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Power 100

Most influential people in 2022 in the contemporary artworld

38

Saidiya Hartman

Academic - Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

38 in 2022

  • 202238
  • 20209
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006
  • 2005
Saidiya Hartman. Photo: Jai Lennard

Writer and academic Hartman might be only tangentially involved in the artworld, helping to shape artist Simone Leigh’s celebrated ‘Loophole of Retreat’ conference as part of the Venice Biennale, but her work has been crucial in precipitating such a moment. This year sees a new edition of Scenes of Subjection (1997), Hartman’s landmark text on the legacies of slavery, to mark its 25th anniversary. ‘By shifting from the spectacular to the everyday,’ she wrote recently about the book, ‘I aimed to illuminate the ongoing and structural dimensions of violence and slavery’s idioms of power.’ Such a shift is common throughout her work, particularly in her influential Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019), in which she details the daily experiences of several urban Black women of the early twentieth century. Her self described use of ‘close narration’, which evolves from extensive research to draw on methods of fiction to revive and reinvigorate figures from the past, has proven a potent template for artists everywhere to give neglected histories space in the present.

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