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Kobena Mercer

  • CountryUnited Kingdom
  • Born1960


Kobena Mercer is a British writer and academic whose research interests are focused on the modern and contemporary art of the Black diaspora. Examining the work of Afro-American, Caribbean and Black British artists with critical methods from cultural studies, Mercer explores the issues of race, sexuality and identity in transnational contexts. His first book Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies (1994) investigated new forms of cultural expression in black film, photography and visual art, documenting fresh perspectives arising from the overlapping of Asian, African and Caribbean cultures that constitute Black Britain.

Mercer’s critical essays and texts have been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Third Text, frieze and Art Journal. He is the author of monographic studies on James VanDerZee, Isaac Julien, Rotimi Fani-Kayode and Keith Piper, the latter published in collaboration with Iniva.

He is the editor of Annotating Art’s Histories, a series of four books co-published by Iniva and The MIT Press between 2005 and 2008. The books whose titles include Cosmopolitan Modernisms; Discrepant Abstraction; Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures and Exiles, Diasporas & Strangers examine cross-cultural interaction in the visual arts.

Born in London, Mercer was educated in both Ghana and England. He studied Fine Art at Saint Martin’s School of Art and received a PhD in Sociology from Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2006, he was the inaugural recipient of the Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing, awarded by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. In addition to his work as a writer, Mercer has a successful career as an academic with previous teaching posts in universities in California, New York and Middlesex.

Mercer lives and works in the US, where he is Professor of History of Art and African-American Studies at Yale University.

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