“Race,” Racism, and Representation in Ancient Italy: Aethiopians in the Visual Arts of the Roman Empire
Lecture by Sinclair Bell, Professor of Art History, University of Northern Illinois
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Co-Sponsored by UWM Classics Program, Dept of Art History and Dept of Anthropology together with the Milwaukee Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.
The visual and material culture of the Roman Empire provides an abundant record of encounters with or simply imaginings of foreign peoples. These images render visible complex formulations of ethnicity, social hierarchies, and power. This lecture surveys the ways in which imperial artists represented the peoples whom the Romans referred to as Aethiopians or Nubians (i.e., “Black” Africans) in a variety of visual media. The lecture also considers how and why these works have been (mis)interpreted or sometimes altogether ignored by ancient art historians, and proposes new ways of integrating them into future, critical histories of Roman art.