Vision and Value: Cotton and the Materiality of Race

Speaker: Anna Arabindan-Kesson - Assistant Professor, Princeton University

Photograph of stack of cotton made into a sculpture

This talk examines the visual relationship between the cotton trade and the representation of the black body in American culture, using historical case studies and contemporary art. Juxtaposing contemporary interventions with historical moments, it examines how cotton materially influenced the way black bodies were seen, and how black Americans saw themselves, as both enslaved and free Americans. It argues 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 jointly appointed in the Departments of African American Studies and Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. Born in Sri Lanka, she completed undergraduate degrees in New Zealand and Australia and worked as a Registered Nurse before completing her PhD in African American Studies and Art History at Yale University. Her first book, under contract with Duke University Press and called Black Bodies White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World is due in 2020.

Organised by Professor David Peters Corbett (The Courtauld) and Dr Esther Chadwick (The Courtauld) 

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20 Jan 2020

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London