Anna Arabindan-Kesson

Assistant Professor (On Sabbatical 17-18 AY)
Department of Art and Archaeology & Department of African American Studies
Ph.D, History of Art
Yale University
312 McCormick Hall
office phone:
(609) 258-8426
Anna Arabindan-Kesson

Professor Arabindan-Kesson specializes in African American, Caribbean, and British Art, with an emphasis on histories of race, empire, and transatlantic visual culture in the long 19th century. An international upbringing and interdisciplinary training in the fields of African American studies and art history have shaped her intellectual formation. Consequently her research focuses on processes of cultural exchange and geographical movement, underpinned by histories of colonialism and the legacies of these encounters in contemporary art practice. Her work has been supported by several fellowships, including from the Huntington Library; the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art; Winterthur Library, Museum and Gardens; the Terra Foundation for American Art; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Professor Arabindan-Kesson has a joint appointment in the Department of African American Studies and is a faculty fellow at Wilson College. In addition to presenting at domestic and international conferences and symposiums, she has delivered public museum lectures and has appeared in the media. She serves on the board of advisors for the Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia and the arts space NLS Kingston in Jamaica. She has been involved in curating several exhibitions, including the 2009 traveling exhibition Embodied: Black Identities in American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery and Barkley L. Hendricks: Oh Snap! (2015) for Art Sanctuary in Philadelphia. Professor Arabindan-Kesson has published articles and reviews on contemporary African fashion and African American artists and modernism. Her chapter on cultural exchange between New England and Zanzibar appeared in the book Global Trade and Visual Arts in Federal New England (University Press of New England, 2014). Another chapter, on photography and South Asian identity in Jamaica, is forthcoming in Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press). Professor Arabindan-Kesson has also written for international art and fashion publications in Europe and Australia.


AAS 341 / ART 375
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 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.

AAS 341 / ART 375
Art and Modernity in the Black Diaspora

This course traces the development of artistic modernisms in the African diaspora from the second half of the nineteenth-century into the mid twentieth century. Incorporating visits to art collections, the course examines the aesthetic theories of Black artists and writers, their subjects and the expressive forms they sought to describe. Tracing the ways these artists engaged with the emerging debates and dialogues of Western modernism, the course uses these cross cultural dynamics, what Kobena Mercer has termed “cosmopolitan modernisms,” to centralize the visionary, transnational, modernity of artists in the African diaspora.

ART 373 / AAS 373
History of African American Art

This course introduces the history of African American art and visual culture from the colonial period to the present. Artists and works of art will be considered in terms of their social, intellectual, and historical contexts and students will be encouraged to consider artistic practices as they intersect with other cultural spheres. Topics and readings will 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 will incorporate regular museum visits and dialogue with artists and curators in the field.

ART 454 / AAS 454
Seminar: History of Photography

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.”