• Founded
  • Seminar Number

Founded by Douglas Fraser, this seminar addresses major issues in the fields of African, Oceanic, Native American, and pre-Hispanic Latin American arts. The seminar provides an opportunity for members to analyze, evaluate, and discuss new and continuing research, as well as various trends in scholarship. Because the membership is comprised of art historians, curators, archeologists, anthropologists, and other field specialists, seminar meetings frequently involve in-depth discussions of theoretical and methodological issues. The seminar sponsors special symposia on diverse topics; the most recent entitled Art as Identity in the Americas.

Dr. Francesco Pellizzi

Professor Zoë Strother

Professor Lisa Trever

Yann Petit

Meeting Schedule

02/03/2022 Online Meeting
6:30 PM

Abayomi Ola, Spelman College

03/03/2022 Online Meeting
6:30 PM
Mapping Marronage: A Fugitive Landscape in Colonial Brazil, September 1763
Matthew Francis Rarey, Oberlin College


This talk looks to a unique work of colonial visual culture: a map of Buraco do Tatú, a quilombo (primarily African-populated maroon polity) invaded and destroyed on the orders of the Viceroy of Brazil in September of 1763. Produced by a Portuguese military cartographer immediately after the battle and today held at an archive in Lisbon, it is one of only two extant maps of the hundreds of such polities that existed in Brazil during its slavery period, and by far the most detailed. With careful renderings of the quilombo’s fortifications, buildings, and agricultural plots, it presents a potentially rich archive of Africans’ lifeways in colonial Brazil. Yet its aerial view, its textual narrative, and its haunting rendering of Africans killed during the battle collectively testify to its ambivalence: a colonial attempt to freeze a fugitive landscape as a precondition of its violent erasure. Looking to a small but rich visual history of mapping maronnage - and thus mapping that which was never meant to be mapped - and dialoguing with work on landscape studies, fetishism, and the ethics of engaging the archives of Atlantic slavery, this talk presents some initial conclusions on an unprecedented object.

04/07/2022 Online Meeting
6:30 PM
Covering and Revealing: The Social Lives of Marshall Islands Mats and Mat Collections
Ingrid Ahlgren, Harvard University


Museum collections have been demonstrated to be primary sources that help investigate historical transformations and revise perspectives of colonial contact in Pacific societies. Many finely woven mats (nieded or jaki) from the Marshall Islands in museum collections were obtained at the turn of the 19th century, a period characterized by increasingly complex relationships with the various Europeans and Americans seeking to commercially, scientifically, and religiously exploit the region. The consequences of these intersecting histories are materialized in the mats themselves and inform both indigenous agencies and the nature of outsider relations.