On January 31st, the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University held a discussion on Simon Gikandi’s new book Slavery and the Culture of Taste.
Simon Gikandi (Princeton University)
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg (University of Michigan)
Saidiya Hartman (Columbia University)
Madeleine Dobie (Columbia Univeristy)
Moderated by Mamadou Diouf (Columbia University)
On Slavery and the Culture of Taste:
Simon Gikandi’s new book Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton UP, 2011) demonstrates that the areas of slavery and the culture of taste–the world of politeness, manners, and aesthetics–were surprisingly entwined. Ranging across Britain, the antebellum South, and the West Indies, and examining vast archives, including portraits, period paintings, personal narratives, and diaries, Simon Gikandi illustrates how the violence and ugliness of enslavement actually shaped theories of taste, notions of beauty, and practices of high culture, and how slavery’s impurity informed and haunted the rarified customs of the time.