A1BTC Afro Pessimism in The Post Slavery Era and Black Optimism Essay


The basic details for the Second Essay are, more or less, the same as those for the first one: your paper must be seven pages minimum ( roughly 2000 words minimum) with a standard professional font, margins, and justification. You must properly cite all work according to either the MLA Style Guide or the Chicago Manual of Style. In terms of topics, you should write on one of the topics, readings, or objects from the second half of the semester. As with the first paper, you can bring in additional texts or concepts, but the central focus of your essay must be the concepts from the course.Your paper should be an in-depth investigation of a theme, technique, concept, or theory as it is applied to or put in conversation with a media text. You should have a well-developed and insightful thesis that engages with the texts that we have read and the issues that they address. It should demonstrate your understanding of the central theories and issues. You should also offer a close reading of a media text: this should be a detailed analysis of the formal elements; it should not be an overarching or general synopsis of a television show or an explanation of a genre. Ideally, these three components should work together in order to support and mutually reinforce one another. You are able to bring in additional visual and theoretical materials, but it would be a good idea to include these as part of a proposal. Essays should not be summaries or overviews of our materials. You are not required to do any research for the essay (i.e., it is not a research paper) but it is a good idea to look further into topics and texts if it gives you a stronger sense of the visual objects and their discourses. Make certain to use the library and its online resources if you do engage in research for the paper: you should be using peer reviewed journals and books put out through university presses or reputable private publishing houses. You are free to use images and clips (audio or video) within your paper, but use these are productively as possible. Given that many of the media types that we are working with do have have the same narrative flow as film and television, analysing them closely might be difficult at the beginning, but you can definitely do some interesting things with navigation, interactivity, and visual elements.film: Hale County, This Morning, This Eveningone of the readings: https://filmquarterly.org/2019/02/27/manifesto-ele…

1. Carl Wittman, The Gay Manifesto (New York: Red Butterfly,
1970), http://paganpressbooks.com/jpl/TRB-WITT.PDF.
2. “Queers Read This: Published Anonymously by Queers”
(New York: ACT UP NY, 1990), http://www.actupny.org/
3. Combahee River Collective, “The Combahee River Collective Statement,” in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology,
ed. Barbara Smith (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
Press, 2000), 267.
4. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of
Color,” in The Public Nature of Private Violence: The Discovery of
Domestic Abuse, ed. Martha Albertson Fineman and Roxanne
Mykitiuk (New York: Routledge, 1994): 93–118.
5. SPIT! (Sodomites, Perverts, Inverts Together!), “The AntiAssimilationist Manifesto,” in The Spit! Manifesto Reader: A
Selection of Historical and Contemporary Queer Manifestos
(New York: Frieze Projects, 2017), 4, https://carlosmotta.
6. Lee Edelman, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 31.
7. Jerry Tartaglia, “A Statement of Outrage against American
Assimilationists Who Practice Appeasement of Hetero
Terror in the Wake of A.I.D.S. Genocide in the United
States,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies 19, no. 4
(2013): 559–60.
8. Homotopia, directed by Chris Vargas and Eric A. Stanley (2007).
9. Zoe Leonard, “I want a president . . . ” (1992), https://iwantapre
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“I want a dyke for president.”9
Queer cinema is about possibility. Audiences will continue to yearn for and need coming-out stories and AIDS
narratives (especially as they finally begin to hear the versions
told by those who are often forgotten in mainstream ideas of
the LGBTQ community), but the queer imagination can
surely move beyond what’s been done.
These recent films point forward, not to one prescriptive
idea of the future but to a plural sense of its possibilities.
Yet they are firmly rooted in the radical language that’s been
running through queer discourse for decades. Rather than
applauding toothless studio movies made for suburban
American audiences or cheering on straight actors bravely
taking on (and away) queer roles in indie darling films, critics
should heed the call that today’s vibrant queer cinema is
amplifying. It’s a call to remember that criticism is a form of
activism, a form of demanding more from what you consume.
