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Walker Cultural Leader Public Lecture: Dr. Charmaine Nelson "Colonial Print...

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FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, Film House

250 Saint Paul Street

Saint Catharines, ON L2R 3M2

Canada

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“Colonial Print Culture and the Limits of Enslaved Resistance: Examining the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth-Century Fugitive Slave Archive in Canada and Jamaica” presented by Dr. Charmaine Nelson.

Lecture: October 19th, 2017
Time: 7:00 p.m. Reception to follow.
Location: Film Theatre, FirstOntario Perfirming Arts Centre, St Catharine, ON

Abstract: Found throughout the Transatlantic World, fugitive slave advertisements demonstrate the ubiquity of African resistance to slavery. Produced by white slave owners seeking to recapture their runaways, standardized icons of enslaved males and females became a staple of such print advertisements. However, the more complex textual descriptions were also fundamentally visual and arguably comprise an archive of unauthorized “portraits” that have sadly come to stand as “the most detailed descriptions of the bodies of enslaved African Americans available.” (Graham White and Shane White, 1995, p. 49). Besides noting things like names, speech, accents, language, and skills, fugitive notices frequently recounted the dress (hairstyles, adornment, clothing etc.), branding, scarification, mannerisms, physical habits, and even the gestures and expressions of runaways. Recalling fugitive slave advertisements as a form of visual culture, this paper positions them as one part of the colonial infrastructure and network (including slave owners, printers, and jailers) that sustained the racialized distinction between free and unfree populations. This paper shall also highlight the ways in which the advertisements inadvertently disclosed the ingenuity, persistence, bravery, and intelligence of the enslaved and the brutality and callousness of the enslavers; an unintended consequence which in time would be taken up by abolitionists and used against the slave owning classes.

Bio: Charmaine A. Nelson is a Professor of Art History at McGill University. She graduated in 2001 with a PhD in Art History from the University of Manchester, UK. Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial and black feminist scholarship, Transatlantic Slavery Studies and Black Diaspora Studies. She has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, and Black Canadian Studies. Nelson has authored six books including the edited book Ebony Roots, Northern Soil: Perspectives on Blackness in Canada (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010), and the single-authored books The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007) and Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (London: Routledge, 2016). Her current research project juxtaposes fugitive slave advertisements, portraiture, and genre studies from Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Jamaica, to examine differences in the visual dimensions of creolization between slave minority and slave majority sites of the British Atlantic world. She has held several prestigious fellowships and appointments including a Caird Senior Research Fellowship at the National Maritime Museum in London, UK (2007), a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair (2010) at the University of California – Santa Barbara, and a Visiting Professorship in the Department of Africology at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (2011). In 2016, she was named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. Most recently, Nelson has been appointed the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University for the 2017 – 2018 academic year.

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FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, Film House

250 Saint Paul Street

Saint Catharines, ON L2R 3M2

Canada

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