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Sinclair Wynn Bell
Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL 60115-2828)
Race and Representation in the Roman Empire: Images of Aethiopians in Imperial Visual and Material Culture

Research and preparation of a book on the representation of Africans in ancient Roman art.

This book project investigates how artists and their social patrons conceptualized racial difference in the Roman empire (c. 100 BCE-200 CE). In particular, it seeks to understand how the social roles and status of Aethiopians and their perception by Romans were communicated through visual representations in "art" (e.g., statues, reliefs, mosaics) and material culture (e.g., amulets, earrings, perfume jars). The aim is to study the character, incidence, and contexts of these representations in cultural historical perspective: their formal qualities; their original viewing contexts and geographical distribution; their kinship with and differences from representations of “Others” (non-Romans) generally (e.g., Gauls); and the larger cultural understandings that underwrite them (e.g., "lightness" vs. "darkness"). This project is therefore interdisciplinary in its aims and methodology, as it sits at the intersection of African studies, Classical Studies, archaeology, and art history.

Project fields:
African Studies; Art History and Criticism; Classics


Research Programs

$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2022 – 4/30/2023