IAS/SIR Speaker Series: Professor Philippa Levine

Slavery and the Art of Colonialism

As a specialist studying the British Empire and the intersections of race and gender at the University of Texas at Austin, Professor Philippa Levine illuminated the importance of nakedness within depictions of slavery in various works of art from the past several centuries. She argued that while nakedness in art has proved to be a powerful way to convey the sensations of slavery, it has also been key in portraying the ideologies of artists regarding abolition, sexuality, and racial and gender hierarchies. Beyond the basic lack of clothing, other details within the works of art in question, such as the material of the sculptures, color within the paintings, and the posture and angles of the subjects are extremely informative for understanding how slavery has—and continues to be—understood.