Jordan Fenton

Associate Professor
Art History
2015-present

Education
PhD, University of Florida
BA and MA, Kent State University

Jordan Fenton

Dr. Jordan A. Fenton, Associate Professor of Art History, received a BA and MA from Kent State University before earning a PhD in art history from the University of Florida in 2012. Professor Fenton is a specialist of African Art History, with an emphasis on the visual and performed expression of Nigerian masquerade arts, secret societies, esoteric knowledge systems, funerary rituals and installations, dress, economics and ways in which so-called “traditional” arts and artists operate in metropolitan cities. At Miami, Fenton teaches introductions on non-Western art and courses and seminars exploring Africa and its Diaspora.

Professor Fenton’s book, Masquerade and Money in Urban Nigeria: The Case of Calabar, was published by University of Rochester Press in 2022. His research is informed by 19 months of ongoing fieldwork investigation into the art and culture of Calabar, capital city of Cross River State, Nigeria, was carried out between 2008-2018. Research was conducted as a Fulbright-Hays scholar (2009-2010), Foreign Language Area Studies fellow (2008 and 2009), at the Smithsonian Institution in residence at the National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C. (2011), and more recently through various programs available at Miami. During his time in Calabar, Fenton was invited to be initiated into the six secret masquerade societies he studied, adopted as a son by a local king, conferred with the rank of chief, and honored with lengthy apprenticeships into nsibidi, an imaged and performed esoteric knowledge system of the Cross River region. He is currently working on a collaboratively curated, internationally traveling exhibition tentatively titled, New Masks Now: Artists Innovating Masquerade in Contemporary West Africa. The project is funded by a National Endowment of the Humanities grant (2021). 

Selected Publications

Books

Masquerade and Money in Urban Nigeria: The Case of Calabar (University of Rochester Press), 2022

Articles

“Expressive Currencies: Artistic Transactions and Transformations of Warrior-Inspired Masquerades In Calabar.” African Arts, Vol. 52: 1 (2019).

“Sustainable Futures: Ekpenyong Bassey Nsa and the Study of Traditional-Based African Artists.” African Arts, Vol. 50: 4 (2017).

“Masking and Money in a Nigerian Metropolis: the Economics of Performance in Calabar.” Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Vol. 10: 2 (2016).

“Follow the Money: Economics and African Art.” Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Vol. 10:2 (2016).

Edited Volumes

Guest editor for special issue on “African art and Economics.” Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Vol. 10: 2 (2016).

Book Chapters

 “Teaching Global Art History: ‘Otherness’ as a Threshold Concept, in Making Room for Liminal Learning Across the Disciplines, eds. Elizabeth Wardle, Ann Updike, Caitlin Martin et al. Utah State University Press, 2023              

Co-authored with Annie Dell’aria and Pepper Stetler, “Giving Words to What We See: Threshold Concepts in Writing Art History” in Making Room for Liminal Learning Across the Disciplines, eds. Elizabeth Wardle, Ann Updike, Caitlin Martin et al. Utah State University Press, 2023

“Nyoro Masquerade as a Hunt for Modernity: A View from a West African City” in Behind the Masks of Modernism: Global Perspectives and Transnational Perspectives, eds. Andrew R. Reynolds and Bonnie Ross, University of Florida Press, 2016.

Entries for Exhibition Catalogs and Anthologies

“Cross River Region” in The Visual Arts of Africa: Gender, Power, and Life Cycle  Rituals (Second Edition), eds. Judith Perani and Fred T. Smith. Oxford University Press, 2022.

“Efik Religion,” in African Religions: Beliefs and Practices Through History, ABC-CLO Greenwood publications, 2018.

“Knowledge in Motion: Reading and Performing Ukara Nsibidi,” in Ukara: Ritual Cloth of the Ekpe Secret Society, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2015

“Skin-Covered Crest of a Young Women.” In Refined Eye, Passionate Heart: African Art from the Leslie Sacks Collection, ed. Amanda Maples, Skira Publishing, 2013

“Displaying the Ostentatious: Contemporary Chieftaincy Dress and the Ebonko Costume from Calabar, Nigeria.” In Africa Interweave: Textile Diasporas, ed. Susan Cooksey, Gainesville: Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, 2011

Book Reviews

Review of The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo (University of North Carolina Press) by Cecile Fromont. College Art Association Reviews (2017).

Review of A Bird Dance Near Saturday City: Sidi Ballo and the Art of West African Masquerade by Patrick R. McNaughton, in African Arts 44.2 (2011).

Email: fentonja@miamioh.edu