skip to content


Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Virtual Seminar Series Lent 2021

We are very happy to announce our seminar series for Lent 2021, which will be entirely virtual. Speakers are: 

Speaker: Professor Lúcia Sá

Date: 27 January

Time: 5pm UK time


Title: Cannibalising Cannibalism: The Radical Anti-coloniality of Brazilian contemporary Indigenous art.

This paper will focus on the work of indigenous artists Denilson Baniwa and Jaider Esbell. In a number of works and performances, the indigenous artists Denilson Baniwa and Jaider Esbell have engaged with Brazil’s most iconic and enduring artistic movement, 1920s ‘Antropofagia’ (Cannibalism). It is not the first time that artists have revisited Antropofagia: the 1960s Tropicália movement, for example, which involved visual arts, music and cinema, paid a strong tribute to Antropofagia; and the 1998 international São Paulo Bienal was entirely dedicated to the topic. What is new about this recent development is that for the first time indigenous artists are producing their own art in response to Antropofagia’s appropriative interpretation of native cannibalism. Using Antropofagia’s own methods, Baniwa and Esbell have provided us with the most thorough critique of the movement to date - a powerful decolonial or even anti-colonial exposure of Antropofagia's colonialist vocation.


Professor Rachel Price

Date: 17 February

Time: 5pm UK Time

Venue: Zoom (registration required)

Title:  Cuban Communication Networks During the Second Slavery

The soundscape of nineteenth-century Cuba would have included scores of languages, many West and West Central African. Papers and images seized by Cuba’s Military Commission offer tantalizing but incomplete insights into African-derived societies and cosmograms. Court records include transcriptions of words from Bantu and Yoruba. Yet period literature, even when it sought to be “realist”, is strikingly distant from such language, imagery and political imagination. How might we better uncover and analyze nineteenth-century Cuban sounds, languages, forms of communication? These questions animated my ongoing study, which has uncovered ways that communication technologies themselves—from telephony to genre to language interpretation—were implicated in Cuba’s slave society during the height of its “second slavery” in the nineteenth century. I will briefly summarize some of these findings before turning to two new case studies that reveal how West Africans enslaved in mid nineteenth-century Cuba used knowledge of evolving Spanish slave law to file freedom suits. In at least two cases the period, incarceration paradoxically provided the means to liberation from bondage.


Dr Rory O’Bryen

Date: 17 March

Time: 5pm UK Time

Venue: Zoom (registration required)

Title:  ‘Guaca-Hayo: Colombia’s Magdalena River as Landscape of Terror’.

In this seminar, I look at the iconography of the Magdalena river turned common grave in a selection of texts about the mid-twentieth-century conflicts known as La Violencia in Colombia (~1948-1953).  I read the phenomenology of violence (with Étienne Balibar and Achille Mbembe) in terms of its intrinsic relationship with cruelty, and connect the specific cruelty of river disposal to partisan histories’ material-necropolitical ‘other scene’: the creation of death-worlds in the making of landscapes. I then address how this deathly space poses problems of representation. Since Guzmán Campos’s seminal La Violencia en Colombia (1962), I argue, writers have sought to give voice to the disfigured river corpse, to make it ‘speak’ to the mattering of the dead in the violent re-composition of life-worlds. Some such efforts – notoriously, novels like Balas de la ley (Sánchez, 1952) and Zarpazo: otra cara de la Violencia (Buitrago Salazar, 1957) –reproduce terror’s necropolitical-material effects in their mediation by forms of colonial mimesis (Taussig). Others, like Jorge Gaitán Durán and Eduardo Cote Lamus of the Grupo Mito break with these mimetic cycles through poetic ‘necrolandscapings’ (a term I borrow from Jill H. Casid) that trope on decomposing matter as the basis of other common ‘becomings’. All nonetheless disturb the fixing of death in landscape, and mobilize distinctly mixed affects as they contaminate the orders of mimesis and poiesis, terror and grace.


*Book Launch: Ingleses no Brasil. Relatos de Viagem, 1526-1608 (Rio de Janeiro: Chão Editora)

Presenters: Dr Vivien Kogut Lessa de Sá and Dr Sheila Hue (UERJ – State University of Rio de Janeiro)

Discussants: Dr Luciana Martins (Birkbeck College, University of London) and Professor K. David Jackson (Yale University)

Date: 10 March

Time: 5pm

Venue: Zoom (Registration required)


About the Speakers:

Professor Lúcia Sá is the author of Rainforest Literatures: Amazonian Texts and Latin American Culture  (Minnesota 2004 - translated as Literaturas da Floresta, Eduerj: 2012) and Life in the Megalopolis: Mexico City and São Paulo (Routledge, 2007). Currently professor of Brazilian studies at the University of Manchester, she was previously professor of Brazilian culture at Stanford University and has held visiting positions at the University of São Paulo, the University of Lisbon, New College, San Francisco and Oberlin College. She is currently involved in projects on ‘Racism and Anti-racism in Brazil,’ focusing on the case of indigenous peoples (with Felipe Milanez Pereira, UFBA, and ‘Cultures of Anti-Racism in Latin America’ (with Peter wade and Ignacio Aguiló, Manchester).

Dr Rachel Price works on Latin American, circum-Atlantic and particularly Cuban literature and culture. Her essays have discussed a range of topics, including digital media, slavery, poetics, environmental humanities, and visual art. The Object of the Atlantic: Concrete Aesthetics in Cuba, Brazil and Spain 1868-1968 was published in 2014 by Northwestern University Press. Planet/Cuba: Art, Culture, and the Future of the Island, was published by Verso Books in 2015. She is currently working on several projects, including intersections between aesthetics and energy, and a book-length study rethinking communication technologies and literature in the nineteenth-century slaveholding Iberian Atlantic. She is currently associate professor at Princeton and has previously taught at Brown University and Stonybrook University, after working at the Social Science Research Council’s Program on Latin America and Working Group on Cuba, and at the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca in Colombia.

Dr Rory O’Bryen teaches and researches on modern Latin American culture at the University of Cambridge, and has particular research interests in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Colombian culture and history. He is the author of Literature, Testimony and Cinema in Contemporary Colombian Culture: Spectres of "La Violencia" (Woodridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2008),  and has co-edited and contributed to Latin American Popular Culture: Politics, Media, Affect (New York: Boydell and Brewer, 2013), Latin American Cultural Studies: A Reader (Routledge, 2017). His current research explores the representation of the Magdalena River in Colombian culture between 1850 and the present day. It engages with a range of works, including mid-nineteenth-century regional romances, late nineteenth-century Afro-Colombian poetry, representations of leprosy in early twentieth-century literature, music and silent film, the ‘novela de la Violencia’ of the 1950s, and late twentieth-century engagements with narcotráfico. In doing so it uses the river as a conduit into the fragile interplay between nation-formation and global political and economic processes.