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?


CFP: CAA 2018/Los Angeles panel–The Photograph, Self-Representation & US Contemporary Art

Alternative Visions: The Photograph, Self-Representation, and Fact in Contemporary Art of the United States 

Chair(s): Natalie Zelt, The University of Texas at Austin,
As the editors of “Aperture” recently reminded their readers, “The need for artists to offer persuasive, alternative visions is more urgent than ever.”
In response to that need for creative dissent, this panel investigates the ways contemporary artists use the photograph and self-representation together to craft alternative visions and selves. The photograph’s tangled relationship to truth and identity make it a potent conceptual and compositional tool for artists to challenge the limits of both art historical and social categories. Designed to delineate and define, the photograph continues to circumscribe the visual limits of identity categories, including nationality, race, class, gender, and sexuality, well after art historians and cultural critics such as Allan Sekula, Martha Rosler, Sally Stein, and John Tagg called its documentary “truthiness” into question. Additionally, a swell of “post-photography” discourses, ranging from Geoffrey Batchen to Robert Shore, confound the boundaries of the medium, while curators and museums struggle to adapt.
“Alternative Visions” examines the many ways contemporary artists in the United States disrupt the photograph’s master narratives and traditional roles to create subversive, subjective, and contradictory representations of themselves that resist prevailing visual modes.
Presentations will consider an array of questions including: What is the relationship between the photograph and the self in a “post-identity,” “postfact,” and “post-photography” environment? What methods of dissent are evidenced in self-centered photographic practice and what might be their limits? In a contemporary cultural landscape untethered from conventional arbiters of fact, what spaces of resistance can artworks that deploy the photograph create?
For more on the College Art Association conference, go to CAA News Today.

Augustus Washington: Visible, Not Seen

Augustus Washington (1820/21-1875) was “the son of a South Asian immigrant” a formally enslaved black Virginian, according to this article published in The Dartmouth Alumni Magazine this spring. Washington studied at Dartmouth, entering with the class of 1847. There, on the Hanover, New Hampshire campus, Washington learned how to make daguerreotypes. Washington and Dempsey R. Fletcher were the only students of African descent at Dartmouth in 1843-44.

Washington’s portrait of John Brown (circa 1846-47) is well-known. Yet there are no confirmed images of Washington himself. Photo historians have been searching and writing about Washington for decades, and the published literature on Washington continues to grow.


“Advertisement from The Hartford Daily Courant, October 8, 1852. This ad shows the world having its picture taken at Washington’s studio.” – Image, Connecticut Historical Society

Wilson Jeremiah Moses’ Liberian Dreams: Back to Africa Narratives from the 1850s (Penn State University Press, 2010) provides the opportunity to hear Washington’s voice through his written words. Before his migration to Liberia in 1853, Washington wrote this letter to an US newspaper. In Liberia, Washington was a photographer, a sugar cane planter and landowner, and a politician. (Washington’s Dartmouth classmate, Dempsey R. Fletcher, mentioned above, also had lived in Liberia as boy and returned there after studying at Dartmouth.) The African Colonization Movement is a complex subject, and Washington’s images of its key figures helps us think about “what” Africa was and is.


Augustus Washington, Urias Africanus McGill, circa 1854-60. Image: Better Photography website 

Teaching Tool: Exploration of Appalachian Identity through Photography

I teach art history and art appreciation in the Department of Art and Design at Morehead State University in eastern Kentucky. Most of my students are first-generation college students, and many of them come from the economically-depressed counties within a short driving distance of my institution. Through in-class discussion and office hour chats, I have […]

via Appalachian Identities and Photography as Social Commentary — Art History Teaching Resources

EXH: Muslims in New York @ Museum of the City of New York

Muslims have been woven into the fabric of New York since the city’s origins as New Amsterdam, and the Museum is happy to share highlights from our collection which shed light on this deep history in our current exhibition, Muslim in New York. The size and diversity of New York’s Muslim community has continued to […]

via Muslim in New York: Highlights from the Photography Collection — MCNY Blog: New York Stories

FEL: Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow-Prints, Drawings, and Photographs @ RISD Museum

The Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design is pleased to announce a fellowship funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an outstanding junior scholar who wishes to pursue a curatorial career. The Mellon Fellow will be fully integrated into the Museum’s Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. The Fellow will have access to the museum collections and research libraries in the region and will enjoy all the professional privileges of the museum’s staff. The Fellow will be expected to participate in strengthening the Museum’s engagement with the academic curricula at Brown University and RISD.

