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Paul Niell

Published February 16, 2015

Dr Paul Niell
Director of Graduate Studies
Associate Professor
Spanish Colonial Arts & Architecture,
Material Culture of the African Diaspora

PhD University of New Mexico
Curriculum Vitae
3024 William Johnston Building


Research Areas

Dr. Paul Niell focuses on the architecture and cultural landscapes of the Hispanophone Caribbean in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His work is informed by interests in colonial theory, material culture studies, cultural landscape studies, and critical heritage studies. He teaches courses on the architecture and visual cultures of the African Diaspora, the Spanish Colonial period, and Caribbean architecture in the department’s Visual Cultures of the Americas program.

On the revival, use, and reception of Greco-Roman classicism in late colonial and early national Latin America, he is co-editor with Dr. Stacie G. Widdifield of Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Visual Cultures of Latin America, 1790-1910, published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2013. This revisionist anthology approaches 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. 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. This work considers the commemoration of Havana’s foundational site in the late colonial period through the lens of critical heritage studies. His other publications and projects include “Architecture of Colonizers/Architecture of Immigrants: The Gothic in Latin America from the 16th to the 20th Centuries,” a 2015 special edition of the journal postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, co-edited with Richard A. Sundt of the University of Oregon that offers the first comprehensive treatment of the appropriation of European Gothic style in Latin America. He was co-curator with Lesley A. Wolff and Michael D. Carrasco of the exhibition Decolonizing Refinement: Contemporary Pursuits in the Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié (Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University, February 16-April 1, 2018), a groundbreaking exhibition at FSU that set the work of renowned Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carrié into dialogue with the material culture of the southeastern United States. He is currently collaborating with Dr. Luis Gordo-Pelaez of CSU Fresno in co-editing the volume, Architectures of Extraction in the Atlantic World, now under contract with Routledge.

Professor Niell is co-organizing three conferences for the 2022/2023 core program of the Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies of the Clark Library at the University of California, Los Angeles, in collaboration with Dr. Stella Nair of UCLA, titled “The Forgotten Canopy: Ecology, Ephemeral Architecture, and Imperialism in the Caribbean, South American, and Transatlantic Worlds.” This conference series will bring together scholars from a wide range of disciplines as well as Indigenous Knowledge Bearers to examine the under investigated histories of ephemeral architecture and their relationships to human-environmental development and imperial processes post-1492. Dr. Niell is also working on a single-authored monograph on thatched bohíos (dwellings associated with the working poor) and the regulatory landscapes of late eighteenth and nineteenth-century Hispanophone Caribbean, for which he has received the support of the Council for Research and Creativity at FSU, the American Philosophical Society, the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Foundation, and the Society of Architectural Historians.


Capucine Monfort, University of Tours, France (co-chair)
Ileana Olmos
Sheila Scoville (co-chair)
Estefanía Vallejo Santiago (co-chair)

Completed Dissertations

Jennifer Baez, “Painting the Miracles of Altagracia: Art, Piety, and Memory in Hispaniola.”
Emily Thames, “Empire, Race, and Agency in the Work of José Campeche, Artist and Subject in Late Spanish Colonial Puerto Rico (1751-1809).”

List of FSU Art History dissertations

Graduate Seminars

• Art History: Theory and Method
• Plantation Architecture and Landscapes of Florida
• Art and Nationalism in Latin America
• Architecture and Ephemerality in the Colonial Caribbean
• Spanish American Baroque/Architecture and Space
• Urban Worlds of the Early Modern Ibero-Americas
• Heritage, Place, and Identity in Early Spanish Colonial America
• Spanish Caribbean Architecture and Cultural Landscapes
• Visual Cultures of the African Diaspora

Lecture Courses

• 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
• Undergraduate Seminar: Architecture, Landscape, and Environment in the Modern Caribbean
• History of African Art
• Cuban Colonial Art and Architecture

