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On the Sleeve of the Visual

Race as Face Value

Alessandra Raengo

Publication Year: 2013

In this landmark work of critical theory, black studies, and visual culture studies, Alessandra Raengo boldly reads race as a theory of the image. By placing emphasis on the surface of the visual as the repository of its meaning, race presents the most enduring ontological approach to what images are, how they feel, and what they mean. Having established her theoretical concerns, the author's eclectic readings of various artifacts of visual culture, fine arts, cinema, and rhetorical tropes provoke and destabilize readers' visual comfort zone, forcing them to recognize the unstated racial aspects of viewing and the foundational role of race in informing the visual.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

TItle Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xvi

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pp. 1-20

There is a work by Glenn Ligon in which he arranges next to each other two panels featuring a life-size, black-and-white silkscreen reproduction of his full figure, wearing a white button-down shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes, and facing the camera. Underneath the image, the panel on the left bears the caption “Self-portrait exaggerating my black features,” while the...

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1 | The Photochemical Imagination

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pp. 21-51

In the NAACP files at the Library of Congress I found a highly unusual lynching photograph: an extremely high angle of a seemingly endless crowd crossed diagonally by the elongated shadow of a hanging body (figure 1.1). Descriptively titled “Crowd of people, with shadow of man hanging from tree superimposed over them,” the photograph is undated, although it is..

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2 | On the Sleeve of the Visual

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pp. 52-86

In the previous chapter I showed how the NAACP shadow redraws the phenomenological experience of the lynching photograph by reversing its visual field and dissipating its expected corporeality. In this process, the photograph also redefines photography as the state of the image most invested in the indexical trace, as well as confounds the experience of visible...

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3 | The Money of the Real

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pp. 87-128

In his essay “The Shadow and the Substance,” Nicholas Mirzoeff discusses a carte-de-visite titled Emancipated Slaves (figure 3.1) featuring a group of slaves — adults and children alike — of various skin tones. Produced and circulated within abolitionist propaganda, the photograph relied on the whiteness of the children’s skin to argue for the end of slavery. Their ...

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4 | The Long Photographic Century

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pp. 129-161

Two look-alike estranged half brothers reconnect at their father’s funeral. One, powerful and wealthy (Vincent), is suspected of having killed his father. To escape the criminal investigation, he stages his own death by car accident and engineers a way for his working-class brother, Clay, to occupy the car. The accident, however, is only partially successful and Clay survives, though he is disfigured and suffers from amnesia. A tabula rasa inside and...

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Conclusion: In the Shadow

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pp. 162-166

I began this book by evoking Toni Morrison’s image of the fishbowl and W. J. T. Mitchell’s recent argument that race is a medium, which seems to finally bring to the mainstream of visual culture studies the mandate that Morrison launched so long ago. Yet, this book has offered a way to reach another question that lies underneath the ability for race to act as a medium; namely,...


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pp. 167-208


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pp. 209-226


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pp. 227-232

E-ISBN-13: 9781611684490
E-ISBN-10: 1611684498
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584659754

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013