Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


"A Sea of Grief is Not a Proscenium": Claudia Rankine's Citizen and the Spectacle of Racist Violence in Cyberculture Public Deposited

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  • In her 2016 article “Beyond Rights as Recognition, Black Twitter and Posthuman Coalitional Possibilities,” Pritha Prasad argues that the hashtag, one of the decade’s most omnipresent features of digital communication, functions as “a performative composing medium that not only demands relationality” and “call[s] for the recognition of both the Black body and human beyond humanist, economic, and juridical frameworks” (56). Though work like Prasad’s is timely and insightful, my own project examines the racist and inimical, rather than humanist and embodied, qualities of digital spaces that circulate images of the black body. From the violation of Kara Walker’s sculpture A Subtlety on Instagram to the proliferation of a racist meme called “Trayvoning,” my paper suggests that by flattening the contexts and histories of black death, supposedly “disembodied” forms of digital media more often serve to enact and reenact forms of violence against the black body. This phenomenon recalls the history of similar circulations in American history, from lynching postcards shared as “souvenirs’ in the 19th century to the release of torture images in America’s Abu Ghraib prison complex. Using these racist images as its stable context, my project employs Claudia Rankine’s mixed-media compilation of images and poems, Citizen: An American Lyric, to argue that the artistic practice of reassembling historically-contingent media has the critical function of intervening in the rapid and inescapable spectacularization and circulation of black death. With her attention to obfuscating assemblages--in both her own text and in her use of the opaque visual art--Claudia Rankine effectively challenges the powerful “mastering” gaze of the digital age without removing the context or corporeality of racist violence.
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  • Existing Confidentiality Agreement
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  • 2017-12-06 to 2019-06-27



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