Anna Arabindan-Kesson
Art historian, writer, curator


Anna Arabindan-Kesson’s teaching, like her research, is interdisciplinary.

Courses and Seminars


My teaching, like my research, is interdisciplinary. In my survey level lectures students gain a broad understanding of artists, themes and histories that have shaped the field of Black diasporic art from the eighteenth century to the present while my seminars tend to focus on more specialized topics. All my classes centralize the study of art and material culture, focusing on the social and historical networks in which they are embedded. I emphasize the importance of close visual analysis to work through an art work's registers of meaning and I return to this question: How does what we see influence how we look at, and understand, difference? My classes cover difficult topics, exploring both the ways visual culture has shaped, and been shaped by ideologies of race and processes of empire. But students will also understand the powerful significance of art in the Black diaspora as a means of seeing differently, of experimenting with and expressing new forms of identity and radically imagining alternative futures. I hope students will leave my classes with a deeper understanding of how art shapes the worlds we inhabit, and armed with this visual literacy they will be better prepared to creatively question, critique and reimagine how ideas of difference and ways of seeing impact our lived reality.


Enter the New Negro: Black Atlantic Aesthetics

Born in the late 1800s, the New Negro movement demanded political equality, desegregation, and an end to lynching, while also launching new forms of international Black cultural expression. The visionary modernity of its artists not only reimagined the history of the black diaspora by developing new artistic languages through travel, music, religion and poetry, but these artists also shaped modernism as a whole in the 20th century. Incorporating field trips and sessions in the Princeton University Art Museum, this course explores Afro-modern forms of artistic expression from the late 19th-century into the mid-20th century.

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Article about course

Seeing to Remember: Representing Slavery in the Black Diaspora

How have artists approached the subject of slavery? This class examines the historical representation of slavery and its contemporary manifestations in art of the Black diaspora. It pays particular attention to the different ways that art objects, institutions and monuments narrate these histories and considers why slavery remains relatively invisible in public art, in public monuments, and as a subject for national institutions in the US.

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Online exhibition

History of African American Art

This course introduces the history of African American art and visual culture from the colonial period to the present. We look at artists and artworks from a variety of perspectives so that students can explore how artistic practices intersect with other cultural spheres. Topics and readings draw from the field of art history as well as from other areas of inquiry such as cultural studies, critical race theory, and the history of the Atlantic world, and the course incorporates regular museum visits and dialogue with artists and curators in the field.

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Photography, Colonialism and Travel in the Long nineteenth Century

Why do we travel and feel obliged to shoot photographs? What do our pictures reveal about our conceptions of ourselves and “exotic” peoples and places? By examining amateur albums and commercial prints in Princeton collections, this course explores how the practices and itineraries of tourists and photographers during the long nineteenth century continue to shape racial and cultural stereotypes today. Case studies consider the French and British in Egypt; Victorian travelers in India; big-game hunters in sub-Saharan Africa; the Caribbean as a vacation destination; and the photographic construction of Native Americans as a “vanishing race.”

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Mining Memory: Ingrid Pollard’s photographic formations

This masterclass held at the University of Western Australia examines Ingrid Pollard's photographic practice and the ways it responds to the geological formations of the landscape alongside nineteenth-century landscape art, the politics of immigration and art making in 1980s Britain as well as more recent interventions that focus on the presence and experience of Black people in the British countryside. By articulating what photography means for Pollard, and its relationship to her deep commitment to environmental action, the class focuses on what conceptions of landscape mean in Pollard's work and how she grapples with multiple forms of ‘mining’ – as metaphor and process – to reflect on contemporary conceptualizations of value in the work of Black diasporic artists. 

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Public Speaking