Art History Associate Professor George Flaherty and Art History doctoral candidate Sheyda A. Khaymaz have been awarded 2021-2022 UT-Austin Fellowships from the Harry Ransom Center. Over the past 30 years, the Center’s Fellowship Program has supported approximately 1,300 research projects requiring extensive onsite use of its collections. This research has resulted in hundreds of published books, journal articles and doctoral theses.
The new UT Fellows program was designed to support 12 UT Fellows. Recognizing the challenges of the pandemic, additional fellowships for graduate students were awarded for this year. Looking ahead to 2021-2022 after the Ransom Center safely reopens, UT Fellows will share their Works-in-Progress through a monthly series of public-facing conversations.
In the Fall of 2021, Khaymaz will pursue their project, Disenchanting the Archives: Confronting Exoticism, Primitivism, and Infatuation with Blackness in Nancy Cunard’s Collection of African Artefacts, which examines the role of Black cultural production and African sculpture in the vanguardist discourse of the 1920s Paris. Navigating the interstices between exoticism, primitivism, and negrophilia, the project aims to investigate Cunard’s collecting practices, paying particular attention to the idea of Blackness in Cunard’s imagination, and the ways in which her vision of Blackness is manifested, and perhaps even reified, within her substantial collection in a manner that denies normality. Khaymaz’s study is an invitation to reflect on the Euro-modernist aesthetic discourse and artistic production in tandem with the cultural trends of the time that unduly normativised racial fetishisation.
During the Spring semester, Flaherty will take up residence to work on a new book project, Mexico to Harlem and Back: Race, Revolutionary Art, and Cross-Border ‘Renaissance.’ Utilizing Miguel Covarrubias’s caricatures and other drawings of African Americans and Harlem nightlife in addition to the Nickolas Muray Collection of Mexican Art housed within the Harry Ransom Center collections, as well as other primary resources, Flaherty will examine transnational flows of racialization and revolutionary art in Mexico and the United States in the early decades of the 20th century.
Flaherty’s project retraces an axis between the New Negro Movement (“Harlem Renaissance”) and the rise of cultural nationalism in Mexico City following the Mexican Revolution (“Mexican Renaissance”); with detours to Detroit, Oaxaca, Los Angeles, and Veracruz. These two movements are morphologically comparable, in both: urban elites harnessed traditional oral and material cultures to produce a “useable past” in order to envision a racial future, working to reconcile the aesthetic and political dimensions of representation, and reckon with the legacies of colonialism, slavery, and migration. Mexico to Harlem and Back seeks to provide a detailed map of cross-border and cross-ethnic exchanges, affinities, and appropriations between artists, writers, and other cultural agents that reveal a not only synchronous but thoroughly entangled field of personal and professional relationships and expressions.