedratic Professor of History at the Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon. 

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

spring 2017: Tuesday 4-5

                    Thursday 11-12