Symposium Schedule

1:00-1:30 pm

Welcome and Opening Remarks, Krista Thompson, Northwestern University

1:30-2:30 pm

“Black Images under Intellectual Control: The Racial Politics of Archival Description,” Jacqueline Stewart, University of Chicago

2:30-3:30 pm

“On Beauty, Objects, and Dissonance: Propositions in Still Photography and Film Vignettes,” Leslie Hewitt, Barnard College

3:30 -4:00 pm


4:00-5:00 pm

“Gazing Outward and Looking Back: Re-configuring Caribbean Archives,” Roshini Kempadoo, University of East London

5:00-6:00 pm

“Quiet Photos in Haptic Time(s),” Tina Campt, Barnard College

6:00-7:00 pm

“Human Documents,” Saidiya Hartman, Columbia University

7:00 pm

Closing Roundtable with Symposium Participants

7:30-8:00 pm



Symposium Participant Biographies

Tina Campt

Campt is Professor of  Africana and Women’s Gender and Studies, and Chair of the Africana Studies Department at Barnard College. Her research theorizes gendered, racial and diasporic formation in black communities in Germany, and Europe more broadly She is the author of Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (2004). She has edited special issues of Feminist Review, Callaloo and small axe, and together with Paul Gilroy, co-edited the volume, Der Black Atlantik (2004). Her second book, Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (2012), explores the sensate registers of vernacular photography using early twentieth century family photography of Black Germans and Black Britons. Professor Campt is the recipient of research grants and fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust, the American Association of University Women, The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Social Science Research Council, and the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.

Saidiya Hartman

Saidiya Hartman is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is the author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth Century America (1997) and Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2007).  Professor Harman has been a Fulbright, Rockefeller, Whitney Oates, and University of California President’s Fellow.  She has published essays on slavery, feminism, and visual culture. She is currently at work on a book about photography, sociology, and the emergence of the slum.

Leslie Hewitt

Leslie Hewitt’s photographs rest in sturdy wooden frames that lean against the wall and invite viewers to experience a unique space between photography and sculpture. Her work combines still life compositions comprised of political, social, and personal materials, which result in multiple histories seen embedded in sculptural, architectural, and abstract forms. Mundane objects and structures open into complex systems of knowledge. This perceptual slippage is what attracts Hewitt to both the illusions of film (still and moving photography) and the undeniable presence of physical objects (sculpture). Exploring this as an artist and not as a historiographer, Hewitt draws parallels between the formal appearance of things and their significance to collective history and political consciousness in contemporary art. Hewitt lives and works in New York City. She is faculty in the department of Art History at Barnard College. Hewitt was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial and the recipient of the 2008 Art Matters research grant to the Netherlands. A selection of recent and forthcoming exhibitions include the Museum of Modern Art in New York; AGO in Toronto, Artists Space in New York; Project Row Houses in Houston; and LA><ART in Los Angeles. She has held residencies at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the CORE, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, among others.

Roshini Kempadoo

Roshini Kempadoo is a photographer, media artist, and lecturer. Her research, multimedia, and photographic projects combine factual and fictional re-imaginings of contemporary experiences with history and memory. She worked as a social documentary photographer for the Format Women’s Picture Agency, was a founding member of Autograph ABP and in 2008, completed her PhD thesis Creole in the Archive based on research of Trinidad archive material. Her work as a digital image artist includes photographs and screen-based interactive art installations that fictionalize Caribbean archive material, objects, and spaces. They combine sound, animations, and interactive use of objects, to introduce characters that once may have existed, evoking hidden and untold narratives. She is represented by Autograph ABP, London.

Jacqueline Stewart

Stewart is Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Her research and teaching explore African American film cultures from the origins of the medium to the present, as well as the archiving and preservation of moving images, and “orphan” media histories, including nontheatrical, amateur, and activist film and video. She directs the South Side Home Movie Project and is co-curator of the L.A. Rebellion Preservation Project at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Stewart is the author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (2005). She has been awarded fellowships from the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, and the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholars-in-Residence Program.  She is currently researching the racial politics of moving image preservation and is also completing a study of the life and work of African American actor/writer/director Spencer Williams. 

Krista Thompson

Thompson is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University.  She is author of An Eye for the Tropics (2006) and The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice (in press, Duke University Press) as well as articles in American ArtArt Bulletin, Art Journal, Representations, The Drama Review, and Small Axe. She has received grants and fellowships from the Andy Warhol Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and was awarded the David C. Driskell Prize from the High Museum of Art in 2009. Thompson is currently working on The Evidence of Things Not Photographed, a book that examines notions of photographic absence and disappearance in colonial and postcolonial Jamaica and Black Light, a manuscript about electronic light and its archival recovery in African American art.


Photography and the Archive in the African Diaspora: A Symposium

The Department of Art History at Northwestern University is pleased to announce a spring symposium:

Photography and the Archive in the African Diaspora

Thursday, 22 May 2014

1-8 pm

Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University

40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, IL

Convened by Krista Thompson, Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Northwestern University

Today’s leading scholars and artists are exploring how photographic archives inform historical, artistic, photographic, and performative practices in the African diaspora.  Their perspectives offer new perspectives on photography. Participants in this symposium will discuss the meaning and uses of photographic archives in the African diaspora, and will propose innovative ways of reading archival remains to present new histories, novel understandings of the materiality, temporality, and sound of photography.  The will also discuss the new genres of scholarship that draw on art history, fiction, and performance studies. The symposium includes participants who are actively involved in the creation of recent archival projects as well as contemporary artists who engage photographic archives in their artistic practice.

Participants include:

Tina Campt–Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of Africana Studies, Barnard College

Saidiya Hartman–Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Leslie Hewitt–Contemporary artist and faculty member, Department of Art History, Barnard College

Roshini Kempadoo–Contemporary media artist and lecturer, London

Jacqueline Stewart–Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago

Krista Thompson–Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Northwestern University

This event has been made possible thanks to generous support from Northwestern University’s Department of Art History, the Myers Funds, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, the Black Arts Initiative, the Center for African American History (CAAH), and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

Free and open to the public.




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