All posts tagged: race

A game of guess who that uses police facial composites

Guess who did the crime?: The Facial Composite Game

By Eliseo Ortiz (University of Colorado Boulder) In 1878, British psychologist Francis Galton wrote about the significance of photography in policing and incarcerating populations. Together with the famous jailer Edmund Du Cane, Galton investigated criminal behavior patterns by comparing the photographs of thousands of imprisoned inmates. Using eugenics as a guiding force to classify social behaviors, Galton developed several categories of criminals based solely on their physical features. Early on, this experiment consolidated a racist discourse fostered by the alleged truthfulness of photography. In the same way that the practice of phrenology called for measuring people’s skulls to determine mental traits and social behaviors, Galton superimposed series of photographs in order to find common physical patterns in criminals and concluded that “if criminals are found to have certain special features,” then “certain personal peculiarities distinguish those who commit certain classes of crime” as well.1 Galton inaugurated this approach back in 1878. Yet today, we are still experiencing the residue of a much more internalized racist discourse that justifies the persecution and systematic mass incarceration of …

Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire

Reviewed by Dylan Lackey, Global Center for Advanced Studies Jack Halberstam. Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020. 219 pages. On the other side of interpellation, where the hail does not reach, where the call is unheeded, where the subject falls apart or is unturned or never takes any real form, there is wildness. In Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, his most recent kaleidoscopic movement across and against discipline(s), Jack Halberstam reminds us again that the hail, the “call to order,” surrounds us, begging our fidelity.1 And yet, there is an outside to the hail that is uncertainty, chaos, unknowability—an untamed and untameable outdoors that can be accessed only through bewilderment or a refusal to turn (back) into the false comforts of human-ness and domesticity. This is not to say, however, that the wild is a place of truer ease. As Halberstam explains, “wildness has its own regulatory regimes, its own hierarchies and modes of domination” (131); those not always already forced into an approximation with the wild via the …

Introduction / Issue 31: Black Studies Now and the Countercurrents of Hazel Carby

Jump to Table of Contents by Joel Burges, Alisa V. Prince, and Jeffrey Allen Tucker Featured image: Ellen Gallagher, Bird in Hand, 2006. © Ellen Gallagher. Image © Tate. She was dismayed when she realized that what she wanted to imagine, what she was struggling to bring into being, now seemed beyond her reach. Was it improbable or impossible? What could she dream in a present of imminent environmental catastrophe? How could she sculpt the contours of a future when the future, any future, had been foreclosed?—Hazel V. Carby, “Black Futurities: Shape-Shifting beyond the Limits of the Human”1 In winter 2019, when Hazel V. Carby came to the University of Rochester (UR) as the Distinguished Visiting Humanist, no one knew global pandemic and large-scale anti-racist protests awaited us one year later in the spring, summer, and now fall of 2020.2 We did not anticipate the rise of an anti-immigrant visa crisis in higher education as we began to write this introductory essay, or the revelation of the death of Daniel Prude as we were finalizing …

On Needing Black Studies

By Kathryn A. Mariner Featured Image: Protest at RPD, Rochester NY, May 2020, Copyright Erica Jae. As I was preparing comments for this roundtable toward the end of 2018, I felt a bit like an interloper because I realized I had never—at least in my formal undergraduate and graduate training—taken a proper Black Studies class. Perhaps as a result, I approach Black Studies a bit sideways. Indeed, being relentlessly “thrown against a white background” can certainly make one feel one’s color, and can install a sort of feeling of permanent interloper status, a sense of not really fitting anywhere, disciplinarily or otherwise.1 I have more like what Katherine McKittrick has referred to as a “clandestine degree in Black Studies,” which has involved a lot of self-study (both by myself and of myself).2 As an undergraduate, I was an Anthropology major, with a minor in Spanish and Portuguese, and the bulk of my coursework was actually comprised of Latin American Studies classes. And while I took various courses on “race” in both undergrad and graduate school, …

Us, THEM, and High-Risk Dancing

By Tiffany E. Barber In darkness, a live, punk-influenced sound score saturates a converted sixty-nine-seat black box theater in New York’s Lower East Side. The source: electric guitarist Chris Cochrane positioned upstage right.1 Upstage left, a spotlight illuminates two young male dancers from above. One sits in a chair and the other kneels, dressing bandages on the first dancer’s right knee. They wear cool-colored tank tops, loose-fitting khaki pants, and sneakers. Writer Dennis Cooper recites a text in an uninflected monotone alongside the dancers’ initial movements, cuing the piece’s sociopolitical implications: I saw them once. I don’t know when, or who they were because they were too far away. But I remember things, like what they wore, which wasn’t anything special—pants, shirts, regular colors—stuff I’ve seen thousands of times since. I wanted them to know something. I cupped my hands around my mouth and thought about yelling out. But they wouldn’t have heard me. Besides, I didn’t belong there.2 This opening scene sets the stage for Ishmael Houston-Jones’s THEM, an improvised composition at the intersection …

Lynching 2.0

The video found on the website of The Guardian, has a “tag” of Eric Garner’s name right above the full title: “‘I can’t breathe’: Eric Garner put in chokehold by NYPD officer – video.” The British newspaper’s logo sits in the top right corner of the video frame, while in the bottom is another designation: “Daily News.” These watermarks, proprietary claims on the video and its contents remain throughout the whole of the two minutes and forty-eight seconds video – not so subtle reminders of who owns this particular iteration of this specific event. There’s a title card disclaimer: “Warning: contains distressing images,” just before the video starts. The video itself is relatively low resolution – there is none of the crispness of high definition capture – and shot in portrait rather than wide-screen landscape, leaving the video itself to be columned by two large black empty spaces. The first sounds beyond the hiss of background noise consist of two voices – one diegetic (Eric Garner) and one non-diegetic – saying almost simultaneously “I aint do …