Was there a Coptic center in Medieval West Africa?: Evidence and Further Questions by Suzanne Preston Blier


Thursday, September 20, 2018, 3:00pm


Tozzer 203, 21 Divinity Ave., Cambridge MA, 02138

Harvard Archaeology Program Seminar Series


This paper explores the importance of new technologies in the art historical study of Medieval West Africa and how related methodologies both help us understand the important art and architectural landscape here in this period, and how Africa and the eastern Coptic Christian world helped to reshape Africa in this era. A key focus of this discussion are various art historically rich sites in West Africa (Ife, Hausa, Bornu, Mafa), in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad and how they may relate to the larger African European diaspora. At the same time this paper will also take up the importance of new technologies such as GIS, DNA, and geological analysis in addressing these and other issues are important to understanding the broader role that economy, trade, and religion have played in these and other contexts. This paper accordingly takes up the relative merit of new and older technologies in contexts where other data such as written resources are largely missing. While my focus is on medieval African art scholarship, the implications clearly are broader. I will argue that both quantitative and qualitative analysis can, in different contexts, offer unique insight into core art historical questions. Specifically, I will draw on vital differences in formal analysis, material analysis, GIS, DNA, environmental analysis.

Suzanne Preston Blier
 (Ph.D. 1981 Columbia, Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University) is an historian of African art and architecture in both the History of Art and Architecture and African and African American Studies Departments. She also is a member of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. Blier is current President of the College Art Association, the professional association of art historians and artists. Her new book, Picasso’s Demoiselles: Africa, Sex, Origins, and Creativity appears in 2019. Her most recent book Art and Risk in Ancient Yoruba (Cambridge University Press) won the 2016 Prose Prize in Art History and Criticism. Other books include: The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art (Harvard University Press, 2017) co-edited with D. Bindman and H.L. Gates, Jr., African Vodun (winner of the Charles Rufus Morey Prize); The Anatomy of Architecture (winner of the Arnold Rubin Prize); African Royal Art (Choice Book Award), and Butabu: Adobe Architecture in West Africa (Holiday Selection, NYTimes).


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EVENT ORGANIZER: Department of Anthropology

EVENT WEBSITE: https://anthropology.fas.harvard.edu/event/archaeology-seminar-series-su...