Panel Discussion: African Diasporic Countervisualities


Moderated by Tina Campt, African Diasporic Countervisualities is a panel discussion with La Vaughn Belle, Dixa Ramírez, and Vanessa K. Valdés. The event takes place on Monday, February 11, 2019, 6:30pm at the Event Oval, The Diana Center, 3009 Broadway, New York, New York.

Description (Barnard Center for Research on Women): This panel challenges the overproduction of certain images of Caribbean men, women, and children that have allowed for dominant, often nationalist, narratives from the region. Instead, each speaker reveals how the subjects of the archives from which they draw exhibit their own agency in confronting those chronicles. Speaking about the Danish West Indies / the US Virgin Islands (La Vaughn Belle), the Dominican Republic (Dixa Ramírez), and the Puerto Rican community in New York (Vanessa K. Valdés), the panel will highlight inconvenient histories previously ignored, erased, silenced, ghosted.

Registration is preferred but not required. Registration will be open through the day of the event. Please consider making a contribution with your registration. Your support makes our programming possible. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

La Vaughn Belle is best known for working with the coloniality of the Virgin Islands, both in its past relationship to Denmark and its present one with the United States. She works in a variety of disciplines that include: painting, installation, photography, video and public interventions. Borrowing from elements of architecture, history and archeology Belle creates narratives that challenge colonial hierarchies and invisibility. She has exhibited her work in the Caribbean, the USA and Europe in institutions such as the Museo del Barrio (NY), Casa de las Americas (Cuba), the Museum of the African Diaspora (CA) and Christiansborg Palace (DK).  Her art is in the collections of the National Photography Museum and the Vestsjælland Museum in Denmark. Her work with colonial era pottery led to a commision with the renowned brand of porcelain products, the Royal Copenhagen. She is the co-creator of “I Am Queen Mary”, the artist-led groundbreaking monument that confronted the Danish colonial amnesia while commemorating the legacies of resistance of the African people who were brought to the former Danish West Indies. The project was featured in over 100 media outlets around the world including the NY Times, Politiken, VICE, the BBC and Le Monde. Belle holds a MFA from the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba and an MA and BA from Columbia University in NY. Her studio is based in the Virgin Islands.

Tina Campt is Claire Tow and Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Africana and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College-Columbia University. She is the author of three books: Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (2004), Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (2012), and Listening to Images (2017). She is a black feminist theorist of visual culture and contemporary art, and is completing a new collection of essays entitled, The New Black Gaze. Campt is currently in residence as Abigail R. Cohen Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris, and was recently appointed as a Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Dixa Ramírez is Assistant Professor of transnational African American literatures in the American Studies and English departments. Her first book, Colonial Phantoms: Belonging and Refusal in the Dominican Americas, from the 19th Century to the Present, argues that dominant Western discourses have ghosted Santo Domingo/the Dominican Republic despite its central place in the architecture of the Americas. She received her B.A. at Brown in Comparative Literature (focus on Japanese and Latin American literatures) and her Ph.D. at UC San Diego in Literature (focus on Hispanophone and Francophone Caribbean literatures). She comes back to Brown after a few years on the faculty at Yale University. A Mellon Mays Fellow, her work has been funded by several institutions, including the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the SSRC, and Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies.

Though her research focuses mostly on nineteenth- to twenty-first-century cultural texts (e.g, novels, films, architecture, photography, and performative acts), her undergraduate and graduate syllabi often span from 1492 to the present. Her favorite courses to teach include “Blackness in Latinx and Latin America,” “Zombies, Pirates, Ghosts, and Witches,” “Haiti in the trans-American Imaginary,” and “The African Diaspora Two Ways.”

Ramírez’s work has been published in Atlantic StudiesThe Black ScholarComparative LiteratureSmall AxeAvidly, and in the Dominican media. She is currently at work on her second book, In The Hills: Geographic Isolation and White Supremacy in Dominican and U.S. Nationalist Imaginaries, which considers the question of racial legibility, visibility, and surveillance at the turn of the twentieth century.

Vanessa K. Valdés is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at The City College of New York – CUNY. Her research interests include comparative studies of the literatures of the Americas, particularly Afro-Hispanic, African-American, Spanish Caribbean, and U.S. Latina/o Literatures. She currently serves as Book Review Editor of s/x salon, an online literary salon on Caribbean literature and culture. Her articles and reviews have appeared in such journals as Hispania, Chasqui, MELUS Journal, CLA Journal, Callaloo, PALARA, Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, LSE Review of Books, and Wadabagei. She is the editor of The Future Is Now: A New Look at African Diaspora Studies (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012) and Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora (SUNY Press, 2012). She is the author of Oshun’s Daughters: The Search for Womanhood in the Americas (SUNY Press 2014) and Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (SUNY Press 2017).

[Image above: La Vaughn Belle, “Upward Mobility” and “Learning To Be,” 2016. View photomontage series here.]


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