Mabel Wilson and Columbia University’s African American and African Diaspora Studies Department

Mabel Wilson and Columbia University’s African American and African Diaspora Studies Department


Columbia has given me really an
opportunity to explore the diverse range of disciplines that I’ve been trained in
but my affiliation with the Institute has also then allowed me to explore the
history of african-american studies so I consider myself also a cultural
historian I’m not an architectural historian but a cultural historian who
really investigates race in the built environment. So on the sort of deep dive
scholarly archival work I’m writing a book called “Building Race and Nation”
looking at the influence of slavery and Native American disposession on American
Civic architecture which basically goes from the founding of the nation, 1776, up
to the eve of the Civil War and I’m looking at the the architecture of the White House and the Virginia State House as a lens to understand how were white
founding fathers building these institutions toward liberty and justice
that were going to be the sites of governance and adjudication, symbols of
all of these wonderful Enlightenment values yet solely dependent on enslaved
labor to build it and to also run those spaces and then these projects being
built on land dispossessed from Native Americans and within that is a
formulation of racial identity linked to national identity and so I think it can
be a rich study to sort of understand all of those entanglements which are
clearly still operative today

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