Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

African American Agency and the Art Object, 1868-1917
by Hawkins, Cynthia, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2019, 199; 22616045
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is an intervention in the discourse of agency which has long been formulated as foreclosed for black Americans. It examines the art collection of missionary William H. Sheppard, art curation of Charlotte Lottie Wilson and her art practice, and artists Meta V. Warrick and Charles Ethan Porter. This project seeks to articulate the affective power of agency that enlivens a sense of agency in viewers during the long 19th. I argue that the circulation of black agential feeling is at issue and to better understand it, prevailing scholarship about different categories of agency are referenced by scholars working in such diverse fields as anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and art education to assist with a definition of agency at work here.

This work counteracts early American debates about the absence of agential potential among the enslaved—as a reason to keep them enslaved—and among free blacks—as a reason to subject them to ongoing second-class citizenship. Each chapter presents fine art as producing agency that is at once affective and effective for the individual and black society at large. The aim is to analyze art practice as a practice of agency that is proof of black capacity, and focuses on the practice of intellectual reflection on the works of art and empowerment experienced by the African American community of viewers who then reflect on the art object. This agency stimulates self-recognition and the determination to achieve. The critical question is how did African America's engagement with the visual arts impact group identity? It is agential artistic production, collection and curation of African American art that aids and influences the broader African American community and stimulates a sense of self-recognition that supports other forms of agential community engagement.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Grinde, Donald
Commitee: Winter, Kari, Thomas, Gwynn, Otto, Elizabeth
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Transnational Studies - American Studies
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 81/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, African American Studies, History, American history
Keywords: Culture, History, Identity, Race, Theory, Visual art
Publication Number: 22616045
ISBN: 9781088383452
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