CFP: The Black Image in 19th Century Latin America

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CFP: The Black Image in 19th Century Latin America


Visual Culture Studies Section, Pre-LASA Workshop, Boston, 23rd May 2019


The nineteenth-century was a defining period in the construction and circulation of the Black image in Latin America. Visual culture played a foundational role in the formation of social, racial and national identities in the aftermath of the wars of Independence throughout the region. This highly transitional period witnessed the emergence of re-calibrated social hierarchies; the official rejection of colonial caste terminology, and the frequently drawn out process towards the abolition of slavery, were fundamental both to this re-calibration, and in shaping cultural and national discourses surrounding the continent’s African-descent population.


The ‘long nineteenth century’ also produced paradigmatic visual representations of Latin America’s African-descent populations - rooted in a typology of Black subjects as subservient, immoral, exotic and picturesque. These stereotypes, as seen through the romantic and ethnographic gaze of both foreign and local artists, would go on to have a lasting currency through their widespread repetition and circulation via popular media such as the watercolour and the lithograph. The reality of black freedom and agency was conceived as a threat both to economic prosperity and national homogeneity by the region’s ruling elites, one that had to be discursively contained and domesticated. This was contested in counter images forged by Afro-descendants in their daily self-fashioning, aided by new visual technologies and mediums such as photography, and collectively bolstered by the rise of the Black press in countries such as Brazil and Argentina.


This workshop aims to convene an interdisciplinary group of scholars working across the fields of visual and material culture, art history, cultural studies and history. We invite submission that explore how Blackness is configured and remade in the long nineteenth century, 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:

  • Enlightenment discourses, classification and the disciplinary gaze
  • Regional and transnational circulation and consumption of the Black image
  • Individual and collective Black self-fashioning
  • Slavery and abolition
  • Republican iconographies and national imaginaries: regional ideologies of mestizaje, mesticagem, mulataje and creole nationalism
  • Visibility, hyper-visibility and invisibility
  • Black patriots and patriotic iconography

We welcome proposals for 15 minute presentations. Please send an abstract of up to 250 words and a short bio to Helen Melling at by 20 January 2019. Candidates will be informed of acceptance by 20th February.