Art After Slavery: Blackness and Early Modernism

Early modernism and blackness have always had an intimate, but troubled, relationship: intimate because it is hard to imagine a modernism without blackness either as a sign of difference or identity; troubled because modernism is always surrounded by the suspicion that its turn to blackness in the name of the primitive or exotic was opportunistic—an alibi for sustaining domination in the aesthetic realm. But in order to take the full measure of modernism, we have to go beyond primitivism and locate the movement in a complex moment defined by the afterlife of slavery. What was the effect of the end of slavery on forms of art and systems of representation? This lecture will reflect on what freedom—its promise and its betrayal—meant in the aesthetic sphere.

Simon Gikandi is Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University and President of the Modern Languages Association. He was editor of the PMLA from 2011-2016. His most recent book is Slavery and the Culture of Taste.

Event co-sponsored by the Maison Française, the Institute for African Studies, the Department of African-American and African Diaspora Studies, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

Maison Française East Gallery, Buell Hall

Columbia University

515 West 116th Street

New York, NY 10027











When: Thu., January 24, 2019 at 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Where: Columbia University
116th St. & Broadway
212-854-1754
Price: Free
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Early modernism and blackness have always had an intimate, but troubled, relationship: intimate because it is hard to imagine a modernism without blackness either as a sign of difference or identity; troubled because modernism is always surrounded by the suspicion that its turn to blackness in the name of the primitive or exotic was opportunistic—an alibi for sustaining domination in the aesthetic realm. But in order to take the full measure of modernism, we have to go beyond primitivism and locate the movement in a complex moment defined by the afterlife of slavery. What was the effect of the end of slavery on forms of art and systems of representation? This lecture will reflect on what freedom—its promise and its betrayal—meant in the aesthetic sphere.

Simon Gikandi is Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University and President of the Modern Languages Association. He was editor of the PMLA from 2011-2016. His most recent book is Slavery and the Culture of Taste.

Event co-sponsored by the Maison Française, the Institute for African Studies, the Department of African-American and African Diaspora Studies, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society.

Maison Française East Gallery, Buell Hall

Columbia University

515 West 116th Street

New York, NY 10027

Buy tickets/get more info now