Christopher B.  Steiner

Christopher B.  Steiner

Lucy C. McDannel '22 Professor of Art History and Anthropology
Director of the Museum Studies Program
Acting Chair of Art History (Fall 2022)

Joined Connecticut College: 1997

B.A., M.A., Johns Hopkins University
M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University


African art and material culture

Art market and collecting

Images of race and "otherness" in visual culture

Offbeat museums and visionary art

Censorship and museum controversies

Vernacular photography

Christopher Steiner teaches a range of interdisciplinary courses in art history, anthropology, and museum studies. His classes cover topics on the traditional and contemporary arts of Africa; on the visual representation of race and ethnic identity in art and film; on the history of museums, as well as on current museum controversies; on kitsch or "bad" art emerging from the margins, cracks and corners of the canonical art world; and on the history and practice of studio and vernacular photography.

Christopher Steiner, with a red balloon, sitting on the moon, tintype
Christopher Steiner

His field research in West Africa focused on the construction of value and meaning in art through transnational exchange, resulting in numerous articles and his award-winning book African Art in Transit (Cambridge University Press, 1994). He is also the co-editor of Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds (University of California Press, 1999), Perspectives on Africa: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), Africa in the Market: Twentieth-Century Art from the Amrad African Art Collection (Royal Ontario Museum, 2016), and A Companion to the Anthropology of Africa (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018).

Steiner serves on the Board of Trustees of the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, as well as on the Advisory Council of both the Florence Griswold Museum and the Fairfield University Art Museum. He has been a curatorial consultant for numerous museum exhibitions and collection-management projects. At the Lyman Allyn Art Museum he was curator of The Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian (2004); Spirits of the Forest, People of the Herd: African Art in Two Worlds (2014); and “It’s Only a Paper Moon”: Souvenir Photography in America, 1870-1950 (2017).

Currently, Steiner is working on a book for the Peabody Museum (Harvard University) about their collection of Liberian masks and material culture acquired in the mid-20th century by American medical missionary Dr. George W. Harley. He is also developing new exhibition and book projects on “reality” and “illusion” in early studio and arcade photography.

View the art history department website and the museum studies certificate program website.

Contact Christopher B.  Steiner

Mailing Address

Christopher B.  Steiner
Connecticut College
Box # ART HISTORY/Cummings Arts Center
270 Mohegan Ave.
New London, CT 06320


211 Cummings Arts Center