Universiteit Leiden

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Wilfried van Damme

University Lecturer

Dr. W.J.L.M. van Damme
+31 71 527 1746

Fields of interest

  • world aesthetics
  • world art studies
  • the anthropology of aesthetics
  • the anthropology of art
  • the history of the Western study of art and aesthetics outside the West


Wilfried van Damme’s initial interests in African conceptions of beauty and ugliness have eventually led him to develop a systematic anthropological approach to aesthetics (empirical, contextual, and intercultural comparative). In the ongoing attempt to understand the place of the aesthetic in human existence, he now also incorporates bio-evolutionary perspectives and is interested in the reflections on aesthetics offered by various systems of thought in time and space. For the last few years, his focus has been on world art studies: the global and multidisciplinary study of visual artistic phenomena. Van Damme’s present research includes the historiography of the Western scholarly interest in art and aesthetics outside the West.

Curriculum vitae

Wilfried van Damme (Hulst, 1960) studied Art History and Archaeology at the University of Ghent and holds a postgraduate degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Leuven. He obtained his PhD from the University of Ghent in 1993 with a dissertation outlining an anthropological approach to aesthetics. Van Damme has been a part-time lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities since 2004. He was a Visiting Fellow at the University of East Anglia (2000) and a Visiting Professor of African Art at the University of Ghent (2005-2013). Between 2010 and 2014 Van Damme served as Extraordinary Professor at the University of Tilburg, on a chair endowed by the Treub Foundation for Tropical Research.

Key publications

Siberian Ornaments, German Scholars, and a Transitional Moment in the Anthropoloy of Art c. 1900, Art History 38(3), 2015, pp. 512-35.

Ernst Grosse and the Birth of the Anthropology of Aesthetics,  Anthropos 107 (2), 2012, pp. 497-509. 

World Art Studies: Exploring Concepts and Approaches. Amsterdam: Valiz, 2008 (co-editor, with Kitty Zijlmans). 

World Aesthetics: Evolution, Culture, and Reflection.  Compression vs. Expression: Containing and Explaining the World’s Art, ed. John Onians, pp. 151-87. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. 

Universality and Cultural Particularity in Visual Aesthetics.  Being Humans: Anthropological Universality and Particularity in Transdisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Neil Roughley, pp. 258-83. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2000. 

Beauty in Context: Towards an Anthropological Approach to Aesthetics. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996.

University Lecturer

  • Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • KG Moderne beeldende kunst

Work address

Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 2.22



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