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On Racial Icons

Blackness and the Public Imagination

Nicole R. Fleetwood (author)

ISBN: 9780813565156

Publication Date: Jun 2015

Format: Paperback

Looks at visual culture and race in the United States, in particular the significance of photography to document black public life. It examines America's fascination with representing and seeing race in a myriad of contexts as emblematic of national and racial progress at best, or as a gauge of a collective racial wound.
£12.50

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What meaning does the American public attach to images involving key black political, social, and cultural figures? At a time when photography has become a primary means of documenting historical progress, what is the representational currency that these images carry? How do racial icons circulate and acquire meaning within the broader public?

The answers to these questions will change the way you think about the next photograph that you see depicting a racial event or black celebrity or public figure. On Racial Icons looks at visual culture and race in the United States, in particular the significance of photography to document black public life. It examines America's fascination with representing and seeing race in a myriad of contexts as emblematic of national and racial progress at best, or as a gauge of a collective racial wound. Investigating the concept of the icon in the context of photographic history, national and cultural histories, and racial relations, Nicole Fleetwood focuses a sustained lens on how racial icons circulate and acquire meaning within the broader public.

Concise in length, On Racial Icons offers readers a quick overview of the uses of photography to capture shifting race relations. Each chapter spotlights a different set of iconic images and sector of American public life. Throughout, Fleetwood guides readers through several familiar and iconic photographs and asks them to consider revealing examples, including the historical weight and racialised violence associated with images of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till; the political, aesthetic, and cultural shifts marked by the rise of such black pop stars as Diana Ross in the early 1970s; and the power and precarity of such black sports icons as Serena Williams and LeBron James.

Reviews

"An innovative and dynamic study of blackness, iconicity, and visual culture. It is the conceptual arc of the book –an accruing examination of the meanings of the racial icon–that makes this study so effective. Fleetwood's focus of visual culture as public culture makes On Racial Icons an extraordinary resource for the interdisciplinary teaching and study of African American studies, American studies, visual culture studies, and media studies." -ALH Online Review
Illustrations 25 photographs
Pages 90
Dimensions 216 x 140
Date Published 30 Jun 2015
Publisher Rutgers University Press
Series Pinpoints
Subject/s Popular culture   Photography & photographs   Black & Asian studies  
Nicole R. Fleetwood is the director of the Institute for Research on Women and an associate professor of American Studies at Rutgers University. She specializes in visual culture and media studies, black cultural studies, and gender theory. She is the author of the award-winning book Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness.

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