Photography, Human Bondage, and the
Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America
(Oxford University Press, 2019)
A virtual book talk with author
Moderated by Daniel DawsonDATE: Thursday, April 30, 2020
TIME: 5:30pm - 6:30 pm (EST)
Within a few years of the introduction of photography into the United States in 1839, slaveholders had already begun commissioning photographic portraits of their slaves. Exposing Slavery explores how photography altered and was, in turn, shaped by conflicts over human bondage. Drawing on an original source base that includes hundreds of unpublished and little-studied photographs of slaves, ex-slaves, free African Americans, and abolitionists, as well as written archival materials, the book puts visual culture at the center of understanding the experience of late slavery. It assesses how photography helped southerners to defend slavery, enslaved people to shape their social ties, abolitionists to strengthen their movement, and soldiers to pictorially enact interracial society during the Civil War. With diverse goals, these peoples transformed photography from a scientific curiosity into a political tool over only a few decades. This creative first book sheds new light on conflicts over late American slavery, while also revealing a key moment in the relationship between modern visual culture and racialized forms of power and resistance.
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Matthew Fox-Amato is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Idaho, where he teaches courses on nineteenth-century America, race and ethnicity, and visual and material culture. He published Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America with Oxford University Press in 2019. Exposing Slavery has so far been a finalist for two book prizes: the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Lincoln Prize and the Association of American Publishers PROSE Award. It has been reviewed widely – in outlets such as Boston Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Times Higher Education – and excerpted in Lapham’s Quarterly. Fox-Amato received his B.A. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in History, with a certificate in Visual Studies, at the University of Southern California, after which he held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.
A multi-talented artist, Daniel Dawson has worked as a photographer, filmmaker, curator, arts administrator, consultant and scholar. He has served as Curator of Photography, Film and Video at the Studio Museum in Harlem (NYC), Director of Special Projects at the Caribbean Cultural Center (NYC), Program Manager at the American Museum of Natural History (NYC) and Curatorial Consultant and Director of Education at the Museum for African Art (NYC). As a photographer, he has shown in over 35 exhibitions. In addition he has curated more than 70 exhibitions including Harlem Heyday: The Photographs of James Van Der Zee and The Sound I Saw: The Jazz Photographs of Roy DeCarava. Prof. Dawson has also been associated with many prize-winning films including Head and Heart by James Mannas and Capoeiras of Brazil by Warrington Hudlin. He has worked as a consultant for the Cooper Hewitt Museum, International Center for Photography, Lincoln Center, Ralph Appelbaum Associates and three different divisions of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. As a scholar, he has lectured at the House of World Cultures-Berlin, the Kit Tropenmuseum-Amsterdam, the University of California-Berkeley, University of Texas-Austin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, New School for Social Research, Columbia University, Princeton University and the Federal University of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro-Brazil. Prof. Dawson has also taught seminars on African Spirituality in the Americas at the University of Iowa, Columbia University, New York University and Yale University. He is currently a member of Kamoinge, a pioneering collective of African American photographers founded in 1963. In addition, he serves as a professor in the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department at Columbia University.
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