Joseph Litts (he/him) is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. His research focuses on art made in and around the Atlantic basin by Black, European, and Indigenous creators between 1680 and 1840, including the UK and its colonies in North America. Joseph is completing his dissertation: “Natural Disaster in the Atlantic World: Aesthetics, Delight, and Risk during the Long Eighteenth Century.” The project investigates how a surge of artistic interest in catastrophe intersected with the growth of real bodies and things exposed to tragedies through their increased circulation—coerced or voluntary—around the Atlantic. How did disasters in the Caribbean become artistic fodder in London? Why did those subjected to the vulnerabilities of the Atlantic world create, purchase, and enjoy representations of the destructive forces that could end their life or fortunes?
Joseph has published on collections and afterlives of Cherokee rivercane baskets (talu-tsa), the racist material histories of carved alligator souvenirs from the US South, and Anna Atkins’s cyanotypes in relationship to the plantations her family owned in Jamaica. Joseph has held curatorial and research positions at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Georgia Museum of Art, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.