Mia L. Bagneris

Scholarly Retreats
Type of work

Associate Professor Mia L. Bagneris teaches African diaspora art history and studies of race in Western Art. She is also Director of the Africana Studies Program. Concentrating primarily on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British and American art and visual culture, much of her scholarship investigates the representation of race in the Anglo-American world and the place of images in the histories of slavery, colonialism, empire, and the construction of national identities. Her recently published monograph, Colouring the Caribbean: Race and the art of Agostino Brunias, offers the first comprehensive study of the artist’s pictures, made for British plantocrats and colonial elites, which feature Caribbeans of color—so called ‘Red’ and ‘Black’ Carib Indians, dark-skinned Africans and Afro-Creoles, and people of mixed race. During her residency Dr. Bagneris will work on her next book, Imagining the Oriental South: The Enslaved Mixed-Race Beauty in British Art and Culture, c. 1865-1900. This project considers Britons’ pronounced and continued fascination with the enslaved, mixed-race beauty (better known as mulatto/quadroon/octoroon) in art and literature even and especially after the abolition of slavery in the United States made the potential political suasion of this figure moot. As part of this investigation, the project explores marked visual and rhetorical echoes between representations of the enslaved mixed-race beauty and concurrent expressions of Orientalism in Western visual culture. Against the upright and respectable image of Victorian England, the South—and especially Catholic Louisiana—could be imagined as a place of luxury, debauchery, and desire, a perfect echo to the Orient and one made stronger by the association of both regions with the traffic in pretty women as “sex slaves”. Dr. Bagneris’s article, “Miscegenation in Marble: John Bell’s Octoroon”, recently published in Art Bulletin (June 2020), provides a preview of this scholarship.