Steven Nelson

Professor of African and African American Art and Director of the UCLA Center for African Studies

Dodd Hall 212C

Phone: 310-825-2322

Personal Website


Ph.D. Harvard University, 1998

Areas of Interest

Contemporary and historic arts, architecture and urbanism of Africa and its diasporas; African American art history; queer studies; digital humanities; early cinema and theater in Los Angeles 


Steven Nelson is Professor of African and African American Art and Director of the UCLA Center for African Studies. He was the 2014-15 Cohen Fellow at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Treasurer of the National Committee for the History of Art, a member of the General Assembly of the Comité international d’histoire de l’art, and a member of the advisory board for the National Gallery’s Center for Advanced Visual Study. He is also a Reviews Editor for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians and a Contributing Editor to Grove Art Online. His book From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture In and Out of Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2007) has won multiple awards. His writings on the contemporary and historic arts, architecture and urbanism of Africa and its diasporas, African American art history, and queer studies have appeared in anthologies and exhibition catalogues as well as in African Arts, Architecture New York (ANY), Art Bulletin, Artforum, Art Journal, Documents, Journal of Homosexuality, Museums International, New Formations, and Politique Africaine. Professor Nelson has received numerous fellowships. While at Harvard, Professor Nelson is completing two new books titled, “Structural Adjustment: Mapping, Geography, and the Visual Cultures of Blackness,” and “On The Underground Railroad.”


  • “Nelson Mandela’s Two Bodies,” Transition, No. 116 (2014): 130-42.
  • Karmen Geï: Sex, the State and Censorship in Dakar,” African Arts, vol. 42, no. 2 (Spring 2011): 74-81.
  • “A Tale of Two Cities: The Films of Djibril Diop Mambety,” Artforum, vol. 47, no. 3 (November 2008): 306-11.
  • From Cameroon to Paris: Mousgoum Architecture in and out of Africa (book). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
  • “Collection and Context in a Cameroonian Village,” Museum International, no. 235 (September 2007), Paris: UNESCO/Blackwell: 22-30 (published in English, French, and Chinese).
  • “Turning Green into Black or How I Learned to Live with the Canon,” in Elizabeth Mansfield, ed. Making Art History: A Changing Discipline and its Institutions. London: Routledge, 2007, 54-66.
  • “Diaspora and Contemporary Art: Multiple Practices, Multiple Worldviews,” in Amelia Jones, ed., Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945 (Blackwell Companions to Art History). Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, 296-316.
  • “Transgressive Transcendence in the Photographs of Rotimi Fani-Kayode,” Art Journal, vol. 64, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 4-19.
  • “Freeman Murray and the Beginnings of an African American History of Art,” in Elizabeth Mansfield, ed. Art History and Its Institutions: Foundations of a Discipline. London: Routledge, 2002, 283-94.
  • New Histories. Co-editor with Lia Gangitano. Exhibition catalogue (edited volume). Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1996.