Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2007—2008 Forum on Origins
Lecturer, Tyler School of Art, Temple University
“Of My Father’s Hue”: Racial Composition and Its Expression in American Visual Media
Although racial mixing or “amalgamation” has long been a stable point of inquiry in the study of 19th- and 20th-c American culture, few scholars have examined visual art in terms of the varied biological origins and subsequent racial categorization of its figures. In response to this gap, I analyze images addressing the practice of racial mixing, and investigate how these cultural forms communicate ideas about the role of heritage in a complexly ordered racial system. My work departs from the longstanding reliance of art historians on the strict division of social groups into insurmountably distinct racial categories, and is instead concerned with the fluidity of race—the mutual identifications experienced among those with diverse ancestral histories—, providing new avenues for understanding how biological origins affected identity construction.