Latin Blackness in Parisian
Visual Culture, 1852-1932
by Lyneise E. Williams
(Bloomsbury Academic Publishers, 2019)
Join Lyneise E. Williams (Associate Professor of Art History at UNC–Chapel Hill) and
Arlene Dávila (Professor of Anthropology & American Studies,
Founding Director The Latinx Project at NYU) for a book talk.
Thursday, November 7th
6 - 8 pm
Institute of African American Affairs & Center For Black Visual Culture-NYU
14A Washington Mews, 1st floor space
Parisians’ representations of Latin American elites who traveled to France between 1852-1932 from their newly independent nations did not depict them as equals in a developing global economy. Rather, they were denigrated. Darkened skin etched onto images of those of European descent mitigated their ability to claim the privileges of their ancestral heritage; whitened skin—among other codes—imposed upon those who were Black, tempered their Blackness and rendered them relatively assimilable compared to colonial Africans, Blacks from the Caribbean, and African Americans. This study explores these themes and the understudied visual language used to portray Latin Americans in mid-nineteenth- to early twentieth-century Parisian popular visual media. It is rooted in the notion of Latinization, which connects France’s early nineteenth-century endeavors to create “Latin America”—an expansion of the French empire into the Latin-language-based Spanish and Portuguese Americas—to Parisians’ perceptions of this population. After identifying mid-to-late nineteenth-century Latinizing codes, I focus on shifts in Latinizing visuality through three case studies: depictions of popular Cuban circus entertainer, Chocolat; representations of Panamanian World Bantamweight Champion boxer, Alfonso Teofilo Brown; and paintings of Black Uruguayans by Pedro Figari, a Uruguayan artist, during his residence in Paris.
Co-sponsored by The Latinx Project at NYU.
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Lyneise E. Williams is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (PhD Yale 2004). She is the author of Latin Blackness in Parisian Visual Culture, 1852-1932, (February 2019, Bloomsbury Academic Publishers),which examines how Parisians’ visual iconography of Latin Americans in popular imagery inextricably links blackness to Latin American identity beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. Three case studies focusing on the imagery of Cuban circus entertainer, Chocolat, Panamanian World Bantamweight Champion boxer, Alfonso Teofilo Brown, and Black Uruguayans by Uruguayan painter, Pedro Figari, demonstrate the way this strategy was reconfigured in portrayals of phenotypically black Latin Americans, and argue for a nuanced reconsideration of blackness in early twentieth century Paris. In her current book project, Williams explores the intersection of sports, technology, fashion, masculinity, and the black male athletic body in 1920s and 30s Paris. Her third book project examines ideas about trauma, care, community, African American spirituality, and material culture as they converge in two cloth reliquaries made by an African American traditional healer in late 1920s Edgefield, South Carolina. In Fall 2016, Williams served as a Getty Scholar Fellow at the Getty Research Institute. She has published articles on the paintings of Uruguayan artist Pedro Figari, the depictions of Panamanian boxer Alfonso Teofilo Brown, as well as on African art and hip-hop jewelry. Chief Justice of the State of North Carolina Supreme Court, Cheri Beasley appointed Williams as a member of the Chief Justice Advisory Commission on Portraits. Williams has curated exhibitions on African art, and she is a member of the team selected from an international competition to design the North Carolina Freedom Monument Project in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Arlene Dávila is the Founding Director The Latinx Project at New York University and is also a Professor of Anthropology and American Studies. She studies the political economy of culture and media, consumption, immigration and geographies of inequality and race. These research interests grew out of her early work in Latinx art and culturally specific museums and spaces in New York City, and have developed through her continued involvement in Latinx advocacy and interest in creative industries across the Americas. She has authored six books and is currently writing Latinx Art: Artists, Markets and Politics forthcoming Fall 2020. Her books include El Mall: The Spatial and Class Politics of Shopping Malls in Latin America (University of California Press, 2016) and Culture Works: Space, Value and Mobility Across the Neoliberal Americas (NYU Press, 2012) among other works examining cultural politics across the Americas.
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