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The Seminar in Epistemologies of Material Culture with Paul H.D. Kaplan, Purchase College, SUNY

Tuesday, September 28, 12:15–1:15 pm, on Zoom

Paul Kaplan presents a talk entitled, “From Stone to Parian: The African American Sculptor Eugène Warburg in Europe, 1853–1859.”

Kaplan writes, “While the transatlantic career of the sculptor Edmonia Lewis is now relatively well known, that of her African American predecessor Eugène Warburg is far less familiar. Born into slavery in New Orleans in 1825–1826, Warburg was the son of a German Jewish immigrant and a mixed-race, enslaved mother. Manumitted as a child, Warburg trained as a sculptor in marble, had some success in his native city, and arrived in Europe in 1853. In Paris, London, and Rome, Warburg enjoyed the support and encouragement of both important pro-slavery American diplomats as well as famous American and English anti-slavery figures such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Duchess of Sutherland. Warburg’s most striking work is a small sculptural illustration of two of the characters in Stowe’s Dred (1856), a Black man and a white child. It was executed in the new medium of Parian, then being promoted by Stowe as ideal for middle class collectors. This remarkable work transforms our understanding of Warburg’s career and influence.”

Paul H. D. Kaplan is professor of art history at Purchase College, SUNY. He is the author of The Rise of the Black Magus in Western Art (1985) and of numerous essays on European images of Black Africans and Jews. He served as project scholar for the artist Fred Wilson’s “Speak of Me as I Am,” an installation in the American Pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale. In 2008 and 2012 he was a fellow of the Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is a major contributor to volumes two, three, and four of Harvard University Press’s The Image of the Black in Western Art (new ed., 2010–12). His new book, Contraband Guides: Race, Transatlantic Culture and the Arts in the Civil War Era (Penn State Press, 2020), extends his research into the nineteenth century and American art and literature.

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The Archaeological Encounters Seminar with Dr. Rachael Kiddey, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford

Wednesday, September 29, 12:15–1:15 pm, on Zoom

Dr. Rachael Kiddey presents a talk entitled, “‘People Need Stuff, Right?’ Contemporary Archaeology and Social Activism at Sites of Forced Displacement in Europe.”

In this presentation, Dr. Kiddey draws on recent contemporary archaeological fieldwork conducted in three European locations: Plymouth (UK), Athens (Greece), and Krokom (Sweden). Using a combination of participatory ethnographic, anthropological, and archaeological methods, Kiddey’s current project called “Migrant Materialities” involves working with displaced people to co-document the places and objects which shape their lived experiences. Sites include the street, parks, squats, cooperatives, NGO spaces, and temporary apartments. Relevant material culture consists of a wide range of domestic objects and personal belongings which function as mnemonic devices, convey diverse experiences of loss and change, and capture the effects of globalization, racialized immigration policy, and rampant capitalism.

This talk draws on prefigurative anarchist practices and theory to argue that collaborative contemporary archaeological work can be a powerful form of social activism, for several reasons: i) in recording the actual (as opposed to planned) material conditions of forced displacement in Europe, Kiddey and her collaborators contribute vital new evidence of otherwise mostly dematerialized, economic narratives; ii) their work highlights the agency and competence of displaced people and shines a critical light on the humanitarian sector; iii) their work includes displaced people as equal partners in academic research, e.g. as photographers, translators, fixers, etc.; iv) their work challenges dominant anti-migration narratives by visualizing and materializing the range of complexities involved with forced displacement at a human level.

Rachael Kiddey is British Academy Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Her current project, “Migrant Materialities,” looks at the role of material culture in situations of contemporary forced displacement in Europe between 2018 and 2022. She received her PhD from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York in 2014. Her doctoral research involved developing pioneering methodologies for working archaeologically with homeless people, documenting how heritage can function in socially useful and transformative ways. This research was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Widening Participation Award in 2012. Her monograph Homeless Heritage was published by Oxford University Press in 2017, and it won the Society of Historical Archaeology’s prestigious James Deetz Book Award in 2019. Kiddey is a senior common room member and college advisor at St Antony’s College, Oxford and an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London.

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The Modern Design History Seminar with Nancy B. Deihl, New York University Steinhardt School

Wednesday, October 6, 12:15–1:15 pm, on Zoom

Nancy B. Deihl presents a talk entitled, “Expanding the Narrative: Researching Black Fashion Designers.”

Deihl writes, “The prevailing narrative of American fashion prioritizes sportswear and casual clothing, access and affordability—glorifying brands rather than creative individuals. While some major names in the industry are well known, many designers worked on Seventh Avenue, but ‘behind the label,’ or pioneered their own enterprises. Recent scholarship is starting to bring their work and careers to light. This presentation focuses on the research methods and materials—and the ultimate discoveries—behind two book chapters on two unsung Black fashion designers: Zelda Wynn Valdes and Wesley Tann. Wynn Valdes is profiled in The Hidden History of American Fashion: Rediscovering 20th-Century Women Designers (Bloomsbury 2018) and a chapter on Tann is included in Black Designers in American Fashion (Bloomsbury 2021).”

Nancy B. Deihl is chair of the Department of Art and Art Professions in the Steinhardt School of NYU and faculty in the costume studies graduate program. Her research interests focus on twentieth-century fashion, in particular on the American fashion industry. She lectures and publishes on fashion history topics and is the editor of The Hidden History of American Fashion: Rediscovering 20th-Century Women Designers (2018) and co-author of The History of Modern Fashion (2015).

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All events will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants on the day of the event. All events will be live with automatic captions.