Anna Arabindan-Kesson Lecture


Hank Willis Thomas, Black Hands, White Gold, 2014

Hank Willis Thomas,
Black Hands, White Cotton, 2014

Black Bodies, White Gold: cotton, art and the materiality of race

A public lecture by Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Assistant Professor of Black Diasporic Art, Princeton University.

This talk examined the visual relationship between the cotton trade and the representation of blackness in American culture, using historical case studies and contemporary art. Juxtaposing contemporary interventions with historical moments, it examined how cotton materially influenced the way black Americans were seen, and represented themselves, as both enslaved and free. It argued that tracing this relationship deepens our understanding of the intersections of vision, value and subjectivity in the production of racial identity in nineteenth-century America, and also today. 

Anna Arabindan-Kesson is an Assistant Professor of Black Diasporic Art with a joint appointment in the Departments of African American Studies and Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. Born in Sri Lanka, she completed her first undergraduate degree in New Zealand and worked as a Registered Nurse in Australia and the UK before completing her BA (Hons) at UWA and her PhD in African American Studies and Art History at Yale University. Her first book, under contract with Duke University Press is called Black Bodies White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World. It examines the connections between art, slavery and colonialism in the nineteenth century and in contemporary art practice. She is at work on a second book entitled Beyond Recovery: Reframing the Dialogues of Early African Diasporic Art and Visual Culture 1700-1900 with Professor Mia Bagneris of Tulane University for which they have been awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowship.

13 August 2018