Photo of Matthew Rarey
  • Assistant Professor of Art History


  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2014
  • MA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008
  • BA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005


I am an art historian of the black Atlantic world, which means I research the development and transformation of African art forms as they travel back and forth between Africa, the Americas (especially Brazil) and Europe. My work privileges the impact of African artists and ideas in diasporic contexts, with particular interests in assemblage and ephemeral aesthetics, conceptions of enslavement and its visual representation, and the development of Afro-Atlantic religious arts. Binding together these threads, my current book manuscript investigates the accumulative history of bolsas de mandinga: small protective pouches with cross-cultural origins in West Africa that took on new forms and histories as they spread across the black Atlantic world over the past four centuries.

My work on black Atlantic visual culture has appeared in the edited volumes African Heritage and Memories of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World (Cambria Press, 2015) and Theorizing Visual Studies (Routledge, 2012); the journal Romantic Circles Praxis Series, as well as the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography (Oxford, 2016). My forthcoming projects include a critical analysis of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Beloved in the context of mid-19th century transnational abolition dialogues, and a study of the relationship between cartography and maroon settlements in 18th century Brazil.

At Oberlin, I teach introductory courses on African arts, as well as intermediate and advanced classes on African diaspora arts, cross-cultural exchange, and the visual representation of enslavement. Prior joining the Oberlin faculty, I taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Carthage College, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


  • Matthew Rarey Gives Two Invited Lectures

    March 12, 2019

    Matthew Rarey, assistant professor of art history, gave two invited lectures, both derived from his current book manuscript. On February 26, he delivered "Leave No Mark: Blackness Inviolate" at the Department of Religion, Amherst College. On March 6, he delivered "Pouches, Archives, and the Art of Survival" at the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, where he is currently in residence as a visiting scholar for the 2018-2019 academic year.

  • Matthew Rarey Invited to Seminar Series

    October 24, 2018

    Matthew Rarey, assistant professor of art history, is one of a select group of scholars invited to participate in "Black Modernisms," a two-part seminar series taking place in October 2018 and April 2019 at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The seminars are part of CASVA's new initiative to support research on African-American and African art.

  • Matthew Rarey Delivers Lecture

    October 19, 2018

    Matthew Rarey, assistant professor of art history, delivered an invited lecture, "Glimpsing the Flight from Enslavement" at DePaul University in Chicago on October 18. The lecture was sponsored by the university's Department of the History of Art and Architecture, the Department of African and Black Diaspora Studies, and the Center for Black Diaspora.

  • Matthew Rarey Awarded NEH Fellowship

    September 27, 2018

    Matthew Rarey, assistant professor of art history, was awarded a 2018-2019 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for his book project, Insignificant Things: Assemblage, Occlusion, and the Art of Survival in the Black Atlantic. Professor Rarey is spending his fellowship year as a visiting scholar in the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University.

  • Matthew Rarey Gives Invited Lecture

    September 25, 2018

    Matthew Rarey, assistant professor of art history, delivered his lecture, "Questions of Value and Bondage at a Hotel in London, March 1865" at the Center for Visual Culture at Bryn Mawr College. The lecture, which is based on an in-progress article, discusses Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 1866 painting, The Beloved, in the context of 19th century theories of race and sexuality, as well as transnational abolitionist dialogues.

  • Matthew Rarey Presents

    April 10, 2018

    Assistant Professor of Art History Matthew Rarey presented new work on the memorialization of the slave trade in Ghana in his presentation "Dirt, Concrete, and the Substance of Memory in Slavery's Dungeon" at Honoring Ancestors in Africa: Art and Actions held on April 6-7 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison .

  • Matthew Rarey Participates in African Art History Discussion

    March 30, 2018

    Assistant Professor of Art History Matthew Rarey was one of a select group of invited participants to "The Future of African Art: A State of the Field Convening" at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, March 22-24. The gathering brought together curators, professors, independent scholars, and collectors of African art from three continents to discuss future directions and challenges in the study of African art history.


African Art Gets New Home

February 8, 2017
The Allen Memorial Art Museum has 107 African art objects in its collection. With the opening on February 2, 25 objects are now on view. The installation was curated by students in the fall 2016 seminar, African Art in Museums: From Collection to Display.