Title

THE NEGATION OF HISTORIC EXCLUSIVITY: REWRITING AND LEGITIMIZING BLACKNESS THROUGH NEO-SLAVE PORTRAITURE

Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

African American Studies

Advisor(s)

Casarae L. Gibson

Second Advisor

James H. Rolling, Jr.

Keywords

Eighteenth-nineteenth century portraiture, Identity Politics, Pan Africanism, Portraiture, Race and Representation, Triple Consciousness

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

This thesis project examines the cultural politics of legitimizing Blackness in the work of artists within the African, Caribbean, and Latin America diaspora. Through use of the Latin American casta paintings, the Caribbean colonial society paintings, and eighteenth and nineteenth century portraiture, the project examines how Blackness is re-institutionalized and legitimized into contemporary art. I examine how early representations of Blackness has created a standard for the way in which Blackness is controlled and re-institutionalized into a coloniality of power and eurocentrism. Through the works of Firelei Báez, Scherezade Garcia, Harmonia Rosales, Fabiola Jean-Louis, Sonia Boyce, and Beyoncé, we are able to see how each artist impregnates contrastive representations of Black agency through “neo-slave portraiture” within their works.

In the secondary portion of my project, I analyze “neo-slave portraiture” and how in the contemporary moment each artist revisits the legacy of colonialism and slavery within their work by renegotiating representations of Black agency. In doing so, I analyze these works through a method I coined, “neo-slave portraiture”; derived from Ishmael Reed’s 1976 novel Flight to Canada. Using portraiture as a core method within my research, I seek to unveil how contemporary artists, through the use of portraiture, are able to reject racialized “regimes of representation” through the production of their works.

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