January 27, 2016 – Tanya Sheehan

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Art, Colby College

“Changing the Joke: Racial Humor and American Vernacular Photography”

 In the decades following black emancipation, African Americans were the frequent subjects of humor in commercial photographs. Racial caricatures, which imagined black bodies as physically and socially deviant, set the stage for amateur photographic performances in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Not only did white Americans appropriate racial humor with remarkable regularity in their family snaps, but African Americans attempted to revive and subvert such humor in their own vernacular photographs. Focusing on the images and handwritten captions in family photo albums, this talk examines the personal and political work performed by comic photographic tropes in the Progressive Era.

Tanya Sheehan is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Art at Colby College, where she teaches American art history. She is the author of Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (2011). Her edited books include Photography, History, Difference (2014), Photography and Its Origins (co-edited with Andres Zervigon, 2015), and the forthcoming Grove Guide to Photography (2016). As a research associate at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, she is completing a book that explores ideas about race in American visual humor. Tanya Sheehan currently serves as editor of the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art Journal and organizes the Photography and Migration Project based at Colby College.



February 10, 2016 – Ruth E. Toulson

Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Maryland Institute College of Art

“Coloring the Corpse: The Visual Culture of Chinese Death”

From the black of a widow’s weeds, to the sackcloth of a mourning gown, and the white of a shroud, death ritual is threaded through with color. In the English language, sorrow is described as “the blues,” while Chinese societies refer to the events that surround death as “white through and through.” Yet, while the study of mortuary rites is an enduring subject of humanistic inquiry, there has been little consideration of color as a pivotal way death is codified. Drawing on perspectives from material culture studies— color understood as a property of things—I interrogate how color structures grief, challenging current anthropological understandings of the connection between ritual, emotion, and materiality. My examples are drawn from ethnographic fieldwork in Chinese funeral parlors Singapore, where I worked as both anthropologist and embalmer. To consider color is, I argue, to attend to the very matter of life and death.


February 24, 2016 – C. Brian Rose

C. Brian Rose
James B. Pritchard Professor of Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania;
Peter C. Ferry Curator-in-Charge, Mediterranean Section, Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology;
Director, Gordion Archaeological Project

“Archaeology, Museums, and War”

The last fifteen years, in particular, have been dominated by discussions of cultural property–either its destruction in zones of military conflict or its involvement in litigation and claims for repatriation. This lecture reviews recent developments in the art and antiquities market, the shifting acquisition policies in museums, and cultural heritage training programs for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.