Appropriation and Its Discontents

This collaborative project--between Associate Professor of Art History Huey Copeland (Northwestern University) and MFA student Athi Mongezeleli Joja (University of the Witwatersrand)--focuses on comparative approaches to theories of cultural appropriation, with a particular emphasis on the global circulation of black bodies, discourses, and art forms from an Afro-pessimist perspective. Together, Copeland and Joja will develop interdisciplinary graduate and undergraduate courses that critically interrogate the ways in which blackness variously functions across and between the global North and South.​


Huey Copeland is Associate Professor of Art History and affiliated faculty in the Critical Theory Cluster, the Department of African American Studies, the Department of Art Theory & Practice, and the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Northwestern. Focusing on modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on articulations of blackness in the Western visual field, Copeland is the author of Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery, and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America (2013), as well as numerous articles and chapters. He is currently at work on a new book, In the Shadow of the Negress: A Brief History of Modern Artistic Practice, which explores the constitutive role played by fictions of black womanhood in Western art from the late-eighteenth century to the present.

Athi Mongezeleli Joja is an art critic based in Johannesburg, South Africa. A member of the art collective Gugulective, he is currently studying toward his MFA at the University of the Witswatersrand on the critical practice of late critic Colin Richards. His writing has appeared in publications such as The Mail and Guardian, Art Throb, Contemporary And (C&), Chimurenga Chronic, and Africanah.

Background Reading:

Joja, Athi Mongezeleli. “Critical Reflections on ‘Exhibit B’ and the South African Art World.” Art South Africa 13, no. 2 (2014): 86-87.

Copeland, Huey. “Flow and Arrest.” Small Axe 19, no. 3 (2015): 205-224.

Wilderson, Frank B., III. “The Narcissistic Slave.” In Wilderson, Red, White & Black, 54-91. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

Aranke, Sampada. “Fred Hampton’s Murder and the Coming Revolution.” Trans-Scripts: An Interdisciplinary Journal in the Humanities and Social Sciences 3 (2013), 116-139.