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Paul Niell

Published February 16, 2015

Pniell_medAssociate Professor
Director of Museum & Cultural Heritage Studies
Spanish Colonial Arts & Architecture,
Material Culture of the African Diaspora
3024 WJB
Department of Art History
Curriculum Vitae

(850) 645-0404


Research Areas

Paul Niell (PhD, University of New Mexico) specializes in Spanish Colonial art, architecture and visual culture, c. 1500-1840, and the material culture of the African Diaspora. His theoretical and methodological interests include material culture studies, decolonial theory, sensory theory, architectural history, cultural landscape studies, and heritage studies. He teaches courses in the art history department’s Visual Cultures of the Americas program.

On the revival, multiple uses, and multivalence of the Greco-Roman classical tradition in late colonial and early national Latin American contexts, he is co-editor of Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Visual Cultures of Latin America, 1790-1910. This anthology presents a revisionist view of the neoclassical phenomenon in the art and architecture of this period by examining the discourse of buen gusto (good taste) in societies from New Spain/Mexico and the Caribbean to South America. In these contexts, good taste appears as not only an aesthetic reference, but also a modality of perception and a socio-cultural dynamic of self-creation.

His single-authored book, Urban Space as Heritage in Late Colonial Cuba: Classicism and Dissonance on the Plaza de Armas of Havana, 1754-1828, was published by the University of Texas Press in May 2015 and considers the commemoration of Havana’s foundational site in the late colonial period through the lens of heritage studies. According to national legend, Havana, Cuba, was founded under the shade of a ceiba tree whose branches sheltered the island’s first Catholic mass and meeting of the town council (cabildo) in 1519. The founding site was first memorialized in 1754 by the erection of a baroque monument in Havana’s central Plaza de Armas, which was reconfigured in 1828 by the addition of a neoclassical work, El Templete. Viewing the transformation of the Plaza de Armas from the new perspective of heritage studies, this book investigates how late colonial Cuban society narrated Havana’s founding to valorize Spanish imperial power and used the monuments to underpin a local sense of place and cultural authenticity, civic achievement, and social order.

He is currently at work on a new project examining domestic architecture, reform, and the senses in nineteenth-century Puerto Rico.

Teaching Areas

Spanish Colonial Arts and Architecture and Material Culture of the African Diaspora

Lecture Courses Offered
• Spanish Caribbean Architecture and Cultural Landscapes
• Spanish Colonial Art: The Habsburg Period, 1492/1506-1700
• Spanish Colonial Art: The Bourbon Period, 1700-1821/1898
• Visual Cultures of the African Diaspora
• Undergraduate Seminar: Buen Gusto and Classicism in Latin America

Graduate Seminars Offered
• Art and Nationalism in Latin America
• Caribbean Architecture and Material Culture
• Spanish American Baroque/Architecture and Space
• Visual Cultures in Early Spanish America/Transculturation
• Visual Cultures of the African Diaspora

Selected Publications