Kristopher Kersey’s research focuses on the intersecting histories of Japanese art, literature, and aesthetics. His work spans the premodern and modern eras, including both secular and Buddhist materials.

His book Facing Images: Medieval Japanese Art and the Problem of Modernity (forthcoming Oct. 2024, Penn State University Press) sets forth a critique of global modernity by focusing on issues such as montage, interface theory, physiology, and semiotics in the secular and Buddhist manuscripts of twelfth-century Japan. Various shorter articles and chapters concern theory and historiography, the encounter with Europe ca. 1600, the modern trope of impermanence, death and manuscript culture ca. 1200, the intersection of poetics and materiality, and the archival anxieties of the Anthropocene.

At present, he is at work on two monographs. The first, tentatively titled “Art as Metabolism: Fragmentation, Decay, and Assemblage in Japan,” sets forth new paradigms for discussing the lives, afterlives, embodiment, and erasure of images. He is simultaneously at work on a second monograph, tentatively titled “The Discipline of Vision: Language and the Diversity of Sight,” which addresses the interface of philology and vision.

During 2023–2024, he will hold the William Andrews Clark Professorship at the UCLA Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies to direct Open Edo: Diverse, Ecological, and Global Perspectives on Japanese Art, 1603–1868, a year-long core program entailing three conferences. The goal of Open Edo is to reframe early modern Japanese art outside the tropes of the floating world and isolation by foregrounding diversity and eco-criticism. An edited volume is to follow.

His work has been supported by a variety of fellowships including the International Fellowship Program of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (2022), a Getty Scholar residential fellowship at the Getty Research Institute (2021), a postdoctoral fellowship from the European Research Council with Global Horizons in Pre-Modern Art at the University of Bern (2019), the Anne van Biema Fellowship (postdoctoral) at the National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution (2014–15), and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship (predoctoral) at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (2012–2014).

At UCLA, he has taught seminars on time and narrative theory, print media in imperial Japan (1910–1945), fragmentation and decay, and medieval pictorial scrolls (emaki). In addition to a biannual survey, recurring lecture courses address gender in Japanese art, the history of print in Japan (8th c. to present), and modern and contemporary Japanese art (ca. 1850–present). He is a member of the First-Generation Faculty Initiative and is on the advisory boards for the CMRS Center for Early Global Studies, the Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies, the UCLA Center for Buddhist Studies, and the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. Outside the university, he serves as Secretary (2021–2024) to the Japan Art History Forum.

Prospective Graduate Students. I am open to advising innovative and dynamic students working in all periods (ancient to contemporary) of Japanese art history, broadly conceived. If interested in the program, feel free to email me directly.


Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

Recent Publications