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The trajectory of “Negrophilia”

Courtney Carliss Young





The crux of my research focuses on a trend articulated brilliantly by Petrine Archer-Shaw in her book entitled Negrophilia. In the years after the end of the First World War, large numbers of Africans and African Americans emigrated to the cities of Europe in search of work and improved social conditions. Their impact on white European society was immense. In Paris, where the artistic climate was particularly sensitive and experimental, avant-garde artists courted black personalities such as Josephine Baker, Henry Crowder, and Langston Hughes for their sense of style, vitality, and "otherness." Leger, Picasso, Brancusi, Man Ray, Giacometti, Sonia Delaunay, and others enthusiastically collected African sculptures and wore tribal jewelry and clothes.

More importantly, they adopted black forms in their work, and their style soon influenced a larger audience anxious to be in vogue. A passion for black culture swept through Paris, and by the end of the 1920s, black forms that had provided the initial spark to the modernist vision had become the commercially successful Art Deco style. In my research, I focus on the trajectory of “Negrophilia” (a love and admiration of black people and black culture) throughout England, France, and Italy from the arly 1920s to present- day. More specifically, I detail how Negrophilia has impacted the culture of Europe. I also look at it manifestations and how it inevitably serves to fetishize people of African descent. Lastly, I look at how Black Europeans are constantly negotiating their identity amidst this imagery and fascination with black bodies and black culture.

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