Call for Papers: Visualizing Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean, 16th-19th Centuries


Here is a call for papers for a one-day conference—Visualizing Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean, 16th to 19th centuries—to be held on May 29, 2018, at the Institute of Latin American Studies, School of Advanced Study, London, United Kingdon. The deadline for abstracts is January 31, 2018. The keynote speakers are Tamara J. Walker (University of Toronto) and Alejandro de la Fuente (Harvard University).

Description/Guidelines: Recent years have witnessed a rich wave of scholarship examining representations of Blackness in the visual cultures of the Atlantic world. This avenue of enquiry is particularly germane to Latin America and the Caribbean, home to the world’s largest African diasporic populations. Whilst the theme of black people’s invisibility is deeply inscribed in both the history and scholarship of the region, the study of visual and material culture presents new avenues for understanding both the complexities of the black experience, and the ways in which notions of Blackness and peoples of African descent have indelibly shaped the cultures and societies of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This conference invites scholars to reflect on the ways in which Blackness was imagined in the cultural production of the hispanophone, lusophone, and francophone Americas, from the 16th to the 19th centuries. We use Blackness 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.

We seek to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars working across the fields of visual and material culture, art history, cultural studies and history to 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. We invite papers that explore the myriad ways in which Blackness is configured and remade, through representations of Afro-descendants in the visual arts, and the production and use of material culture in black self-fashioning and collective identities.

Possible themes or lines of inquiry include, but are not limited to:

  •     Strategies of self-representation and self-fashioning
  •     Patronage, taste, display, and consumption
  •     Religious culture and black sanctity
  •     Enlightenment discourses, classification and the disciplinary gaze
  •     Slavery and abolition
  •     Republican iconographies and national imaginaries: regional ideologies of mestizajemesticagemmulataje and creole nationalism
  •     Visibility, hyper-visibility and invisibility
  •     Whitening, browning and blackening
  •     Imperial contexts and transatlantic themes/precedents

We welcome proposals for 20 minute presentations. Please send an abstract of up to 250 words and a CV to Helen Melling and Kathryn Santner at by 31 January 2018. Candidates will be informed of acceptance by 15th February.

For further information, please see the conference website:

Contact Email:



[Painting above : “Los tres mulatos de Esmeraldas” by Andrés Sánchez Galque (Ecuador, active ca. 1599), Museo Nacional del Prado.]

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