Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s
Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. He is author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, editor of Cosmopolitan Modernisms, among other titles, and an inaugural recipient of the 2006 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing.
Detours and Returns
This chapter offers an overview of Stuart Hall’s approach to diaspora, placing the emphasis on his conjunctural analysis of the “ethnic signifier” as it is articulated in different social formations, such as postindependence Jamaica and post-Empire Britain. It is argued that the cultural studies vocabulary is indispensable, since it introduced the analysis of hybridity, traveling culture, and cross-cultural translation into art criticism, but that with the institutionalization of such terms, it is all the more important for historical research, for instance, on the Caribbean Artists Movement, to go further than mere sociological context by employing Hall’s methods to examine art’s ability to intervene in public life by altering social realities of identity and ethnicity.