Core Activities
• Work with the two department curators to foster collaboration with faculty at RISD, Brown University, and area colleges to encourage greater use of the collection in classes and individual study.
• Supervise the department’s active study room and act as the primary liaison between the department and faculty teaching from the collections, including making regular presentations to classes.
• Become familiar with the collection’s 28,000 works on paper and undertake research in area of expertise, leading to an exhibition to be presented in the third year, preferably in collaboration with a faculty member from Brown and/or RISD. Assist with departmental exhibitions as assigned.
• Conduct research to accurately catalogue new acquisitions, answer queries about the collection, and interact with scholars, students, and the public on collection matters.
• Give presentations to docents, the general public, and other museum constituents on the collection and exhibitions.
• Travel with the department’s curators to explore potential acquisitions and to attend scholarly conferences and relevant exhibitions.
• Oversee use of and access to the departmental storage area and ensure the special care, security, and proper handling of collections.
• Train and direct student employees and interns as needed.
• Assist with additional departmental activities as assigned.

The Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellowship is a full-time, limited term (3-year) benefited position. Travel and research funds are available. The appointment will begin as soon as possible. Applicants who complete their applications by January 9, 2017 will be given full consideration.

Ph.D or ABD in Art History or related field required. The Fellow should have a demonstrated interest in and knowledge of the history of prints, drawings, or photographs. Strong commitment to object-based teaching. Ability to handle original works of art with care. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and the ability to be a team player in an active office environment.

Museum and/or teaching experience. Knowledge of a second language is highly desirable.

The successful candidate will be required to meet our pre-employment background screening requirements.

To learn more about the RISD Museum visit To apply visit

Black Activism & Photography from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement (Sept. 17, 2016, BAMPFA, Berkeley, CA)

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Photo of Makeda D. Best, Ph.D.(

When Sojourner Truth declared that she sold the “shadow” (photographic portraits of herself) to support the “substance” (the causes of abolition and the rights of women), she recognized the power of images to shape opinion and create economic value. How did the former slave strategically deploy and circulate photography as a form of political activism? Join a conversation with UC Berkeley professors Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby (History of Art) and Leigh Raiford (African American Studies) and photographer/photography historian Makeda Best of the California College of the Arts on the uses to which photography has been put in the African American struggle for political change.

Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley. Grigsby specializes in eighteenth- through early twentieth-century French and American art and visual and material culture, particularly in relation to the politics of race, slavery, and colonialism. She is the author of three books: Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France (2002); Colossal: Engineering the Suez Canal, Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower and Panama Canal(2012); and Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadows and Substance(2015).

Leigh Raiford is associate professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. She is the author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle (2011).

Makeda Best, assistant professor in Visual Studies at the California College of the Arts, is an historian of photography. She is currently revising a book on the Civil War–era photographer Alexander Gardner, and coediting a volume titled Conflict, Identity and Protest in American Art.


See: BAMPFA Roundtable Discussion


Call for Papers: The Missing Chapter conference at the National Portrait Gallery/London, October 21, 2016

Call for papers: deadline Friday, July 22, 2016.

22_NPG_Black_ChroniclesBlack Chronicles at the National Portrait Gallery. Installation photo: Zoe Maxwell at 

CONF: Black Portraiture Revisited II – Feb. 19-20, 2016 @NYU

See Black Portraiture Conference @NYU Feb. 2016

ACRAH’s photostream

Check out this photograph of a uhaul van featuring the underground railroad as part of a new advertising campaign. Discuss.