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) 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 former Editor  of "The Journal of Mande Studies," the Co-Director of a Portuguese-Brazilian research project studying the Luso-African ivories, and Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellow at Goethe Universität, Frankfurt-am-Main.

Trained as both an art historian and an historian (at Harvard and Yale), I moved from studying the Italian Renaissance to studying 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. My work on Sephardic history and on Portuguese-African interaction (15th-17th century) has taken me to Portugal, and, as a visiting scholar, to the Ecole des Hautes Etudes (Paris), and the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art (Paris). I am an Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellow (2020) at Goethe-University; in 2012 I was a Senior Fellow Humboldt-Universität (Berlin) and, from 2014-2019. Visiting Cathedratic Professor of History at the Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon. 

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours