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Insignificant Things in the Archives of Atlantic Slavery

March 28 @ 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm


A Friends of Art History Lecture: What forms of visual evidence can, and should, one use to materialize and memorialize the history of Atlantic slavery? In this talk, Matthew Rarey argues that this question, far from being a contemporary ethical challenge, was of critical importance to Africans and Indigenous people swept up in the Atlantic traffic of ideas and lives in the early eighteenth century. Critically analyzing a series of surreptitious and visually benign objects contained or referenced in colonial archives in Brazil and Portugal, Rarey suggests that mapping the visual culture of Atlantic slavery ethically requires engaging objects produced as challenges to, and archives of, their makers’ experiences of displacement and diaspora.

Matthew Rarey is Associate Professor of African and Black Atlantic Art History and the Chair of Art History at Oberlin College and Conservatory. He researches and teaches the art history of the Black Atlantic, with a focus on connections between West Africa, Brazil, and Portugal from the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries. His research looks to visual and material culture to centralize Africans’ contributions to histories of slavery, racial formation, religion, and commodity exchange. His first book, Insignificant Things: Amulets and the Art of Survival in the Early Black Atlantic, was published in 2023 by Duke University Press.

Matthew Rarey’s biography can be viewed at: https://www.oberlin.edu/matthew-rarey



March 28
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
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UWM Mitchell Hall, Room 195
3203 N Downer Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211 United States
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Art History Department
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