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Black Visual Culture

Seminar Leader:
Dagmawi Woubshet


In this course we considered a range of texts—on photog-raphy, film, painting, poetry, and theory—to explore both the creative works of Black artists and the critical discourses around Black visual representation. From the casta paintings of colonial Mexico to contemporary me-dia representations, in the white western canon, black peo-ple have been rendered mainly through “the typology of taint, / of stain: blemish: sullying spot:” to borrow the poet Natasha Trethewey’s incisive characterization. It is against this context that Black image makers have engendered a creative and critical practice and body of work, which re-veals the effect of what Toni Morrison called “the white gaze,” and moreover illuminates black interior life on its own terms. Among the themes we explored in-depth in-cluded: the representation of blackness in different visual media; the ways in which race intersects with other markers of identity like gender, sexuality, class, and nationality; the relationship between Black visual and literary arts; and the ethics of Black self-representation.

Unit TitleAuthor


“Teaching Black visual culture through PBL”

Alla Dolderer
Keywords: African American culture, Art, Black culture, Black History month, ekphratic poems, moving pictures, photography, video clips, visual culture

Visual Music: Hip-Hop Style

Courtney Powers
Keywords: Authentic Audience, Authentic Music, Beyonce, Digital Music, Frederick Douglass, Intermedia, Jaffa, Jay Z, Kanye West, project based learning, Visual Music, Whole Music

Self-Representation is the Message, the Message is Power

Meredith Seung Mee Buse
Keywords: artists of color, Black artists, Black gaze, ekphrastic writing, empowerment, Frederick Douglass, personal narratives, poetry, portfolios, Portraiture, self-portraits, self-representation, visual vocabulary

Awake the Uniqueness in Me!

Dr. David L. Turner
Keywords: Barrack Obama, Black culture, Black gaze, black hair, Black history, Fredrick Douglass, James Baldwin and Tina Campt, Toni Morrison, white gaze

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Renae Curless
Keywords: American Literature, American South, Ekphrastic poetry, English Language Arts, Film analysis, Found poetry, High school English, Mississippi Delta, Moonlight, Natasha Tretheway, Parchman Prison, Sing, Unburied Sing

“Love Is The Message”*: Black Visual Art As Historically Responsive Literacy

Geoffrey Winikur
Keywords: Black gaze, Critical Race Theory, Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Ekphrastic poetry, Historically Responsive Literacy, Visual Art