Afrotropes as an Analytical Framework to Expand Art Historical Methodologies of the Black Atlantic?

Session Convenors:

Sarah Hegenbart (Technical University Munich)

Levi Prombaum (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)

Please email your paper proposal to the session convenors using the Paper Proposal Form


This session will explore how the ‘afrotrope’ elucidates an art history dedicated to the artistic expressions and exchanges between the African continent and its diaspora. The notion of the ‘afrotrope’ was introduced by Huey Copeland and Krista Thompson as an analytical framework to examine the circulation of motifs that feature centrally in African Diaspora aesthetics. While ‘afrotropes’ facilitate alternative theoretical models beyond the Western epistemologies structured by time and space, they are also inspired by concepts such as Mikhail Bakhtin’s ‘chronotope’ and its subsequent adoption in the work of Paul Gilroy, as well as Hortense Spillers concept of the ‘pornotrope’.

The theoretical discourses in this thematisation raise large questions about ‘African’ art history’s relationship to ‘Western’ art history, as well as questions about the specificity and universality of image cultures across Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Since the movement of afrotropes involves an oscillation between latency and forceful recurrence in response to socio-political events conditioning black experiences, to what extent does an in-depth understanding of afrotropes and their distinctive materiality require challenging existing tendencies within theoretical discourses of Western art history? How does ‘afrotrope’ function to (or need it function to) account for traditional distinctions between fine art and the vernacular? How might the term account for the different social conditions that emerge in post-colonial and post-slavery contexts?

We will allocate one section to a panel discussion between artists.

Submit a paper

Please email your paper proposals direct to the session convenors above, using the Paper Proposal Form

You need to provide a title and abstract (250 words maximum) for a 25-minute paper (unless otherwise specified), your name and institutional affiliation (if any).

Please make sure the title is concise and reflects the contents of the paper because the title is what appears online, in social media and in the printed programme.

You should receive an acknowledgement receipt of your submission within two weeks from the session convenors.

Deadline for submissions: Monday 21 October 2019


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