White Body Supremacy and its Critique in 18th & 19th Century European Visual Culture

Instructors: Prof. Aaron Slodounik
Fridays, 10:00 – 12:40 PM
Macaulay Honors College, Online
Course Code: MHC 381

In his 2017 book, My Grandmother’s Hands, psychotherapist Resmaa Menakem coined the term “white-body supremacy” to describe the implicit racism of American culture in which the white body is seen as the norm that lacks race and all other bodies are treated as racialized. Menakem argues that this worldview originates from Europeans who brought their cultural practices to the United States and perpetuated them upon enslaved Africans and their descendants, resulting in intergenerational trauma. This course examines the history of white body supremacy in European visual culture by studying how Europeans depicted black and brown bodies in terms of their difference from white bodies during the 18th and 19th centuries. We will also investigate, when possible, the actual lives of black Europeans that are depicted. Finally, we will examine how artists of color from the United States traveled to Europe to seek training and create works that presented a radical vision of the black body, arguing for its humanity. This course is designed for students majoring in all disciplines who seek to better understand how bodily imagery is racialized and historical strategies of resistance. Students in the course will be encouraged to make connections to their personal and professional lives.


Aaron Slodounik

Aaron Slodounik
Instructional Technology Fellow

Hunter College
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The Macaulay Building is closed until further notice. All classes, meetings, and appointments will take place remotely.