I define myself fundamentally as a historian whose focus is the human experience. The comprehensive history of my training encompasses the fields of social, cultural, gender, and intellectual history, visual culture studies, art history, and the fine arts. The range of subject matter that attracts me is global, but at the same time, closely related historically. My work is centered in exploring the notion of the African diaspora, focusing on the creative expression and visual histories of peoples of African descent. These diverse groups are linked through shared historical experiences, dating from the 1500s, and including slavery, the slave trade and middle passage, colonialism and imperialism. My interests extend to looking at how these legacies continue to influence the contemporary arts of the African diaspora. This perspective approaches the study of American and African American art histories within a broader notion of the Americas, and includes the African continent. Since much of the human experience is rooted in migration, displacement, and struggle, looking at the relationship between the arts and its ability to effect social change has been a core conceptual model in my research and teaching, exploring the enduring legacy of interconnections between histories, the arts, cultures cross-culturally, power, and politics.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
I investigate the role of the arts, visual cultures, and visuality in modern contexts created by the diverse experiences of the African diaspora. Historically, the term is applied in particular to the modern, forced migration beginning in the 1500s to Europe and the Americas by way of the Atlantic slave trade. Specifically I am interested in issues around race and representation across the African diaspora, as expressed in the fine arts and popular culture. Focused areas of research include; the inter-relationship between the arts, slavery, colonialism and empire; African American/Diaspora photographic cultures and cinema; Black American expatriates in Great Britain; the connections between gender, race, and representation; the black presence in the urban south, and 19th century Ethiopian studies. Trained in the fine arts, art history, and history my methods/theories of analysis migrate across disciplinary boundaries from comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives. My work is strongly informed by my preparation as a historian in African and African American studies.