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History of Art's C.C. McKee Awarded Novo Nordisk Postdoctoral Fellowship

September 19, 2022
History of Art's C.C. McKee at the Novo Nordisk fellowship award event.

Assistant Professor of History of Art C.C. McKee has been awarded a Novo Nordisk Mads Øvlisen Postdoctoral Fellowship in Art History.

During the two-year fellowship, McKee will be based in the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen doing research on a project titled, Seeing Independence in the Tropical Environment: An Art History of Black Women’s Ecological Struggles for Freedom in the Danish West Indies, 1792-1917.

Project Description

Seeing Independence in the Tropical Environment: An Art History of Black Women’s Ecological Struggles for Freedom in the Danish West Indies, 1792-1917 (SITE) explores representations of African descended women from the Danish West Indies (DWI) beginning with the abolition of the slave trade in 1792, continuing to the 1848 abolition of slavery and the 1878 Fireburn labor riot, and concluding with the 1917 transfer of the islands to the United States.

This project reshapes 19th-century colonial art history by employing an ecological approach to create heretofore unexplored knowledge of Black women’s claims to subjecthood as they figured into visual representations of the tropical environment.

As the first sustained art historical study of the DWI, SITE fills a crucial gap in existing scholarship on Danish colonialism and art during this period by emphasizing how aesthetic objects allow scholars to think beyond the limits of textual archives that minimized and excluded Black women’s voices. SITE will realize this argument with three objectives. First, SITE will produce an open-access digital catalogue of artworks that depict Black women in the Caribbean environment. Second, it will develop a novel framework for analyzing the extent to which Afro-Caribbean knowledge of tropical ecology was integral to struggles for enfranchisement both before and after emancipation. Third, SITE will reframe historical narratives of Danish “Golden Age” art (ca. 1800-1864) by tracing the heretofore unexamined centrality of the Caribbean colonies to aesthetic innovation during the nineteenth century.

SITE will be hosted by the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, a global leader in the humanities that is affiliated with a number of research initiatives related to Caribbean art and history. The project will benefit from the Saxo Institute’s optimal training environment while also contributing to the expansion of its global network. The results of this project will be disseminated through a digital catalogue, peer-reviewed articles, public presentations, an international conference, and the publication of an edited volume.

McKee specializes in the art, visual, and material culture of the modern Atlantic world (c. 1750–1950) with an emphasis on the French empire and the colonial Caribbean. They received a dual doctorate from Northwestern University and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, an M.A. from Northwestern Universty, and a B.A. with honors from the University of California, Berkeley.

History of Art