Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Volume 6, Issue 2
spring 2016
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Moe Gardner
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

The Politics of Representation: Visual and Literary Culture and the Black Female Body (WGSS 356 / AFAM 356)

by Carly Lovejoy '16

In Professor Hazel Carby’s seminar, “The Politics of Representation: Visual and Literary Culture and the Black Female Body”, I grapple with my responsibility as a human, as a student, as a museum worker, and as an artist to constantly question my understanding of cultural production. With the backdrop of the emotional and political struggles on our own campus, this class looks closely at how female artists of color describe social reality. Students can be vulnerable in our classroom conversations, because Professor Carby welcomes personal insights as well as critical analysis. She refuses to hierarchize any forms of knowledge and demands new ways of thinking. As a result, the interdisciplinary syllabus and the collection of works on view for this class at the Yale University Art Gallery generate unique dialogues. For example, in discussing Carrie Mae Weem’s Slave Coast Series, we studied Elmina Castle, the Dutch slave-trading post the artist depicts in her photographs, we looked at the formal qualities of the images in person, we talked about the placement of her works in museums and galleries, and we thought about how she fits into the current art historical archive. Together, we aim to define America’s libidinal economy and how it functions at every level of our visual and literary worlds. Professor Carby, through her teaching and through her personal engagement, exemplifies the imperative to actualize these ideas. From championing student activism to organizing a symposium for my undergraduate class “Urban Injustice Narratives in The Wire” this fall, Professor Carby inspires students to build conversations about intersectionality and social experience. I feel extremely lucky to have come into contact with her—she has changed the way I think and how I function in the world.

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