CAA: The Color of Joy

The Color of Joy: Rethinking Critical Race Visual Culture

In times of peace and relative prosperity, post-race narratives emerge as triumphant and potentially productive lines of inquiry. In times of crises, however, the racial fault lines that run beneath society rise to the surface and expose the racial inequities that are a result of historic oppression and prejudice in general. COVID-19 is a case in point. As it progressed through the country, it soon became apparent that certain bodies, while not more susceptible to the virus, are more vulnerable to its lethal outcomes. As black and LatinX communities suffer disproportionate deaths and Asian Americans are attacked with Purell bottles and battery acid, another narrative has emerged about how the virus can help the fight against climate change. These narratives, while not necessarily conflicting, nevertheless renders the racialized other as a spectacle of suffering and death and calls her humanity into question.

This panel takes as its critical imperative to trouble the representational economy that makes people comfortable with the pain and death of the racialized other. Understanding there had been a longstanding visual cultural of suffering, around which people gather for the seeing of difference, the papers in this panel consider the possibilities proffered by a visual politics of pleasure and joy in the face of great distress.

Crystal Nelson, co-chair, presenter
Michelle Yee, co-chair, presenter
Zig Jackson, presenter
Ken Gonzales-Day

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