Suzanne Preston Blier, the Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University, is an art and architectural historian specializing in the cultures and history of Africa. Editor-in-chief of The Baobab Project: Sources and Studies in African Visual Culture, an electronic database at Harvard, Blier has published articles on African art in a broad sweep of academic journals.
At the Radcliffe Institute, Blier will work on two projects. The first looks at arts and land use at the ancient site of Ife, home to the Yoruba, from 1100 to 1500 CE and at the role that the now disempowered indigenous population played in the shaping of its visual culture. The second is a volume on Dahomey women warriors, based on field work and on a close reading of popular press reviews and advertisements for Dahomey Amazon performances in Germany, France, England, and the United States between 1891 and 1907.
Blier received her BA from the University of Vermont, taking time off to work with the Peace Corps. She earned an MA, MPhil, and PhD from Columbia University, where she later became professor. Blier has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Most recently, she published Art of the Senses: African Masterpieces from the William and Bertha Teel Collection (Boston Museum of Fine Arts Publications, 2004) and Butabu: Adobe Architecture from the Western Sudan (with James Morris, Princeton Architectural Press, 2004).