Panel Accepted for Harvard’s BLACK PORTRAITURE[S] IV: The Color of Silence

A panel I submitted to Harvard University’s BLACK PORTRAITURE[S]: The Color of Silence conference has been accepted; joining me on the panel are will fellow scholars (and friends) Yesenia Fernandez Selier (New York University) and Nichelle Calhoun. Our panel is called, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Race, Space and the Memorialization of Black Bodies.” 

This conference brings together artists, activists, and scholars to:

reflect on the visual expressions of national imaginaries and political ideologies that negate racial differences and render black subjects invisible. Such ideologies are prevalent in Latin America and the Caribbean, where metaphors of mixture (mestizaje or mestiçagem) and racial harmony ignore inequality and discrimination. Similar formulations are to be found elsewhere, however, as in republican France, or among proponents of a post-racial United States, or in references to a South African “rainbow nation”, or in Jamaica’s well-known “out of many, one people” motto.

Here’s a description of our panel: “Official memorials and commemorations can serve to legitimize what Jean Muteba Rahier calls a “racial/spatial order,” as evidenced by current debates and violence over the removal of Confederate monuments in the U.S. How—and where–are black lives commemorated and memorialized in ways that make them both visible and invisible: hidden in plain sight? How do (or have) social actors use(d) these forms of public memory to contest, subvert or reinforce racial/spatial orders?”

Selier will present on the complex ideological and racial/spatial maneuvers that produced the Cuban blackface character “El Negrito” as a memorial of the historical figure Jose Antonio Aponte (Aponte organized one of the largest slave conspiracies of his time). Calhoun, an independent researcher working with the Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County, will share her experience working with rural African-American Virginians to research black heritage, and her accidental discovery of the home and land once belonging to her own ancestors. I will present on the racial politics of memorialization in Little Havana’s “heritage district,” including the creative ways in which Afro-Cubans are creating their own commemorations and challenging the invisibilization of black bodies.

Our fellow presenters will be covering a range of historical and contemporary topics, such as biennales, individual artists and collectives, sites of memory, art markets, exhibitions, movements, politics, tourism, Afrofuturism, fashion, dance, music, film, art, and photography.

The conference is organized by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

You can attend … for free! Register here before March 22, 2018.

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