Valency and abjection in the lynching postcard: a test case in the reclamation of black visual culture

Wood, Marcus (2013) Valency and abjection in the lynching postcard: a test case in the reclamation of black visual culture. Slavery and Abolition, 34 (2). pp. 202-222. ISSN 0144 039X

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Abstract

If lynchings were often theatrically constructed and essentially public performative rituals, then a question arises: is it possible to construct a photograph of the black lynched body as a record of performance art? In the following essay, focusing on postcard images of lynching produced during what might ironically be termed the form's ‘heyday’, from 1899 to 1910, I shall be thinking around this question. This article will also speculate on how the limits of black agency have been set and determined within the photographic archive of slavery and its immediate inheritance. What I now want to ponder is whether it can be right to come at the image of the lynched body, when photographed by white witnesses who may also be perpetrators, as a visual space in which any degree of black expression let alone black agency can be isolated? If these images are to be understood as anything beyond records of atrocity and articulations of victim-hood, then a new standpoint is required. Such a standpoint denies the assumptions of white power, white guilt and white terror which still dictate the perceptual parameters for the cultural reception of these unique images. This new standpoint demands that we see in these tortured forms something perhaps with both an iconic and an aesthetic status which circles around an abject reliquary import.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Special issue: slavery and memory in black visual culture
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
Depositing User: Laura Vellacott
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2013 15:14
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2013 15:14
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/46725
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