Rice’s Department of Art History will hold a lecture, “‘Race,’ Racism and Representation in Roman Art: Aethiopians in the Visual Arts of the Roman World,” at Fondren Library Oct. 26.
The lecture will feature Sinclair Bell, professor of art history at Northern Illinois University, and will be moderated by Sophie Crawford-Brown, assistant professor of art history and director of the Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations Program at Rice.
Bell’s work explores the visual and material culture of the Roman Empire that provides a record of encounters with or simply imaginings of foreign peoples. Bell shows how these images render visible complex formulations of ethnicity, social hierarchies and power, according to event organizers.
The lecture also surveys the ways in which imperial artists represented the peoples whom the Romans referred to as Aethiopians or Nubians (Black Africans) in a variety of visual media. It considers how and why these works have been misinterpreted or sometimes altogether ignored by ancient art historians and proposes new ways of integrating them into future, critical histories of Roman art.
“It is particularly exciting to be co-hosting this event across multiple departments and programs at Rice,” Crawford-Brown said. “This speaks to the truly interdisciplinary nature of Dr. Bell’s work and the ways in which the study of the ancient world still holds urgent relevance for contemporary life. We are not the first to be living in an interconnected world.
“Dr. Bell’s research mines the deep history of how humans have visually represented foreign peoples and explores the complex and often violent forms this has taken over millennia.”
Bell has taught at Northern Illinois since 2008. He studied classical languages, ancient history and classical art and archaeology at Wake Forest University, the University of Oxford, University of Cologne and University of Edinburgh, from which he received his doctorate in classics in 2004. His research focuses on Etruscan Italy and imperial Rome and its provinces with particular interest in sport and spectacle, the child and family, enslaved and freed persons and the representation of race.
The event is co-sponsored by Rice’s Department of Art History, Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures, Center for African and African American Studies and Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations Program.
The lecture will be at 4 p.m. in the Kyle Morrow Room on the third floor of Fondren. It is free and open to the public.
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