Peter Probst

Peter Probst

Academic Leave
(617) 627-2939
11 Talbot Avenue
Research/Areas of Interest:

Museum and Heritage Studies, African Arts, Institutional Theories, Value and Valuation, Historiography


  • Habilitation, University of Bayreuth, Germany, 2001
  • Dr. phil., Free University of Berlin, Germany, 1990
  • M.Phil., Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1984
  • M.A., Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany, 1983


I work at the intersection of art history, anthropology, and museum studies with a particular focus on the arts of Global Africa. My interests focus on relational and institutional approaches to the study of art. In my teaching and research, I try to combine object and subject-based perspectives. As I argue, value is not inherent to the object but to the quality of relations, an object enables or constitutes.

The topics of my earlier books ranged from the study of masked performances in Southeast Africa to the debate on African modernities, the iconoclasm of heritage, and the dynamics of modernism in Nigeria. My most recent books address the demand for decolonization in the field of African art studies: "National Museums in Africa" came out in 2021 with Routledge. Co-edited with Ray Silverman and George Abungu the volume explores the role and history of African national museums in the context of the current debates on restitution and decolonization. "What is African art? A Short History" came out in 2022 with the University of Chicago Press. It discusses the making, remaking, and unmaking of African art as a field of study from its colonial beginnings in the late 19th century to the decolonial present. The answer is a story about the making, remaking, and unmaking of African art as a field of study. "Art History and Anthropology - Modern Encounters, 1870 and 1970," will be published in Fall 2023 with Getty Publications. Co-edited with Joseph Imorde the volume interrogates the complex relationships of art history and anthropology during the entangled periods of modernism and colonialism.

I am currently starting a new project on postmigrant dynamics, decolonization, and the inheritance of loss with a special focus on the history of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin.