(Columbia University Press, 2019)
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Beauty in the Age of Empire is a global history of aesthetic education focused on how Western practices were adopted, transformed, and repurposed in Egypt and Japan. Raja Adal uncovers the emergence of aesthetic education in modern schools and its role in making a broad spectrum of ideologies from fascism to humanism attractive. With aesthetics, educators sought to enchant children with sounds and sights, using their ears and eyes to make ideologies into objects of desire. Spanning multiple languages and continents, and engaging with the histories of nationalism, art, education, and transnational exchanges, Beauty in the Age of Empire offers a strikingly original account of the rise of aesthetics in modern schools and the modern world. It shows that, while aesthetics is important to all societies, it was all the more important for those countries on the receiving end of Western expansion, which could not claim to be wealthier or more powerful than Western empires, only more beautiful.
“Beauty in the Age of Empire is a unique and fascinating analysis that tracks complex genealogies of aesthetic education through colonialism, empire, and nation-building. It both provincializes Eurocentric histories of the aesthetic and provides a deeper understanding of the cultivation of modern childhood.”
– Jessica Winegar, author of Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt
Raja Adal is assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh.