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Staging Africans: Race and Representation in Early Modern European Theaters

General Programming

dateOctober 23, 2015 timeFriday, 9:00am–5:00pm EDT location Buell Hall, East Gallery (Maison Française), Columbia University

This multidisciplinary one-day conference will bring together nationally and internationally recognized specialists of early modern European cultures to investigate the representation of race in the theatrical cultures of early modern European colonial powers. How did visual culture and theatrical culture influence each other in each of the European metropoles when it came to representing African subjects? How did the theatrical cultures of those various metropoles influence one another in this respect? And what does this network of influences tell us about the emergence of the notion of race in the period? Finally, what are the relations between the representation of Africans on stage in European metropoles and the development of color-based slavery in their colonies across the Atlantic in the 16th and 17th centuries? Those are the fundamental questions that this conference will try to answer.

Our speakers specialize in critical race studies, early modern theater (England, France, Spain), art history (Italy, Spain), visual culture (England, Netherlands) and early modern cultures at large (Portugal, Netherlands). While studies of the representation of Africans in early modern culture have been traditionally limited by national boundaries, this conference ambitiously aims to establish, for the first time, a dialogue between the regimes of racial representation used by all the early modern competitors in the Atlantic race to empire: England, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands – and Italy. This conference promotes a comparative methodology, based on the idea that the transnational approach is the most exciting and most productive way to advance critical race studies in the early modern field today.

Event co-sponsors: Department of English and Comparative Literature, GSAS, Columbia Maison Française, Theatre Program, Department of French, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures, Heyman Center for the Humanities, Dean of Humanities, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Center for French and Francophone Studies, Department of Art History and Archeology.

No RSVP is required. The conference is open to the public.


time9:00am - 9:15am EDT

Welcome Greetings and coffee

time9:15am - 10:00am EDT

Keynote address by Peter Erickson (English, Northwestern)

time10:00am - 11:00am EDT

First duet (Anglo-Italian). Joaneath Spicer (Art History, Walters Museum) and Paul Kaplan (Art History, SUNY). Chaired by Julie Peters (Theatre, Columbia).

time11:00am - 11:15am EDT


time11:15am - 12:15pm EDT

Second duet (Anglo-French). Christian Biet (Theatre, Paris X-Nanterre) and Noémie Ndiaye (Theatre, Columbia). Chaired by Madeleine Dobie (French, Columbia)

time12:15pm - 1:00pm EDT


time1:00pm - 2:30pm EDT

First panel (Anglo-Dutch). Kim F. Hall (English and Africana Studies, Barnard college), Virginia Mason Vaughan (English, Clark University), and Allison Blakely (Dutch, Boston college). Chaired by Alan Stewart (English, Columbia)

time2:30pm - 2:45pm EDT


time2:45pm - 4:15pm EDT

Second panel (Luso-Spanish). Josiah Blackmore (Portuguese studies, Harvard), Baltasar Fra-Molinero (Spanish, Bates college), and Thomas B.F. Cummins (Art History, Harvard). Chaired by Jesús R. Velasco (Spanish, Columbia).

time4:15pm - 4:30pm EDT


time4:30pm - 5:00am EDT

Closing address by Jean Howard (English, Columbia)