Selected Publications

Books and special journal editions

Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • (In progress) “Plaza, Paseo, and Street: Urban Palimpsests of Nineteenth-Century Havana,” Cuban Studies
  • “Curating the Caribbean: Unsettling the Boundaries of Art and Artifact.” Co-authored with Lesley A. Wolff and Michael D. Carrasco. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2020. Online.
  • Caribes, Designing a Digital Database for Caribbean Architecture and the Problem of Overlapping Spaces,” Invited submission to Journal18: a journal of eighteenth-century art and culture, Issue 5, Spring 2018, special edition, “Coordinates: Digital Mapping & 18th-Century Visual, Material, and Built Cultures.”
  • “Neoclassical Architecture in Colonial Latin America: A Negotiated Modernity,” in History Compass 12/3 (2014): 252-262.
  • “Rhetorics of Place and Empire in the Fountain Sculpture of 1830s Havana,” The Art Bulletin 95, No. 3, September 2013, 440-464.
  • “Founding the Academy of San Alejandro and the Politics of Taste in Late Colonial Havana, Cuba,” Colonial Latin American Review 21, No. 2, August 2012, pp. 293-318.
  • “Classical Architecture and the Cultural Politics of Cemetery Reform in Early Nineteenth-Century Havana, Cuba,” The Latin Americanist 55, Issue 2, June 2011, pp. 57-90.
  • “El Templete and Cuban Neoclassicism: A Multivalent Signifier as Site of Memory,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 30, No. 3, pp. 344-365, 2011.
  • “The Emergence of the Ceiba Tree as Symbol in the Cuban Cultural Landscape,” Cultural Landscapes: A Journal of Cultural Studies, 1(3) 2009, pp. 89-109.

Edited Book Chapters

  • (In progress) “Colonial Gothic and the Globalizing of Form in Sixteenth-Century Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic,” in Lateness and Modernity in Medieval Architecture, edited by Kyle Sweeney and Alice Sullivan. Under contract with Brill.
  • (In progress) “Landscapes of Slavery and the Mending of Public History in Ponce, Puerto Rico: Learning from Juana Agripina,” for Architectures of Slavery: Ruins and Reconstructions, edited by Rachel Ama Asa Engmann and Nathaniel R. Walker. Under contract with the University of Virginia Press.
  • “Architecture, Domestic Space, and the Imperial Gaze in the Puerto Rico Chapters of Our Islands and Their People (1899),” in Imperial Islands: Vision and Experience in the American Empire after 1898, edited by Joseph R. Hartman, 103-121. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2022.
  • “The Coloniality of Aesthetics: Regulating Race and Buen Gusto in Cuba’s 19th-Century Academy,” in Academies and Schools of Art in Latin America, edited by Oscar Vásquez, 80-93. New York and London: Routledge, 2020.
  • “Ibero-American Architecture and Urban Space,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Baroque, edited by John Lyons, 286-311. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • “Bolivarian Imagery and Racial Ideology in Early Nineteenth-Century Cuba,” in Simón Bolívar: Travels and Transformations of a Cultural Icon, edited by Maureen G. Shanahan and Ana María Reyes, 62-77. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2016.
  • “Late Gothic in the Sixteenth-Century Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic,” Architecture of Colonizers/Architecture of Immigrants, Richard A. Sundt and Paul B. Niell, eds. postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, Vol. 6, Issue 3, Fall 2015, pp. 258-271.
  • “El Templete: Classicism and the Dialectics of Colonial Urban Space in Early Nineteenth-Century Havana, Cuba” in Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Visual Cultures of Latin America, 1780-1910, edited by Paul B. Niell and Stacie G. Widdifield, 49-71. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 2013.
  • “From Colonial Subjectivity to ‘Enlightened’ Selfhood: The Spatial Rhetoric of the Plaza de Armas of Havana, Cuba, 1771-1828,” in Urban Identity and the Atlantic World, edited by Elizabeth Fay and Leonard von Morze, pp. 41-60. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Exhibition catalogue entries

  • “Preface: A Note on Decolonizing,” In Decolonizing Refinement: Contemporary Pursuits in the Arts of Edouard Duval-Carrié, edited by Allys Palladino-Craig and Jean Young, 6-11. Tallahassee, FL: Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University, 2016.
  • “Rituals of Refinement: Edouard Duval-Carrié’s Historical Pursuits,” Co-authored with Michael D. Carrasco and Lesley A. Wolff. In Decolonizing Refinement: Contemporary Pursuits in the Arts of Edouard Duval-Carrié, edited by Allys Palladino-Craig and Jean Young, 12-25. Tallahassee, FL: Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University, 2016.
  • “The Cuban Academy of San Alejandro and the Atlantic World,” in Cuban Art in the 20th Century: Cultural Identity and the International Avant-Garde, edited by Allys Palladino-Craig and Jean Young, 16-31. Tallahassee, FL: Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University, 2016.