Anna Arabindan-Kesson

Assistant Professor (On Sabbatical 18-19 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 is an assistant professor of African American and Black Diasporic art with a joint appointment in the Department of Art and Archaeology and is a faculty fellow at Wilson College. Born in Sri Lanka, she completed undergraduate degrees in New Zealand and Australia, and worked as a Registered Nurse in the UK before completing her PhD in African American Studies and Art History at Yale University.

Professor Arabindan-Kesson focuses on African American, Caribbean, and British Art, with an emphasis on histories of race, empire, and transatlantic visual culture in the long 19th century. In her teaching, she is committed to expanding and amplifying the spaces, and narratives, of art history. Her students are encouraged to engage directly with art objects and their socio-historical contexts through close visual analysis, interdisciplinary readings and discussion along with regular class sessions in the study rooms of Princeton’s libraries and museums, and local area collections.

Her courses include survey classes on African American and Caribbean Art, and more specialized undergraduate and graduate seminars such as Seeing to Remember: Representing Slavery Across the Black Atlantic and Art of the British Empire. An online exhibition curated by students enrolled in Seeing To Remember can be viewed here:

Her first book, under contract with Duke University Press, is entitled Black Bodies White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World. It uses the networks created by the Anglo-American cotton trade to examine connections between art, slavery and colonialism in the nineteenth century and in contemporary art practice. She has published articles on antebellum trade textiles connecting East Africa and Salem, portraiture and painting in the Black Diaspora and public art forms. Most recently she completed an essay on the late Barkley L Hendricks for the Tate Modern’s In Focus series and her chapter on Photography and South Asian Indentured Laborers in Jamaica will be published later this year in Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press). An article on Robert S Duncanson and his depiction of Native Americans will be published in 2019, along with an essay on Caribbean Absences in African American Art Historiography. In 2017 Professor Arabindan-Kesson and Professor Mia Bagneris of Tulane University were awarded an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship to complete a second book entitled Beyond Recovery: Reframing the Dialogues of Early African Diasporic Art and Visual Culture 1700-1900. Her work has also been supported by several other 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. Two new projects in the works focus on migration, memory and the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, and the visual permutations of the plantation and unfree labor outside the United States in the nineteenth century.

Professor Arabindan-Kesson has presented papers on her research at domestic and international conferences and symposiums, and has delivered public museum lectures and appeared in the media. She serves on the board of advisors for the arts space NLS Kingston in Jamaica. She is also a Trustee of the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. 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. She has also written for international art and fashion publications in Europe and Australia.


AAS 341 / ART 375 (LA)
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 349 / ART 364 (LA)
Seeing To Remember: Representing Slavery Across the Black Atlantic

The class explores 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. Students will have the opportunity to work closely with objects held in collections at Princeton, go on field trips and learn from visiting artists and curators. Their final assignment will be the construction of a digital exhibition.

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 560 / AAS 560
Art and the British Empire

This seminar proceeds through a series of thematic and case studies ranging from Britain’s early colonial expansion to the legacies of empire in contemporary art and museum practice. Topics include science and ethnography; the colonial picturesque; curiosity and collecting; slavery and visual representation; art and nationalism and readings are drawn from a range of disciplines.