Jordan Fenton

Assistant Professor
Art History

PhD, University of Florida
BA and MA, Kent State University

Jordan Fenton

Dr. Jordan A. Fenton, Assistant Professor of Art History, received a BA and MA from Kent State University before earning a PhD in art history from the University of Florida in 2012. Before coming to Miami, Professor Fenton was on faculty at Kendall College of Art and Design, Ferris State University, from 2011-2015.

Professor Fenton is a specialist of African Art History, with an emphasis on the visual and performed expression of Nigerian masquerade arts, secret societies, esoteric knowledge systems, funerary rituals and installations, dress, economics and ways in which so-called “traditional” arts and artists operate in metropolitan cities. At Miami, Fenton teaches introductions on non-Western art and courses and seminars exploring Africa and its Diaspora.

Professor Fenton's 19 months of ongoing fieldwork investigation into the art and culture of Calabar, capital city of Cross River State, Nigeria, was carried out between 2008-2018. Research was conducted as a Fulbright-Hays scholar (2009-2010), Foreign Language Area Studies fellow (2008 and 2009), at the Smithsonian Institution in residence at the National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C. (2011), and more recently through various programs available at Miami. During his time in Calabar, Fenton was invited to be initiated into the six secret masquerade societies he studied, adopted as a son by a local king, conferred with the rank of chief, and honored with lengthy apprenticeships into nsibidi, an imaged and performed esoteric knowledge system of the Cross River region.

Dr. Fenton presents his work and convenes panels at professional conferences such as College Art Association, African Studies Association, the Triennial Symposium on African Art and Midwest Art History society. He actively publishes in peer-reviewed journals, edited volumes, and exhibition catalogues. He is currently working towards a monograph tentatively titled Performing City: Masquerades, Modernity and Money in a Nigerian Metropolis.

Selected Publications


“Expressive Currencies: Artistic Transactions and Transformations of Warrior-Inspired Masquerades In Calabar.” African Arts, Vol. 52: 1 (2019).

“Sustainable Futures: Ekpenyong Bassey Nsa and the Study of Traditional-Based African Artists.” African Arts, Vol. 50: 4 (2017).

“Masking and Money in a Nigerian Metropolis: the Economics of Performance in Calabar.” Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Vol. 10: 2 (2016).

“Follow the Money: Economics and African Art.” Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Vol. 10:2 (2016).

Edited Volumes

Guest editor for special issue on “African art and Economics.” Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture, Vol. 10: 2 (2016).

Book Chapters

“Nyoro Masquerade as a Hunt for Modernity: A View from a West African City” in Behind the Masks of Modernism: Global Perspectives and Transnational Perspectives, eds. Andrew R. Reynolds and Bonnie Ross, University of Florida Press, 2016.

Entries for Exhibition Catalogs and Anthologies

“Efik Religion,” in African Religions: Beliefs and Practices Through History, ABC-CLO Greenwood publications, 2018.

“Knowledge in Motion: Reading and Performing Ukara Nsibidi,” in Ukara: Ritual Cloth of the Ekpe Secret Society, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2015

“Skin-Covered Crest of a Young Women.” In Refined Eye, Passionate Heart: African Art from the Leslie Sacks Collection, ed. Amanda Maples, Skira Publishing, 2013

“Displaying the Ostentatious: Contemporary Chieftaincy Dress and the Ebonko Costume from Calabar, Nigeria.” In Africa Interweave: Textile Diasporas, ed. Susan Cooksey, Gainesville: Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, 2011

Book Reviews

Review of The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo (University of North Carolina Press) by Cecile Fromont. College Art Association Reviews (2017).

Review of A Bird Dance Near Saturday City: Sidi Ballo and the Art of West African Masquerade by Patrick R. McNaughton, in African Arts 44.2 (2011).