"Leave No Mark: Blackness Inviolate, 1700-1731"

February 26, 2019 - 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm (already occurred)
Fayerweather Hall, Pruyne Lecture Hall
Illustration of a black man in 18th-century European-style clothing, drawing a circle around himself on the ground

In the first three decades of the 18th century, a series of personal accounts, sworn attestations and trial records of the Portuguese Inquisition detail how enslaved and free black people, many African-born, would publicly take knives to their own flesh but not be harmed. These unworldly powers, they claimed, emerged from a type of pouch-form talisman called "mandinga." While these objects contained a wide array of empowering contents, a necessary and occasionally singular inclusion was writings and drawings inscribed on paper. This talk considers the role of these papers and the pouches which contained them against a longer Atlantic history of "marking" black bodies with scarifications, in slave ship registers, through iron brandings and torturous wounds. In so doing, it asks what new archives of Atlantic slavery may emerge from a seemingly violating performance of blackness that left no mark.

Matthew Francis Rarey is assistant professor of art hHistory at Oberlin College, and a 2018-2019 visiting scholar at the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University. His writing on Black Atlantic visual culture has appeared in African Heritage and Memories of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World (2015) and African Arts (2018). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Contact Info

Lisa Ballou
(413) 542-2181
image of e-mail address@amherst.edu