I want stories about love and about shame. About jealousy
and about friendship. About monogamy and about open relationships. About aging and about youth. About activism
and AIDS and sex and death and marriage and divorce and
abuse and tenderness and motherhood and childhood and
yearning and loss and fantasy and reality and joy and pain
and first dates and last rites and hot sex and cold feet and ancient history and imagined futurity. I want queer stories on
film to be as expansive as the lives they seek to represent.
Renew the Encounter
RaMell Ross
to anxiety and smog, a heart to love and cholesterol. All sense of truth passes through the body. People are
the real documents of civilization. And one’s eyes are made
for the field of events. Things come in as this and are processed into that; while most melt aimlessly in one’s memory,
others cling to totems in their sky. In this personal storm of
consciousness, the act of looking makes a mirror of meaning.
Instinct is infused with culture, a reflex by which nothing can
be understood until it is adjusted.
A lung submits
Throw in a camera and the fiction’s entombed.
Alas, the big bang of photography and film burst forth in
a Eurocentric imaginary. Monies to be made, othering to
behold. Point and shoot and capture. Repeat after me: the
God of the camera is a colonizer. Hey, look here. The rest is
history. The receiver of this gaze dies a certain death, a peculiar death of the imaginable.1 In the American matrix, I’ve
been framed black. In your case, maybe something else.
These varying degrees of death are often presented as varying degrees of life. Cameras should come with a caution label embossed on the lens cap:
I am not concerned with verisimilitude,
I help you believe.
Believe what?
The chops of American culture have always licked especially
for black folks. A people ready-made. A billion limbs. Fluids
of field souls and house hands alike, dripping their weather
in soups and crop beds across the nation, built up the immunity to my total consumption. Chomp. A photograph of
easy reading. Sip. A film without reflexivity. Gulp. A look
over yesteryear’s horizon reveals photography and film as
the technology of racism.2 The material form of racial representation, a visualization of the concept in question, is necessary for its initial engagement. But a cul-de-sac history of
exploitation is held in black skin. How do you attend to a
problem that is the visualization of itself?
Read “Non-Cartesian Sums.”3
Reset your relationship to Western knowledge formation.4
Consider the visual story of blackness.
Phrenology to Blackface to Kodak to Blaxploitation. Iconicity to noniconicity.5
Produce new icons of blackness.
Use strategic formalism.6
Question all indexical iterations of race.
Is there a visual vaccine against racism?
Can the fractured, astray black image act as a probiotic to racist
Aim for a black involution.
Unsuitcase black images.
Remove them from the luggage of the traveling salesman.
Blackness is unstable and evolves alongside our participation
in its acknowledgment. Collapse it to expand it.
Fail at representing blackness.
The act of representing is the act of reproducing. The less
black the more black.
Create the Black Dictionary (that’s me).
Develop a photographic sensibility.
Make the camera an organ. Take it into your body. Shoot toward a personal poetics.
Reading skin is a game, a skin game.
It is the recursive interplay between what is observed, remembered, desired, feared, imagined, misunderstood, reconsidered,
recalled, observed, remembered, desired, feared, imagined,
misunderstood, reconsidered, recalled, observed. . . .
Blackness is content.
It is a skin game.
Break the social contract with mainstream blackness.
Locate and avoid the stock use of blackness.
Disautomate the consumption of blackness.
Embrace the ambiguous, complex, decontextualized, recontextualized, fragmented, black image. Employ recumbency,
eye contact, obstruction, concealment, and iterations of time.
Embrace contradiction. Dismiss contradiction.
The seduction of blackness is not the mystery of the engagement, the range of possible new knowledge encountered,
but its proximity to its icons. Point otherwise. Be elsewhere.
Find the circadian rhythm of blackness.
Start with the quotidian.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross,
2018), 00:55:13.
SP RIN G 201 9
Representational death owes human ingenuity a dramatic intervention, as the lens-based portrait can relay humanity and
reinforce inferiority to the desire of the viewer. Images have
no heart, they are candy for the mind. In film, the tamed,
stringy image employment in narrativizing makes even more
clear the issue at hand: the reality-textured, reproduced moment carries an encyclopedia of content, the background existing as the foreground for some, the maintenance of much
with the alleviation of little.
