Steven Nelson explores the ways that the visual cultures, architecture, and urbanism of Africa contribute to the construction of different subjectivities on the continent. Along these lines, his manuscript “From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture and the Making of Meaning,” under review at the University of Chicago Press, analyzes how the celebrated Mousgoum domed house of northern Cameroon has become a key repository of recollection for the Mousgoum and an important representation of “vernacular architecture” for the West. This book also insists on exposing the constructed nature of intellectual and psychological borders erected between things African and non-African.
At Radcliffe, Nelson will continue to research and begin to write a book about the urban history of Dakar, Senegal. Founded by the French in 1857, Dakar has grown from a small city of about fifteen hundred inhabitants to a metropolis of 2.5 million people. This project focuses on key moments in Dakar’s multicultural, multilingual, and multireligious history, exploring how art, architecture, urbanism, and popular culture have shaped this African city.
An assistant professor of art history, Nelson earned his BA in studio art from Yale University and his AM and PhD from Harvard University. He is a former reviews editor for the College Art Association’s Art Journal and African Arts. Nelson has received grants from the Getty Research Institute and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He has published and lectured on African and African American art, queer studies, and global contemporary visual practices.