Roma and African Americans share a common struggle, say Cornel West and Margarete Matache

Cornel West has co-authored an article with Margareta Matache, a Roma rights activist and scholar: it was published in The Guardian last Tuesday. As is always the case with Guardian comments, these are as illuminating to read as the article itself. So are the silences of removed and presumably wack comments: there must be at least a half dozen iterations of “This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards.”

It’s been 25 years since West’s Race Matters was first published in 1998; a new edition with a forward by West. In a new introduction for this anniversary edition, West writes: “Race matters in the twenty-first century are part of a moral and spiritual war over resources, power, souls, and sensibilities.” The introductory chapter focuses on US history–distant and past–and the shout outs are issued mostly to US-based academics and activists. Yet as he has for the last decades, West makes his target imperialism which is phenomenon worked out in a number of national varieties. It’s no doubt useful to call out imperialism in the name of anti-racism: West writes that “[r]ace matters are an integral part–though not sole part–of empire matters” and that “imperial democracy has its own structures of domination.”

A decisive turn to critical race art history in Europe was evident in Saturday’s College Art Association conference panel, “Critical Race Art Histories in German, Scandinavia, and Central Europe,” sponsored by the Historian of German, Scandinavian, and Central European Art and Architecture, which, like ACRAH, is a CAA Affiliated Society.

 

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A page from Herman Lundborg’s The Swedish Nation and Racial Types (1921), posted at Anthroscape.

This constellation of images is interesting not only because of the project to illustrate perceived mixed race and mixed ethnic appearances, Casta painting-like, but also because some subjects were presented frontally and in profile while others are not. Is “gipsy-ness” obvious enough in the top right frontal portrait? We can head back to Allan Sekula’s “The Body and the Archive” , an examination of the taxonomic photo. Yet, there was something else happening in the many nineteenth- and twetienth-century drawings and prints. (A Google Image search will yield a good number of these representations.) Seems like many Western artists chose the 3/4 profile view to demonstrate ethno-racial particularity. Why? One ear tells all? The shadow on one cheek is more than enough?

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Author: Jacqueline Francis

Writer, teacher, curator, and arts consultant in San Francisco, California. Follow me on Twitter @JackieFrancisSF

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