Crossroads Africa: African Engagement in the Making of Early Modernity. An International Conference


Monday, May 20, 2019 (All day) to Tuesday, May 21, 2019 (All day)


Gould Hall, I Tatti (May 20 & 21)

Crossroads Africa is a two-day conference that will bring together art historians and curators, archaeologists, and historians of political institutions, economics, and the slave trade, interested in crossing historiographical and geographical frontiers to explore how Africans played active roles in shaping global histories (c. 1300-1700) and creating transnational spaces that continue to inform the circulation of people, goods, and ideas today. The conference builds on an exploratory seminar organized by Suzanne Blier (Harvard University), Alina Payne (I Tatti), and Gerhard Wolf (KHI-Florenz) at I Tatti in January 2017, which sought to address the deep and broad relationship between Africa and its continental neighbors, Europe and Asia, from the medieval through the early modern periods.

Focusing on a set of related geographies—West Africa, its Atlantic archipelagos, Ethiopia, and the Italian peninsula—papers will explore: the exchange of materials (including ivory, coral, glass beads, textiles, and metalwork); the role of museums in prompting and disseminating new scholarship and promoting wider public appreciation of historical African material and expressive culture; circulation of knowledge and technologies; enslavement and the formation of creolized communities and cultures; representation and perception of kingship, sovereignty, and territorial power.

Crossroads Africa is part of an initiative intended to stimulate and support increased scholarship on cultural exchange with and within the African continent during the early globalization of trade relationships by creating and promoting opportunities for institutional and collegial cross-disciplinary collaboration, particularly between scholars working in African regions and those in European and American institutions.

View the Conference Program

Organized by Ingrid Greenfield (Postdoctoral Fellow, I Tatti) and Carlo Taviani (Research Associate, I Tatti)


Abidemi Babatunde Babalola (Cambridge University, UK)

Herman L. Bennett (CUNY Graduate Center)

Kathleen Bickford Berzock (Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University)

Gerard Chouin (College of William and Mary) 

António Correia e Silva (Universidade Cabo Verde)

Cécile Fromont (Yale University)

Sarah Guérin (University of Pennsylvania)

Shamil Jeppie (University of Cape Town)

Verena Krebs (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Kate Lowe (Queen Mary University of London)

Vera-Simone Schulz (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz)

David Wheat (Michigan State University)

Kristen Windmuller-Luna (Brooklyn Museum and Princeton University Art Museum)

Roberto Zaugg (Universität Bern)