Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West

The Merchant of Venice", 2010, inkjet print mounted on aluminium, cm. 180 x 110 Courtesy Fondazione di Venezia/Galleria Fonti, Naples
  • Saturday 19th January 2013
  • 9:30 am - 6:30 pm
  • Claude Lévi-Strauss Theatre & Cinema Room
  • Sunday 20th January from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, Cinema Room
  • To register:

International symposium from 17th to 20th January 2013

École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts
14, rue Bonaparte - 75006
Closest metro stop: Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Mabillon, Rue du Bac

New York University Paris
56, rue de Passy - 75016
Closest metro stop: La Muette, Passy, RER: Boulainvilliers, Ave du Pdt Kennedy

Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7
15, rue Hélène Brion - 75013
Closest metro stop: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand

musée du quai Branly
entrée Debilly - 37, quai Branly - 75007
entrée Université - 218, rue de l’Université
Closest metro stop: Bir Hakeim, Iéna, Ecole Militaire
RER : Pont de l'Alma, Champ de mars


  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
    W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African American Research, Harvard University
  • Deborah Willis
    Department of Photography & Imaging, New York University
    Manthia Diawara
    Institute of African American Affairs
    New York University
  • Jean-Paul Colleyn
    Centre d'études africaines,
    École des hautes études en sciences sociales
    Institut de recherche pour le développement 
  • Lydie Diakhaté
    K’a Yéléma Productions
  • Awam Amkpa
    Department of Social and Cultural Analysis
    New York University
  • Cheryl Finley
    Department of History of Art and Visual Studies
    Cornell University
  • Anne-Christine Taylor-Descola
    Anna Laban
    Christine Barthe
    musée du quai Branly
  • Caroline Montel-Glénisson
    Raïssa Lahcine
    New York University - Paris
  • Thelma Golden
    Studio Museum de Harlem
  • Nicolas Bourriaud
    École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts

The city of Paris, an international cultural hub and a Western metropolis that wields considerable influence over the notions of art and modernity, was deemed the perfect setting for "Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West", the fifth in a series of conferences that have been hosted by Harvard University and NYU since 2004. Black Portraiture[s] aims to explore the various means of manufacturing and promoting self-representation, as well as the notion of exchange, from the 19th century to the present day in fashion, film, art, and archives.

How are these - positive and negative - images displayed, and how do they define, replicate, and transform representations of the Black body? How and why did the black body become a tradable commodity in the global marketplace and what gives it its legitimacy? And, just as importantly, what are the responses given and their implications? Can the representation of the Black body be truly liberating both for those who are identified with its image and for its beholders? Could a deracialisation of the black body take place, thus promoting cultural reunification and fostering reappropriation as well as various forms of expression beyond the limits of race?

The Black body, as imagined by the West, has always been fertile ground for observation and debate. Yet the representation and depiction of Black people has often been predicated upon prevailing attitudes on race and sexuality.

The conference draws on the ideas and works of both leading and emerging writers, photographers, scholars, artists, curators and filmmakers of our time and will address the broader issue of Africa in the popular imagination. It is also significant that this project has benefitted from the widest possible collaboration.

download the program (pdf)

download the film program on Sunday 20th January