Cynthia Becker is an assistant professor of art history at Boston University, where she specializes in the arts of Africa. Her scholarly work concentrates on northern Africa and uses the visual, verbal, and performing arts to illustrate the ways in which women negotiate complex social and religious issues. Her first book, Amazigh Arts in Morocco: Women Shaping Berber Identity (University of Texas Press, 2006), examines the woven carpets, dress, jewelry, and styles of body adornment used by Berbers, the indigenous people of North Africa. It examines the central role of women’s artistic production in the construction and maintenance of Amazigh (Berber) identity. Other projects focus on the visual expression of Amazigh consciousness by contemporary painters/activists and self-censorship in contemporary Moroccan art.
At Radcliffe, Becker will work on a book that explores how religion, race, and gender intersect in contemporary Morocco through a consideration of the visual and performing arts of the Gnawa, a people once enslaved and carried across the Sahara by caravans from Mali, Niger, and Senegal. The book considers ceremonial performances and material culture—including dress, ritual accoutrements, and musical instruments—in order to historicize Gnawa aesthetics, to reveal their Sahelian African derivations, and to consider the process of diaspora community formation in North Africa.
Becker received her PhD in African art history from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her research has been supported by grants from the Fulbright Program, the Fulbright-Hays Program, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.