The Black Room: Revisiting “Blackness” in the Global 21stCentury presents…

“Afromodern versus Post-Black? A Diasporic Historiography for African American Art”

Kobena Mercer, Professor in History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University

Monday, April 27th

308A Doe Library


Lecture Abstract:

Scholarship in African American art history has flourished between 2000 and 2015, yet this was also when “post-black” gained currency to suggest race no longer matters in culture and society. Arguing that “Afromodernism,” a term Robert Farris Thompson coined in 1991, offers a more flexible analytical tool for diaspora-based research, this paper argues that conceptual resources for such an undertaking are nothing new but have been waiting for us in the picture book Alain Locke published in 1940, The Negro in Art.

Kobena Mercer is a Professor in History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. His teaching and research focusses on the visual arts of the black diaspora, examining African American, Caribbean, and Black British artists in modern and contemporary art, with a focus on cross-cultural aesthetics in transnational contexts where issues of race, sexuality, and identity converge.  

His first book, Welcome to the Jungle (1994), introduced new lines of inquiry in art, photography, and film, and his work features in several interdisciplinary anthologies including Art and Its Histories (1998), The Visual Culture Reader (2001) and Theorizing Diaspora (2003). He initiated and edited the Annotating Art’s Histories series, published by MIT and INIVA, bringing a global perspective to modernist art history and the titles are Cosmopolitan Modernisms (2005), Discrepant Abstraction (2006), Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures (2007), and Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers (2008). 

Professor Mercer is an inaugural recipient of the 2006 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing awarded by the Sterling and Francise Clark Art Institute in Massachussetts. His next book, Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s, is a collection of essays forthcoming from Duke University Press, and also published in 2014 is, “New Practices, New Identities: Hybridity and Globalization,” the closing chapter in The Image of the Black in Western Art, Volume V, The Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press)

About The Sponsors

The Black Room: Revisiting “Blackness” in the Global 21st Century

UC-Berkeley History of Art Department

The Institute of International Studies