Afrotropes and Art History’s Global Imagination

Writing framed

“…an afrotropic analytic requires methodologies mindful of temporal moments and material markers of different states of appearance and disappearance. The forms themselves continue to morph; meaning arises in the interstices, in moments of transmutation and exchange, so that art historical inquiry must be alert to the whole ecology that the afrotrope both participates in and actively produces.”
– Huey Copeland and Krista Thompson, in “Afrotropes: a Conversation with Huey Copeland and Krista Thompson, with Leah Dickerman, David Joselit, and Mignon Nixon”

This symposium will explore the afrotrope as an intervention into global art historiography. Huey Copeland and Krista Thompson introduced the afrotrope as an analytical framework to examine the circulation of motifs that feature centrally in African Diaspora aesthetics. The afrotrope’s facilitation of alternative theoretical models beyond Western epistemologies structured by linear conceptions of time and space is indebted to many different intellectual histories, including Mikhail Bakhtin’s ‘chronotope’ and its subsequent adoption in the work of Paul Gilory; as well as Hortense Spillers concept of the ‘pornotrope’. As such, the afrotrope requires a rethinking of “African” art history’s relationship to “Western” art history, and raises important questions about the transmission and translation of images and image cultures within and beyond the African Diaspora.

Throughout the symposium, we will interrogate the afrotrope as a site of novel intersections for scholarly inquiry, in cross-disciplinary conversations driven by art historians and contemporary artists engaged with new materialisms, postcolonial and decolonial studies, as well as critical race, feminist and queer theory.

Organised by Sarah Hegenbart (Technical University Munich) and Levi Prombaum (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art)


2:00pm – Introductions
Sarah Hegenbart (Technical University Munich) and Levi Prombaum (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art); Huey Copeland (University of Pennsylvania) and Krista Thompson (Northwestern University) 

2:30pm – Break  

2:40pm – Presentations followed by Q&A 
Janine Francois (Central Saint Martins); Meleko Mokgosi (Yale School of Art); Elvan Zabunyan (Rennes University) 

3:40pm – Break  

3:50pm – Presentations followed by Q&A 
Dhanveer Singh Brar (University of Leeds); Evan Ifekoya; Blue Curry  

4:50pm – Break  

5:00pm –Presentations followed by Q&A 
Amy Mooney (Columbia College) and Giulia Smith (Oxford); Kader Attia  

5:45pm – Break  

6:00pm – Keynote Conversation 
Huey Copeland (University of Pennsylvania) and Krista Thompson (Northwestern University)

This event has passed.

23 Apr 2021

Friday 23rd April, 2 pm - 7pm BST


Booking closes 30 minutes before the event start time.

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