For the over-relied-upon sake of genre and theme, industrial
cinema requires the spaying and neutering of images within
the body-film. This is a cannibalistic act. The complexities of a
race-based reality have outgrown these traditional structures of
story and narrative that gnaw them into palatability.
Their genealogy subtractive.
Their comfort with more death.
Unable to reconcile the necessity for a responsive, formal
embodiment of the content with antique structure, story, and
character arc demands, this cinema entertainingly dissuades
critical thought while producing status quo belief encounters
and in turn, belief systems. If form is content and blackness
is content then blackness is form. Blackness must not be separated from its form. If blackness/form is unstable and evolving
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Resist most logic.
Only your experience has irreducible singularity. Most logic
is functional and conditioned. Welcome the dream.
then the ideas of structure and narrative must evolve correspondingly to accommodate. The site of the image in a timebased chain of interpretation must remain fertile.
Shelve the Victorian model of narrative arc and structure.
Or let it respond transformatively to the content.
Consider the indecisive moment.7
Free the reproduced event from the essentialization of narratives and story.
Time becomes the new medium, a clock measuring the long
macro drawl of a racial gesture left out, its meaning in respite
for a pacemaker’s life span or two. Weather and sculpture.
Iterations of time in the phenomenon called blackness. InAmerica suspension. A mountain to its knees. A movement
toward the present. An acquired taste for images and films.
Of their own volition.
Lean toward experience creation.
Most logic and blackness are in constant debate. Create the
personal-poetic experience of blackness, renew the encounter.
Use music as mentor.
What music does, the universe is. Embody this musicality, its
being, forms, its liquid organization, its escape from reason
and the need to justify itself. Or be dance.
Incomplete the work.
Default to resignifying. Require joint meaning making.
Viewer + work = an instance of finished work.
Reach the mainstream with nonindustrial image production.
Work outside of industrial time and factory processes (and
beyond the arthritics of the old avant-garde).
1. It is the Black Quantum Zeno Effect, following up on Carlo
Raveli, The Order of Time (London: Allen Lane, 2018).
2. They are today what the steam engine and electricity were to
the Industrial Revolution.
3. Charles W. Mills, “Non-Cartesian Sums: Philosophy and
the African-American Experience,” in Mills, Blackness
Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1998), 1–20.
4. Can one explore the image/moving image within a decolonialized, polytheistic imaginary?
5. Nicole Fleetwood, Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality,
and Blackness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).
6. To rise above black representational space. See Darby English, How to See a Work of Art in Total Darkness (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 2007).
7. This is opposed to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Decisive Moment,
which referred to capturing an event that is ephemeral and
spontaneous, where the image represents the essence of
the event itself. See Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive
Moment/Images à la Sauvette (New York: Simon and Schuster;
Paris: Editions Verve, 1952).
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Find the epic-banal.
Bring elation to the experience of blackness. Acknowledge
the magnificence of the universe’s encasement in the social,
awaiting other forms.
Watching White Supremacy
on Digital Video Platforms:
“Screw Your Optics, I’m
Going In”
Lisa Nakamura
HIAS likes to bring invaders in who kill our people.
digital platforms support fatally racist media, how they
ought to be regulated, and how this media exploits and
remediates earlier forms—all things that film and media
scholars already know how to do.1 It’s not enough to say that
the world has changed and media studies must change with
it. Instead, we must ask ourselves what we’re going to do
about it. How do our skills matter in this ghastly moment in
U.S. history? What are the best practices and methods for
understanding right-wing white supremacist media?
I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.
Screw your optics, I’m going in.
—@onedingo (Robert Bowers)
Here, now, are three exhortations about where film and media studies need to move in order for us to understand how
The Case for White Digital Media Studies
It is too easy to simply blame the “Internet”—specifically,
YouTube, video games, and social media—for the militant far
right’s renaissance. One of the first tenets of any introduction
A Critical History of Documentary and
Participatory Media Cultures
The 20th century kicked offwith an increase in documentary film production, which
led to new social and political spaces where communities could form. Since then,
documentary film and video have produced and facilitated participatory publics.
