Race and the Visual Arts
In this course, students explore the representation of race in visual culture and the ways in which culture marks subjects, objects, and bodies with racial identity. Wherever we look we are confronted by images that are explicitly or implicitly racialized—in artistic production, marketing and advertising, film and television, magazines and newspapers, and science and technology. In American society our history confronts us with the painful reminders of the oppression and marginalization of bodies whose color deviates from whiteness. Students explore the ways that visual artists have problematized the representation of racial identity. Students also explore how one talks back to images about racialized bodies. How do marketing and advertising exploit and/or privilege certain types of racialized bodies in the visual field? How have representations of racial identity evolved over the course of the history of film and television? When is racial identity foregrounded? When it is veiled and why? How do medicine and technology reconfigure how we see racialized bodies? How do other categories of differences such as gender, sexuality, and class complicate the representation of racialized bodies? In this course, students read texts from history, literature, sociology, Africana studies, visual studies, art history, and cultural studies; they view images of painting, photography, sculpture, performance art, film, television, advertising, and medical research. If you want to think critically about racialized images—from Uncle Tom to Aunt Jemima and beyond—then this is the class for you!