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Contemporary Antislavery Visual Culture

Along with slave narratives, another potential area where we might learn the lessons of history is in antislavery visual culture.

Download and read the article “Am I Still Not a Man and a Brother? Protest Memory in Contemporary Antislavery Visual Culture” by Professor Zoe Trodd.

The article examines the visual culture of the 21st-century antislavery movement, arguing that it adapts four main icons of historical abolitionism for its contemporary campaigns against global slavery and human trafficking: the ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother’ icon, the diagram of the ‘Brookes’ slave ship, the ‘Scourged Back’ photograph and the auction-block detail from the Liberator masthead.

Finding some of the same limitations of paternalism, dehumanisation and sensationalism as dominated much of the first antislavery movement’s visual culture, the article nonetheless identifies a different aesthetic in the imagery of several contemporary artists and suggests that we should be seeking artwork by enslaved people themselves.

After reading the article, please explore the imagery created by the NO Project, an antislavery education campaign that uses art to raise awareness. Then please search online for your own examples of contemporary antislavery imagery. This might be part of an antislavery or government aware-raising campaign, artwork posted on Flickr, logos for organisations, pieces from exhibitions of photographs, or any kind of visual culture. Post links in the comments to any that you find particularly effective as protest images or any that seem to go beyond the usual imagery of pleading hands and whipped backs, along with a note about why you find them noteworthy. You can also choose to post and discuss particular NO Project images.

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This article is from the free online course:

Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition

The University of Nottingham