Race, Representation, and Agassiz’s Brazilian Fantasy


Thursday, April 1, 2021, 4:00pm to 5:30pm



Black and white image of a person sitting down, hands in lap, wearing a white garment.

How do we confront the history and legacy of Louis Agassiz’s extensive archive of images of African and Indigenous Brazilians made in Manaus, Brazil in 1865 and housed at Harvard’s Peabody Museum? Four distinguished panelists reflect on the historical moment when these pictures were taken, discuss racist displays of Indigenous people in Brazil and elsewhere, and, by bringing to light respect for different epistemologies, explore ways to contend with them today. Panelists will be writer and historian Christoph Irmscher (contributor to the recent Peabody Museum Press book about Agassiz images, To Make Their Own Way in the World), Brazilian performance artist and photographer Anita Ekman, literary critic Luciana Namorato, and Brazil’s first Indigenous art curator Sandra Benites of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP). Sandra Benites (Guaraní Ñandeva), Adjunct Curator of Brazilian Art, Museum of Art of São Paulo Anita Ekman, Visual and Performance Artist Christoph Irmscher, Director, Wells Scholars Program, Provost Professor, Department of English, Indiana University Luciana Namorato, Associate Professor, Director of Portuguese, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Indiana University Moderated by Alejandro De La Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics; Professor of African and African American Studies and of History, Harvard University Co-sponsored by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology and Harvard Museums of Science & Culture with the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University Advanced registration required. Visit the event registration page to register for this free virtual event. Registration closes 30 minutes before start time. Photo of an unnamed Brazilian woman by Walter Hunnewell, 1865. Commissioned by Prof. Louis Agassiz. Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, PM 2004.24.7640.