Kristopher Kersey

A photo of Kristopher Kersey
E-mail: Phone: 310-206-6905 Office: Dodd Hall 247C

Assistant Professor

Fields of Interest: Arts of Japan, Material Processes, Historiography


  • PhD, University of California, Berkeley


Kristopher Kersey’s research focuses on the intersecting histories of Japanese art, design, and aesthetics. His work spans the premodern and modern eras, including both secular and Buddhist materials—with a particular interest in exploring the salience of these divisions. At present, he is at work on a book that proposes a new framework for the history of art by foregrounding the material processes of fragmentation, decay, and assemblage. His first book, Facing Images: Problems of Modernity in Japanese Art (under contract, Penn State University Press), set forth a critique of global modernity by focusing on issues such as montage, interface theory, collage, and semiotics in the secular and Buddhist manuscripts of twelfth century Japan. Various articles and chapters have addressed theory and historiography, the encounter with Europe ca. 1600, the modern trope of impermanence, death and manuscript culture ca. 1200, the figural aspects of poetic language, and the archival anxieties of the Anthropocene.

In 2023–2024, he will serve as William Andrews Clark Professor 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 and two post-doctoral positions. Its goal 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 will 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 (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– and 18th-Century Studies, and the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. Outside the university, he serves as Secretary (2021–2024) to the Japan Art History Forum.

Selected Publications