In the 1920s, cine-clubs provided a space for people to meet, talk about film, and
screen experimental works. 1 Film collectives developed out of later manifestations
of the documentary impulse. In the 1930s, for example, the Workers Film and
Photo League organized to make activist newsreels and critical political films.2 In
the mid-1950s, collectives formed around producing documentaries, later called
“black films;’ critical of the administrative shortcomings of socialism.3 With further
technological developments in the 1970s, media cultures formed with the goal of
democratizing media by establishing a network of local production communities
and a parallel broadcasting system that took advantage of community-operated
cable stations in the United States.4 In the last two decades, the standardization of
the internet and the increased visibility of political documentary in mainstream
commercial culture have transformed generally passive documentary viewers into
agents of interactive activist engagement. 5
Benedict Anderson theorized these kinds of public collectives as imagined
communities in which members hold in their minds an image of affinity and sol­
idarity created through shared interests and forged through identification inde­
pendent of face-to-face communication in everyday life. 6 A social movement’s
success in creating instrumental social change depends on its ability to forge
a collective identification by “transforming mere aggregates of people sharing
the same condition into a social network, and thus into a more easily mobiliz­
able group.”7 Social movements are sometimes born from shared conditions, and
counterhegemonic discourse can provide the social cement for a participatory
media culture. 8 Examining the dynamics of participatory media cultures allows us
to study how groups with shared interests become a “historical bloc”9 that is a com­
plex, contradictory public agitating for recognition and redistribution of resources.
The participatory condition10 is composed of practice, culture, and expecta­
tion. We are fundamentally motivated to act by the promise that participation will
strengthen “social bonds, communities, systems of knowledge, and organizations,
as well as politics and culture:’ 11 Our invitation and hailing into participation forms
part of the foundation of society; it is how we become political subjects invested
in the system. These impulses go back to the Athenian polis, where being political
was defined by participating in public life and committing to speech as action. 12
Participatory acts of democratic expression generate power by moving opinions
through critical-rational debate and other means, testing the legitimacy and au­
thority of the status quo. 13 There is widespread optimism about the power of partic­
ipation, but does more activity create a productive political process? Art historians
and critics are pushing back on the magical thinking that surrounds the concept
of participation, challenging what constitutes an effective intervention. W hat if
dialogue, exchange, and connection don’t yield political outcomes? For contem­
porary art historian Claire Bishop, antagonism must be present as part of the par­
ticipatory intervention; otherwise the potential is lost, along with the capacity to
challenge forms and confront power. 14 Agitation exists when people outside of the
decision-making process advocate for social change and encounter significant re­
sistance in the process, requiring more intentional and substantial intervention. For
social movements, these interventions have established patterns and practices that
include petition, presenting the social injustice to decision makers; promulgation,
tactics used to win social support from outsiders; solidification, rhetoric that unites
unlikely actors and builds connections between supporters; and polarization,
presenting a forced choice to the audience. 15 Agitation is a sign that power is being
confronted and that a request for change is being presented, demanding a response.
Participation is a fundamental principle of Western democratic culture, but
“what is distinctive about the present conjuncture is the degree and extent” to which
social, political, and economic activities are organized around participation. 16 The
tendency toward participation is increasing, and the invitations to act are plentiful.
While many scholars study facets of participation in social life, research into partici­
patory media cultures focuses on specific community actions that respond to, with,
and around media. Most of this research is bound up in the more recent capacities
of digital culture to shift pathways of communication, with a focus on virality and
spreadability of media communication. 17 Media and communication scholar Henry
Jenkins led the field in investigating fan culture and other kinds of participatory
media publics. In Textual Poachers (1992), he began sketching out the possibilities
opened by these emerging public spaces. Over the next several decades, the idea of
participatory media cultures evolved together with scholarship. In the last several
years, Jenkins’s new research has been grounded in educational technology, with
special attention to youth production culture. In Spreadable Media (2013),Jenkins,
Ford, and Green argue that participation replaced resistance. Jenkins clarifies this
position in Participatory Culture in a Networked Era (2016): “There may no longer
be a unified mainstream culture against
W hile he acknowledges the value in th
Jenkins is skeptical about the radical p
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