Anna E. Arabindan-Kesson
My project is based on a new book that examines the experiences of Black artists and writers who embarked on a Grand Tour of Italy during the nineteenth century. For this fellowship, I focus on the travels of African American artist Robert S. Duncanson in conversation with the travel narrative of an enslaved writer named David Dorr. Both men describe their travels in Italy as transformative, as they studied the nation’s historical architecture, art, and recently excavated classical ruins. Tracing these journeys, I explore three themes: (a) how did they translate their experiences for audiences in both Italy and the United States; (b) how did their encounters with Italy’s art-historical “past” help frame their hopes for different kinds of political futures; and (c) can these written and artistic descriptions help us reconceptualize Italy itself as a Black geography in ways that could intervene in the discourses of migration, nation, and belonging that continue to circulate today?
The photograph of Anna E. Arabindan-Kesson was taken by John Blazejewski.