Kailani Polzak

Kailani Polzak’s research focuses on European visual culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with particular attention to histories of science, aesthetic philosophy, race, colonialism, and intercultural contact in Oceania. Her current book project, “Difference Over Distance: Visualizing Contact between Europe and Oceania,” examines the graphic and printed works created in relation to so-called “Voyages of Discovery” conducted by Britain, France, and Russia in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaiʻi in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and traces how these pictures were marshaled in arguments about the origins of human difference in Europe. She also maintains a methodological interest in the questions raised by writing about and curating colonial histories from multiple perspectives. To that end, she co-curated an exhibition with Sonnet Kekilia Coggins, “ʻThe Field is The World’: Williams, Hawaiʻi, and Material Histories in the Making,” at the Williams College Museum of Art in 2018.

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