Faculty Convener: Anne Cheng
How should we understand the dynamic and fraught relations between gender, race, visual culture, and the senses? How is the visuality of race produced through other sensory registers and genres? And why is the site of this production most often configured around the gendered body?
The visual — from Fanon’s “epidermal schema” to the invention of photography — has played a key role in documenting, producing, and delimiting the history of racialized communities and individuals. It has also told a story about the relentless coercion of the visible. Yet the meaning of racial difference in the visual domain is most often conceived as a binary of abjection and idealization, which remains inadequate to address what it means today to be a producer or consumer of racialized images. How do we understand racial formation, not only as material history, but also as visual, visceral, psychological, and haptic events? Rather than reiterating how racial difference has been seen, we will explore how race has structured the visual field and its practices. How, for example, has the sonic or haptic dimensions of visuality produce alternate ways of understanding racial and gendered formation? Looking at these distinct yet interrelated domains potentially produce different accounts of the subject, of skin itself, of the meaning of difference, and of the relation between power and agency. Consequently, we can begin to think about visual culture, not as an easy moral economy, but as an ethical challenge.
We will meet and converse with scholars who have made significant contributions to the politics of representation, each radically expanding the field of visual culture and its racial and gender significations. Through their works, we will engage contemporary theories of photography and visual culture, theories of the sonic and the haptic, history, literature and anthropology, in order to explore the complex relationship between race, gender, visuality and the senses.
The Faculty-Graduate seminar is an intimate intellectual community. Our goal is to establish a small but intellectually diverse and committed group of scholars who will attend all meetings and engage in sustained discourse during the year. Given these goals and the limited meeting space, we are accepting only ten (10) graduate students into each semester’s seminar. We encourage graduate students to commit to both semesters and preference for spring registration will be given to students engaged in the fall seminar.