In recent years, a rich wave of scholarship has been examining representations of ‘blackness’ in the visual cultures of the Atlantic world. It is an avenue of enquiry particularly germane to Latin America and the Caribbean, home to the world’s largest African diasporic populations, and allows us to understand how peoples of African descent and notions of ‘blackness’ have indelibly shaped the regions’ cultures.

Taking place over two days at Senate House (29–30 May), Visualising ‘blackness’ in Latin America and the Caribbean, 16th–19th centuries brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from fields such as visual and material culture, art history, cultural studies and history. They will 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.

While the theme of black people’s invisibility is engraved in the history and scholarship of Latin America and the Caribbean, the study of visual and material culture presents new avenues for understanding the complexities of the black experience.

Therefore, the aim of this conference with a keynote from Dr Tamara J Walker, a historian of slavery and gender in Latin America at the University of Toronto, is to investigate the myriad ways in which ‘blackness’ is configured and remade. It will explore representations of Afro-descendants in the visual arts, and the production and use of material culture in black self-fashioning and collective identities.

For the purpose of the conference, ‘blackness’ is used 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.

Tickets:  £30 / Students:  £15. This includes refreshments and lunch over the two days.

When: 29–30 May 2018, 10am–4pm
Who: Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) and the Cassel Trust
Where: Court Room, first floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
ConvenorsHelen Melling and Kathryn Santner (ILAS)

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Image: ‘Los mulatos de Esmeraldas’, by Andrés Sánchez Galque, from Quito, 1599