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Visualizing Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean, 16th-19th Centuries

Institute of Latin American Studies

School of Advanced Study, London

29 & 30 May 2018

Convenors: Helen Melling (ILAS) & Kathryn Santner (ILAS)

Sponsored by the Cassal Trust and the Institute of Latin American Studies

 

Recent years have witnessed a rich wave of scholarship examining representations of Blackness in the visual cultures of the Atlantic world. This avenue of enquiry is particularly germane to Latin America and the Caribbean, home to the world’s largest African diasporic populations. Whilst the theme of black people’s invisibility is deeply inscribed in both the history and scholarship of the region, the study of visual and material culture presents new avenues for understanding both the complexities of the black experience, and the ways in which notions of Blackness and peoples of African descent have indelibly shaped the cultures and societies of Latin America and the Caribbean. We use Blackness in its broadest sense, encompassing its hegemonic configuration as a signifier of difference, its articulation as a largely fluid category across Latin America and the Caribbean, and its transformative capacity through acts of agency, self-fashioning and political and cultural resistance.

This conference brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars working across the fields of visual and material culture, art history, cultural studies and history to explore the multiplicity of meanings ascribed to Blackness across the region; from early modern, colonial conceptions rooted in lineage and bloodlines, to the pseudo-scientific construction of race as an immutable, material and biological ‘fact’ in the 19th century. The aim is to explore the myriad ways in which Blackness is configured and remade, through representations of Afro-descendants in the visual arts, and the production and use of material culture in black self-fashioning and collective identities.

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