Claremont, Calif. (January 27, 2014) — Pitzer College Assistant Professor of Sociology Alicia Bonaparte has been awarded a 2014 summer residency by NLS, a new contemporary visual art initiative in Kingston, Jamaica. During the eight-week residency, Bonaparte along with co-awardee and artist Andrea Chung will develop a collaborative art installation, Catchin’ Babies, Colonizing Black Bodies for exhibition in August.
The project borrows its name from a phrase used in African-American communities in the South to describe midwifery. Catchin’ Babies, Colonizing Black Bodies explores the persecution of traditional birthing methods practiced by descendants of the African diaspora, depicting how colonialism and the medicalization of birth impacted southern black “granny” midwives and Jamaican midwives in the early twentieth century. Their project highlights Bonaparte’s socio-historical research, which examines how physicians undermined and delegitimized midwifery, and Chung’s artwork on the role of colonialism in Diasporic areas.
The research and artwork created during the NLS residency will become part of a larger body of work that constructs a narrative surrounding Chung’s grandmother, Beryl LeCadre, a midwife who practiced for more than 30 years. Catchin’ Babies, Colonizing Black Bodies will illustrate Bonaparte’s research by using LeCadre as a protagonist, acknowledging and celebrating the importance of midwives in Diasporic communities. Together Bonaparte and Chung will construct an installation that incorporates audio, text and historical artifacts.
Bonaparte has written extensively about birthing, midwifery, reproductive health disparities, and class and gender issues in American society. Her article, “Physicians’ Discourse for Establishing Authoritative Knowledge in Birthing Work and Reducing the Presence of the Granny Midwife” will be published online this month by the Journal of Historical Sociology.
NLS supports contemporary visual artists whose practice is based in experimentation, connects such artists to the global contemporary art community and fosters a collaborative approach to the artistic process. It provides a unique platform in Jamaica for experimentation and public engagement in contemporary visual art through its artist residency program, exhibition program, studio rental program and open-access philosophy.