On Race and Photography in Public Culture

I’m very happy to have my essay on Linh Dinh’s visual work published today by Michael LeVan at Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies. Here’s a small selection, the rest can be found here:

The political context of Dinh’s imagery focuses … on how attitudes toward urban environments are located in specific moments of daily encounter and contribute to a theater of appearance in civil society. Social gestures, sartorial codes, and personal actions are not often seen as forms of life crucial to the acknowledgment of race in the larger frame of public culture. What we frequently address instead are publicly circulated racial representations that satisfy commonplace reinforcements of political ontology. An example of this can be seen in the racial slurs and verbal violence directed at tennis superstar Serena Williams. While the racist and sexist epithets focused on her are tweeted in the context of high-profile championship victories, the permission taken by racists who publicly attack her is generated in large measure through daily intimate actions that support and foster their disgusting attitudes. Therefore, it’s not surprising that controversies about race often erupt through circulations of mediated images in public contexts, where they are most visible. The photographic images circulated by today’s broadcast and social media, as seen in the George Zimmerman murder trial or in violent actions aimed at Williams, take part in a much larger structural violence directed at blacks in North America.

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