On Monday, October 1st, CLACS hosted the first speaker of its Fall 2012 Colloquium Series: New Perspectives on Colonial Latin America and the Caribbean. The series welcomes scholars from universities around the country to discuss topics such as racial classification and mixture, codes of gender and sexuality, the rise of capitalism, subaltern insurgency, and the legacies of slave regimes. The first speaker was Edward J. Sullivan, the Helen Gould Sheppard Professor of the History of Art at the Institute of Fine Arts and the Department of Art History at NYU. The author of over thirty books and exhibition catalogues on subjects relating to the visual arts in the Iberian world from the colonial era to modern times, Sullivan has also curated numerous exhibitions of Latin American and Caribbean art in museums in the U.S., Latin America and Europe.
Sullivan’s lecture, titled “Aspects of Visual Culture in the Colonial Caribbean”, was very well attended, with a few latecomers resigned to standing. I thought the event was a good mix of lecture and discussion, with plenty of time for questions at the end. Sullivan used a powerpoint presentation to show us examples of the paintings and genres that he was referring to. His presentation was divided into four sections: visuality of contact, indigenous peoples, establishment of architectural design, and the late colonial era.
One point that stuck with me were the fact that wealthy Europeans collected art and other artifacts from the Caribbean to put on display in their “wonder cabinets”.
This struck me as problematic because these Europeans simply gathered these items because they looked nice in their homes, not because they had any idea of their cultural or religious significance to the people they were produced by. This related to the conflicting feelings the Europeans had regarding the people of the Caribbean: desire vs fear. While the Europeans desired the beauty and the unknown of the region, they also feared it because it was unknown to them. Another fact that was particularly interesting to me was the idea of “Caribbeanness”, the circulation of knowledge within the region, and whether or not a shared identity exists in the Caribbean.
Last Monday, October 8th, Joanne Rappaport joined us as the second Colloquium speaker. Rappaport spoke on “Understanding Mestizaje in Early Colonial Latin America” , specifically on the meaning of mestizaje and what this term signified to notions of gender, race, and class in colonial Colombia. Rappaport teaches Anthropology and Latin American Cultural Studies at Georgetown University and her current work focuses on mestizaje in early-colonial Bogota.
I’m interested to hear what you all think of the colloquium series so far! What did you take away from Sullivan and Rappaport’s presentation?
And, don’t forget to come out for the third night of colloquium next Monday, October 22nd! Pete Sigal’s talk is titled, “Who Was This ‘Devil Who Deceived Eve’? Sex, Sacrifice, and Sixteenth-Century Aztec Masculinity”. Sigal is an associate professor of Latin American history at Duke University. He will be speaking at 6pm in Room 324 of King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, 53 Washington Square South. See you then!
Elizabeth Con is an MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU