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American Pietàs: Visions of Race, Death and the Maternal

Thursday, March 29, 2012
5:30 PM
Ella Weed Room, Milbank Hall
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In a lecture based on her recently published book, Ruby C. Tapia will discuss how a range of 21st century visual representations of death conjoined to the maternal reflect and produce racialized citizenship. By means of a sustained engagement with Roland Barthes's suturing of race, death and the maternal in Camera Lucida, American Pietàs contends that the contradictory and generative essence of the photograph is both as a signifier of death and a guarantor of resurrection.  
 
Tapia's study explores the implications of this argument for maternal representations in the context of specific visual cultural moments: the photojournalistic documentation of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; the commemoration of Princess Diana in U.S. Magazines; the intertext of Toni Morrison's and Hollywood's Beloved; the social and cultural death in teen pregnancy, imaged and regulated in California's Partnership for Responsible Parenting campaigns; and popular constructions of the "Widows of 9/11" in print and televisual journalism.  
 
Her talk will provide an overview of how her book treats these seemingly disparate texts as visual nodes in a larger network of racialized discourses of national death and remembering, focusing at length on a long history of both well known and lesser known pietas that are distinctly "American" if not in title, then in literal form and racially figured national substance.

Sponsored by the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.
Mar 29 2012 - 5:30pm