Professor Anna Arabindan-Kesson Wins Historians of British Art Book Award

Written by
Mollika Jai Singh, Department of African American Studies
Sept. 22, 2023

In the 2023 Historians of British Art (HBA) Book Awards, Professor Arabindan-Kesson won the HBA Book Award for Exemplary Scholarship on the Period between 1800-1960 with her book Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton, and Commerce in the Atlantic World. HBA annually awards prizes to outstanding books on the history of British art, architecture, and visual culture. 

Black Bodies, White Gold was published by Duke University Press in 2021. The six books which received HBA awards this year were chosen from seventy nominated books published in 2021. 

On her website, Professor Arabindan-Kesson writes that Black Bodies, White Gold “uses cotton, a commodity central to the slave trade and colonialism, as a focus for new interpretations of the way art, commerce, and colonialism were intertwined in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world.”

The book begins with a gripping description of an image that evokes the entire archive Professor Arabindan-Kesson draws on: “Two hands crossed at the wrists. Two fists full of cotton. A blurred thicket of stalks. These are the elements of Hank Willis Thomas’s (b. 1976) 2014 print Black Hands, White Cotton. This artwork’s subject, Black hands holding white cotton, immediately recalls a vast image bank that narrates the long, intertwined history of race and labor in the making of the Atlantic world.”

Black Bodies, White Gold was shortlisted for the R. L. Shep Award, presented by the Textile Society of America and the James A Porter Book Award in African American Art History. The book can be purchased on the Duke University Press website.

Black Bodies, White Gold is Professor Arabindan-Kesson’s first book.