Portraying slavery: Visual art and cultural trauma

Michaela Quadraro, Anna Lisa Tota


This article, aimed at presenting the effectiveness of the arts in the transformation of cultural trauma, presents how Ellen Gallagher’s visual art intervenes in the transformation of the cultural trauma of slavery. Hence, first of all, we investigate the implications of cultural trauma, and how these can be enhanced by memory studies, to recognise the substantial value given by the analysis of the shape-shifting nature of the events. Secondly, we propose how the theory of cultural trauma can benefit from the feminist debate on bodies and cultural boundaries, which insists on the interruption of hegemonic and dominant narrations. To achieve this goal, we stress the role of visuality and present an artist who mobilizes the public meanings of slavery and intervenes on the still open wounds of a controversial past.


Public memory, Cultural trauma theories, Visual arts

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12869/TM2021-1-03


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ISSN 2282-0043 - Registered at the Court of Rome on Nov. 8, 2012, no. 305/2012

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