Anna Arabindan-Kesson

Vision and Value: Cotton and the Materiality of Race

MIT Architecture | Spring 2021 Lecture Series
In collaboration with the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art program
7:30 PM, webcast

This talk examines the visual relationship between the cotton trade and the representation of the black body in American culture, using historical case studies and contemporary art. Juxtaposing contemporary interventions with historical moments, it examines how cotton materially influenced the way black bodies were seen, and how black Americans saw themselves, as both enslaved and free Americans. It argues that tracing this relationship deepens our understanding of the intersections of vision, value and subjectivity in the production of racial identity in nineteenth-century America, and also today. 

Anna Arabindan-Kesson

Anna Arabindan-Kesson is an assistant professor of African American and Black Diasporic art jointly appointed in the Departments of African American Studies and Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. Born in Sri Lanka, she completed undergraduate degrees in New Zealand and Australia and worked as a Registered Nurse before completing her PhD in African American Studies and Art History at Yale University. Her first book is called Black Bodies White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World and will be published in May 2021 with Duke University Press.

Image credit:

01 Anna Arabindan-Kesson portrait. Courtesy of Anna Arabindan-Kesson.

02 The Global Plantation Poster; October 15-17, 2020; Princeton University. Poster Image Credit: Jasmine Tigi-Brisby, Inheritance, 2019.

03 Leonardo Drew, Number 25, 1992.