Dr. Charmaine Nelson: Narrative Interventions Keynote Speaker

Keynote Address:

Dr. Charmaine Nelson, Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

March 5th, 5:00 – 6:00pm, Dunton Tower 2017

Title of Address:

“She got out of a garret window by the help of a ladder”: Examining the Representation of Enslaved African Females in the Art and Fugitive Slave Advertisements of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Canada and Jamaica.


Within the context of Trans Atlantic Slavery, the term Negro/black, prolifically used to signify people of African descent, also became conflated with the legal status of the slave. However, the term as a colonial imposition, homogenized a population, which was extremely diverse in terms of ethnicity, birth origins, language, cultural practice, and social custom. This lecture seeks to understand the process of creolization for the enslaved in a temperate (Canadian) and tropical (Jamaican) slave colony and will ask how enslaved Africans became African-Canadian and African-Jamaican respectively. Beginning with the premise that fugitive slave advertisements were “portraits” (although extremely dubious ones) of the enslaved, this lecture combines an art historical examination of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century fugitive slave advertisements with genre studies (images of human activity) of black slaves to begin to recuperate the ethnicity, regional origins, individuality, and humanity of enslaved blacks and to examine the process and visual representation of creolization within the Trans Atlantic context of (British) Canada and Jamaica. Since fugitive slaves were more likely to be males, the advertisements shed less light on the lives of enslaved African females. However, I shall begin to excavate information about the identities, experiences, representation, and cultural practices of enslaved black females in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Information about our Keynote Speaker:

 Dr. Charmaine Nelson, Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University (Montreal, CANADA), charmaine.nelson@mcgill.ca

Charmaine Nelson is an Associate Professor of Art History at McGill University (Montreal). Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial and black feminist scholarship, Trans Atlantic Slavery Studies, and Black Diaspora Studies. Her scholarship examines Canadian, American, European, and Caribbean art and visual culture. She has made ground breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and 3 Representation, and Black Canadian Studies. Her research and teaching explore various genres of so-called high, low, and popular art forms including TV, film, photography, prints, sculpture, dress, portraiture, still life, nudes, and landscape art. Nelson has published five books including the co-edited volume Racism Eh?: A Critical Inter-Disciplinary Anthology of Race and Racism in Canada (2004), the edited volumes Ebony Roots, Northern Soil: Perspectives on Blackness in Canada (2010) and Legacies Denied: Unearthing the Visual Culture of Canadian Slavery (2013) and two single-authored books entitled The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in

Nineteenth-Century America (2007), and Representing the Black Female Subject in Western Art (2010). Her sixth book Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (Ashgate Publishing UK, forthcoming 2016) delivers one of the first Slavery Studies books to juxtapose temperate and tropical slavery and the first such comparative work in Art History. Her seventh book, Towards an African-Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (forthcoming 2016), includes chapters on the representation of black subjects in Canadian art and black Canadian artists from the eighteenth century to the present. It will be the first book to formalize the field of African Canadian Art History. Nelson has held several prestigious fellowships and appointments including a Caird Senior Research Fellowship,

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK (2007), a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, University of California – Santa Barbara (2010), and a Visiting Professorship at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Department of Africology (2011). She was also awarded a Woman of Distinction Award from the Montreal’s Women’s YWCA in 2012 (Arts and Culture Category).


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