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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Professor Maren Stange: Photography, Civil Rights, and Black Power

2nd December 2008, 17:30 to 18:30, Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College

IAS/Van Mildert College Public Lecture

This lecture explores the key roles played by photographs and television images in the United States’ midcentury black liberation movement; they served as evidence, reportage, publicity, and sometimes sensation. It will contrast the widely-viewed images of the black citizen as rights seeker constructed by and of the civil rights movement with those of the Black Panther Party, and it will consider the differences between photojournalistic and television representations of the movement and its participants.

The focus is on images’ discursive power and cultural agency at a moment in the 1960s that produced a “crisis of personhood” with us still. Documentary photographs have long been effectively employed as the civil rights movement used them: to discover, represent, and authenticate for wide audiences the existence of unjust, previously unseen, suffering, and hence to provoke its remedy. But the Black Panthers, seeking to revalue blackness positively even as they disdained any aspiration to national subjectivity, constructed themselves and their images differently: they employed their racialized (hyper)visibility to demarcate “all that lies outside the protection of the nation-state and its cultures of citizenship and civility.” The various uncouplings, or disarticulations, in their verbal and visual rhetoric – blackness from suffering and abjection, citizenship and public agency from the nation-state – remain energizing, exciting, and troubling.

Maren Stange is an Americanist noted for scholarship in visual culture and cultural history. Her current book 'Photography and the End of Segregation', traces the visual representation of African Americans in relation to the legal, political and social changes accomplished by the long struggle for their civil and human rights. Maren is currently a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study and Van Mildert College (October-December 2008).


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