MultiSession Representing the Irrepresentable: Narratives and Visual Images of Slavery, Forced Labor, and Genocide, Part 1: Crossing Images: Slave Trade, Racial Segregation, and Genocide

AHA Session 63
Friday, January 4, 2013: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Roosevelt Ballroom IV (Roosevelt New Orleans)
Evelyn Powell Jennings, Saint Lawrence University
Clifton C. Crais, Emory University

Session Abstract

This panel engages the discussion proposed by the multi-session workshop "Representing the Irrepresentable: Narratives and Visual Images of Slavery, Forced Labor, and Genocide." The four panelists explore engravings, photographs, painting, video installations, and other artworks to discuss the possibilities and the limitations of representing forced displacement, enslavement, racial segregation, civil war, and genocide. By focusing on various historical periods and geographical areas, the papers interrogate the use of images of extreme violence. Susan Opotow explores photographs of Jim Crow and Nazi Germany. She questions how these images can promote the understanding of past atrocities, and when they revictimize targeted groups by representing them as abject. In the second paper, Araujo examines images depicting the deportation of Africans to the Americas during the era of the Atlantic slave trade. By arguing that these images obey similar models of representation, she seeks to understand, on the one hand, how these visual representations inspired recent initiatives (including monuments, memorials, and museum exhibitions) aiming at commemorating the victims of the Atlantic slave trade. On the other hand, she explores the ways these images have been appropriated, transformed, recycled, and presented in the public space, and how they are in dialogue with the memorialization of other atrocities, in particular the Holocaust. In the third paper, Dierk Schmidt explores the ways pictorial language can convey what he calls "a juridicial abstraction" such as the Berlin Africa Conference and the geopolitical division of the African continent, as well as the genocides committed by the Germans in South-West Africa. In the fourth paper, Lorenzo Fusi, also interrogates the possibilities of representing atrocities through art. The paper studies two artworks: the Rwanda Project (1994-2000) and the video installation We Wish To Inform You That We Didn’t Know (2010). Fusi seeks to understand the strategies artists use to represent the unspeakable and how art can overcome the silence and invisibility structured by governmental policies and supported by the media. Through several case studies, the panel explore how the multiple dimensions of traumatic human experiences can be conveyed through images and artworks, and to which extent visual representations of atrocities can be compared.