Image: Unknown photographer, c.1853, Sixth-plate daguerreotype ( 31/8 x 2 3/4 in.), Metropolitan Museum of Art
On Friday, October 6th please join us for “From Frederick Douglass to Leo Tolstoy: Race and the Thought Pictures of the Caucasus” with Sarah Lewis (Harvard University). This event is part of the Occasional Series, sponsored by the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia.
In her forthcoming book Black Sea, Black Atlantic: Frederick Douglass, the Circassian Beauties, and American Racial Formation in the Wake of the Civil War (Harvard University Press) Sarah Lewis explores the Caucasus mountain range in Russia and how the emerging technology of photography was used to develop myths of Caucasian racial identity (and by extension racial purity) in the nineteenth century. The project works at a unique intersection of African American Studies, Art History, and Slavic Studies to explore the enduring power of these Black Sea-related photographs of Circassia. These “thought pictures” about race as Frederick Douglass might have called them underscore the tenuousness, a nervousness even at the heart of the racial project throughout the twentieth century.
Sarah Lewis is an assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She was guest editor of the “Vision & Justice” issue of Aperture, which received the 2017 Infinity Award for Critical Writing and Research from the International Center of Photography. Her scholarship has been published in journals as well as in The New Yorker and Artforum. Lewis also authored the bestseller, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. A frequent keynote speaker at universities and conferences, her work has been profiled in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal. Her current book project, which lies at the intersection of African American Studies, Art History, and Slavic Studies, is under contract with Harvard University Press. She lives in Cambridge, MA.