Richardson Symposium: Racial Masquerade in American Art and Culture - Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery - November 4-5, 2016

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November 4, 2016 to November 5, 2016
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Race Studies

The National Portrait Gallery cordially invites you and your colleagues to the upcoming Richardson Symposium Racial Masquerade in American Art and Culture organized by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw from the University of Pennsylvania. It takes place Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5. at the National Portrait Gallery. Registration is open through this link.

National Portrait Gallery Richardson Symposium: Racial Masquerade in American Art and Culture

Throughout American history, different forms of racial masquerade have been used to engage issues of difference and group identity. While this kind of dress up has sometimes been a celebratory act or used by oppressed communities to mock those in power, it has more often been employed in the opposite direction by those in power to dehumanize minorities and reassert existing control over them. In the 19th century, blackface minstrelsy and theatrical stage performance emerged as popular entertainments in the United States and parts of Latin America. In the 20th century, racial masquerade became a regular part of Hollywood film as white actors impersonated Native American and Asian-descended characters through the use of often grotesque makeup and mannerisms. This symposium will bring together scholars and artists who engage these histories in their work. It will also examine contemporary instances of racial masquerade in American culture and the way that such performances of false identity continue to shape the ways that Americans see themselves and others. 

Friday, Nov. 4

Keynote: Eric Lott, The Graduate Center at CUNY


Saturday, Nov. 5

Session One: Scholarly Papers

Introduction and end of panel questions moderation by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, University of Pennsylvania

Mia Bagneris, Tulane University
Janet Catherine Berlo, University of Rochester
Anthony W. Lee, Mount Holyoke College
Christopher J. Smith, Texas Tech University
Marcus Wood, University of Sussex

Session Two: Moderated Artists’ Conversation

Introduction by Jillian B. Vaum, University of Pennsylvania, and Moderation by Cherise Smith, The University of Texas at Austin

Michael Ray Charles, University of Houston
Beverly McIver, Duke University

Public Performance
5:30 p.m. Identify: Sheldon Scott

In this performance titled, Precious in Da Wadah, A Portrait of the Geechee revisit the ingenuity of enslaved Africans in the Gulalah and Geechee regions of costal South Carolina through the performance art of Sheldon Scott.


Richardson Symposium:
Racial Masquerade in American Art and Culture

Friday, Nov. 4, and Saturday, Nov. 5.

National Portrait Gallery 
Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium
Eighth and F streets N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
Contact Info: 

Jacqueline Petito - (202) 633-8505

Contact Email: