Barry McNamara  |  Published October 25, 2022

Sienkewicz Lecture Set for Nov. 10

Race and racism in the Roman world is topic of College’s annual talk on classics, which will be presented by Sinclair Bell of Northern Illinois University.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Racism is not limited to the past few centuries, as a guest lecturer will discuss Nov. 10 at Monmouth College.

SINCLAIR BELL: Northern Illinois University scholar to present Monmouth's annual Sienkewicz L... SINCLAIR BELL: Northern Illinois University scholar to present Monmouth's annual Sienkewicz Lecture on Nov. 10.Northern Illinois University art history professor Sinclair Bell will speak on “‘Race,’ Racism and Representation in Roman Art: Aethiopians in the Visual Arts of the Roman World” as he delivers the College’s sixth annual Thomas and Anne Sienkewicz Lecture on Roman Archaeology. Free and open to the public, the lecture will be presented at 7:30 p.m. in the Pattee Auditorium on the lower level of the Center for Science and Business.

“The visual and material culture of the Roman Empire provides an abundant record of direct encounters with, as well as stereotyped imaginings of, foreign peoples,” said Bell. “These images render visible complex formulations of ethnicity, social hierarchies and power.”

Bell’s lecture will survey the ways in which imperial artists represented the peoples whom the Romans referred to as Aethiopians or Nubians (i.e., “Black” Africans) in a variety of visual media.

“The lecture also considers how and why these works have been interpreted, misinterpreted or sometimes ignored altogether by ancient art historians, and proposes new ways of integrating them into future, critical histories of Roman art,” said Bell.

At NIU, Bell teaches courses in Greek, Etruscan and Roman art history, architecture and archaeology, as well as museum studies. His research focuses on the art and archaeology of the Etruscans; sport and spectacle in the Roman imperial period, especially the Roman circus; and slavery in ancient Rome, especially the visual representation of slaves, freedmen and foreigners in Roman art.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in classical studies and history from Wake Forest University, then traveled abroad to complete his graduate work in classical art and archaeology, studying at the University of Oxford, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cologne.

Bell has co-edited numerous volumes, including a book with Teresa Ramsby on freed slaves in ancient Rome titled Free at Last! The Impact of Freed Slaves on the Roman Empire. He also worked with Alexandra Carpino on A Companion to the Etruscans. Bell was selected for a three-year term as editor of the journal Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome.

In addition to receiving numerous postdoctoral grants and fellowships in support of his research, Bell appeared as a presenter in Rome’s Chariot Superstar, a documentary on the Smithsonian Channel based in part on his dissertation research.

The lecture series was anonymously endowed to honor one of Monmouth’s most broadly influential faculty members, Tom Sienkewicz, who retired as Minnie Billings Capron Chair of Classical Languages in 2017 after 33 years at the College. During his first year on the faculty, Sienkewicz founded the Western Illinois Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, which has hosted scores of archaeological lectures on campus. From 2012-17, he served the Classical Association of the Middle West and South as its chief executive and financial officer.

His wife, Anne, has been a loyal supporter of archaeology and over the years has hosted countless speakers.

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