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On Kara Walker's 'A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby' // Glenda Carpio

  • The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality 5733 S University Ave Chicago, IL, 60637 United States (map)


Professor Carpio will discuss Kara Walker's controversial sculpture, "A Subtlety," a monumental sugar covered sphinx that drew 130,000 viewers while on a two month display at the soon to be demolished Domino sugar factory in Brooklyn, N.Y.  Intended as a tribute to African American women involved in the 19th century sugar trade, the sculpture has raised burning questions about art, slavery, and capitalism. But it is also a sculpture that, from the title on, deploys Walker's sharp wit and black humor. Situating Walker in the context of African American comedic practices, Professor Carpio will discuss the risks and possibilities of using humor to redress the horrors of slavery and its legacy.


Glenda Carpio is Professor of English and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Recent publications include Laughing Fit to Kill; Black Humor in the Fictions of Slavery (Oxford UP. 2008) and Conjuring the Mysteries of Slavery: Voodoo, Fetishism and Stereotype in Ishmael Reed’s Flight to Canada (American Literature, 2005). Learn more about Professor Carpio on her faculty page here.

Sponsored by 3CT and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.