Comparative Inequality & Inclusion Cluster Symposium | Race, Inequality, and Visual Culture: New Questions, New Voices


Friday, December 3, 2021, 9:30am to 2:30pm



The increased relevance of visual culture within contemporary life has correlated with a rise in scholarly attention to visual production. This symposium taps into this widespread shift towards the visual, exploring recent developments in scholarly studies that argue for the centrality of visual arts to the question of race. It brings together a group of scholars whose works aim to rethink their fields from the perspectives, experiences, and struggles of Africans and African descendants, questioning scholarly traditions that have been shaped by inequality and exclusion.

The panels explore the role of visual arts as a key force in the making of political and social life: In the production of racialized identities, the (un)making of colonization and the decolonial, the power of archives and art museums in shaping structures of racial inequality, among other issues.   

9:30-10:00 a.m. EST Welcome and Opening Remarks

10:00-11:45 a.m. EST Panel 1: Rethinking Art in German Colonialism                                                  

This panel brings together scholars whose work rethinks the role of art in expanding and sustaining colonial rule, as well as the afterlives of colonial artistic production in the contemporary period. Scholars discuss the absence of Blackness from discussions on German state violence, photography as stabilizer of race under National Socialism, restitution debates in colonial museums and, more theoretically, the interconnection between capitalist modes of extraction and photographic form. Across different forms of artistic production, deployment and afterlives in German colonialism, the panel centers around the question of how art – especially photography – was pivotal in fixing racial meaning and stabilizing imperial power.  

Commentator: Laura Wexler, Yale University


  • A.K.M. Skarpelis, Social Science Research Center Berlin; Eikones, University of Basel. “Horror Vacui: Classificatory Misalignment and Hyper-Racialization in National Socialist Photographic Practice.”
  • Zoe Samudzi, University of California, San Francisco, "The Sculptural Image: Imperial German Racecraft Across Visual Mediums ."
  • Kevin Coleman, University of Toronto, Notes from Capitalism and the Camera on Photography, Race, and Extraction”
  • Matthew Vollgraff, Warburg Institute, University of London and Mirjam Brusius, German Historical Institute London. "Museums and Race Science in the Kaiserreich."
  • Lorena Rizzo, University of Basel, "German photography in colonial Namibia in the 1930's."

11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. EST Break                                                                                                              

12:30-2:15 p.m. EST Panel 2: Afro-Latin American Visual Arts: The Making of a New Field    

This panel presents scholars whose works contribute to recent efforts to establish Afro-Latin American Arts as a recognized field of academic study. It involves research on both Afro-Latin American authorship and on visual representation; research on the art created by Afro-Latin Americans, and on the artistic production that recreates African-related themes and that interprets blackness and racial difference in the region. The panel covers a wide geographical and temporal framework – from the colonial period to present day; from diverse spaces including Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, to Lima –, discussing some of the main questions, challenges, and future projections driving the expansion of the field in its goal of better understand the power and limitations of visual arts in dismantling racial inequality across Latin America.  

Commentator: Tamara Walker, University of Toronto  


  • Cary Aileen García Yero, University of Toronto; Harvard University, "Pictorial Segregation: Racial Segregation and Domestic Imagery in Cuban Figurative Art, 1940s-1950s."
  • Abigail Lapin Dardashti, University of California, Irvine, “The Sea is History:” Spectral Narratives and Transnational Belonging in the Art of Édouard Duval-Carrié and Scherezade García.”   
  • Ximena Gómez, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, "Black Confraternities and the Creation of Religious Visual Culture in Colonial Lima."
  • Kleber Amancio, Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia, “The History of White-Brazilian Art and the limits of black humanity.”

2:15-2:30 p.m. EST  Closing Remarks by Suzanne Blier, Harvard University 

Advanced registration required.


For more information, contact event organizers Cary García Yero and Anna Skarpelis

Co-Sponsored by the Department of History, University of Toronto and
Eikones- Center for the Theory and History of the Image, University of Basel



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