Colloquium on Violence and Religion - Images of Lynching

July 2, 2010

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Bill Traylor, "Preacher and Congregation", 1939-42, Collection of Judy A. Saslow

Moderator: Michael Tzvi Novick, University of Notre Dame
Speakers: Mechal Sobel, Director of the Graduate Program in American Studies at the University of Haifa, Israel, Bill Traylor's Forest of Symbols; Ericka Doss, Chair of the Department of American Studies at University of Notre Dame, Lynching Memorials and Sites of Shame: Transforming Violence in American Commemorative Cultures

Mechal Sobel addresses the subject of her most recent book, Painting a Hidden Life: The Art of Bill Traylor, in which she argues that the paintings of the former African-American slave, Bill Traylor, encode a call for retribution in response to acts of lynching. The myriad paintings done by Bill Traylor [1853-1949] display a rich assortment of African American conjure signs, as well as black Baptist and Freemasonry symbols. Sobel follows the interpretations of symbolic anthropologists working in the tradition of Victor W. Turner, who regarded symbols as "determinable influences inclining persons and groups to action."

Noted art historian Erika Doss addresses the topic of lynching memorials. In October 2003, the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial was dedicated in Duluth, Minnesota, where in 1920 three young men were brutally tortured and lynched by a mob of some 10,000 people. Today, growing numbers of shame-based memorials, including those that recall the subjects of racial terrorism and slavery, are being raised. Doss' lecture considered why "sites of shame" are increasingly considered places worthy of commemoration in contemporary America, and their transformative impact in American culture and society.

This event took place as part of the "2010 Colloquium on Violence & Religion - Transforming Violence: Cult, Culture and Acculturation"

At the COV&R conference, scholars from a wide range of disciplines explore questions about violence and their impacts on daily life. What sort of artistic, expressive forms and cultural formations result from the experience of violence?

 

Recorded Friday, July 02, 2010 at University of Notre Dame - McKenna Hall Auditorium.