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Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Dunham and Maya Deren’s Visual Representations of Mid-century Haiti

This seminar compares the Haitian films and photographs of African American artist-anthropologists Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) and Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) and Jewish American experimental filmmaker Maya Deren (1917-1961).

I show how all three women developed radical aesthetic practices that sought purposefully to challenge popular mid-century cultural representations of Haiti that were rooted in imperialist myths about zombies and ‘Voodoo’. Mindful of their works’ inevitable limitations as representations of complex identities and experiences and attentive to ways in which such works at times reinforced even as they challenged cultural misrepresentations of Haiti, this paper nevertheless identifies these women’s visual archives as important counter-narratives to racist myths about Haiti in the twentieth-century U.S. imagination. In particular, my research shows how these women’s innovative approaches to ethnographic documentation resulted in radical visual celebrations of Haiti’s revolutionary heritage, the sacred and ordered nature of Vodou, and the artistry of the island’s community dance practices.

Växjö Lammhultsrummet, Kalmar RA2051 Johan Höglund Lägg till i din kalender