Breeding Unity: Battlestar Galactica’s Biracial Reproductive Futurity

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-08-02 20:04Z by Steven

Breeding Unity: Battlestar Galactica’s Biracial Reproductive Futurity

Camera Obscura
Volume 27, Number 3 81 (2012)
pages 1-37
DOI: 10.1215/02705346-1727446

Anne Kustritz, Assistant Professor in Television Studies
University of Amsterdam

While Battlestar Galactica reinvigorated the science fiction genre by representing contemporary political problems in a complex, often radical fashion, the series also makes visible a new articulation of eugenic thinking. Postmodern eugenics repurposes turn-of-the-twentieth-century ideas of racial progress and recombines them with different narratives and ideologies so that audiences may receive them as new and cut off from history. By centering its finale on the survival of one genetically idealized child, Battlestar constructs a new narrative context for an old story that rationalizes the sacrifice of the nonheterosexual, nonreproductive, and nonconformist to build a “better” race. The idealization of biraciality in Battlestar puts eugenic means to modern ends: the biological construction of a future wherein difference can be dealt with in reproductive rather than political terms. Two pieces of fan video art, “Unnatural Selection” and “Battlestar Redactica,” clarify Battlestar‘s complicity in eugenic violence and history, while offering alternative solutions to the moral and narrative impasses of the series. By refusing the genetic stasis Battlestar proposes, these fan video projects invite audiences to continue exploring multiple definitions of survival, hybridity, and cultural transformation, reanimating characters sacrificed in the series on its way to genetic utopia (or dystopia) and thereby resuscitating the multiple, queer, contradictory futures they embodied.

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“The Ineffaceable Curse of Cain”: Racial Marking and Embodiment in Pinky

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2010-10-26 21:14Z by Steven

“The Ineffaceable Curse of Cain”: Racial Marking and Embodiment in Pinky

Camera Obscura – 43
Volume 15, Number 1
(May 2000)
pages 95-121
DOI: 10.1215/02705346-15-1_43-95

Elspeth Kydd, Senior Lecturer of Film Studies and Video Production
University of the West of England, Bristol

Look at my fingers, are not the nails of a bluish tinge … that is the ineffaceable curse of Cain
Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon, or Life in Louisiana

The 1949 film Pinky presents a central mulatto character as a method for focusing attention on issues of race and racism.(1) As one of a series of liberal films released shortly after the Second World War, Pinky approaches issues of race and racism as “social problems.” Yet this film, as do others of this movement, demonstrates more ambiguities around racial categorizations than it offers solutions for dealing with postwar racial tensions.(2) Made during the Hays Code’s ban on the representation of miscegenation, Pinky confronts the issue of interracial relations more overtly than many other films of its time by focusing its narrative on the difficulties experienced by a mixed-race woman. The character of Pinky faces crises over passing, as she is torn between her “birthright” and the “mess of pottage” that she would gain by identifying as white.

Pinky uses the mulatto character to gain audience sympathies, exploring the effects of Southern racism by subjecting the almost-white main character to racially motivated degradations.(4) Significantly, the film embodies the mulatto through a white actress, producing an ambiguous interplay of audience identifications. The film engages multiple deployments of the mulatto character: Through the actress, through the social context of the Hays Code, through the visual conventions it deploys, and through its narrative, which draws on the historical and rhetorical development of the mulatto character. These multiple and often contradictory impulses provide the film with a complex and conflicted understanding of race. Some moments in the film seem to point to race as a cultural and social construction, whereas at other moments the absolute primacy of race as a social category is reaffirmed and consolidated. These conflicts are most significantly embodied by the main character, Pinky, since her narrative role as the mulatto, trapped between black and white, interacts with her visual portrayal as a character neither black nor white, embodied by a white actress. These ambiguities are also played out in the film’s narrative articulation of the politics of family and inheritance. The history of the representation of miscegenation and mulattos, both in literature and film, frequently focuses on the issue of family ties between black and white Americans. This dramatic “liberal” film overtly uses inheritance as a method for examining racism.

Based on the 1946 best-selling novel Quality by Cid Ricketts Sumner, Pinky is set in the South, where Patricia “Pinky” Johnson (Jeanne Crain) has returned home from nursing school “up yonder,” in the North. She returns to the small shack where her grandmother, Dicey Johnson (Ethel Waters), makes a living as a washerwoman. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Pinky has been passing for white and is involved with a white man, Tom (William Lundigan), whom she is fleeing. Close to where her grandmother lives is an old, decaying plantation where lives an old, decaying member of the Southern aristocracy. Miss Em (Ethel Barrymore) is Dicey’s friend, and when she gets sick, Dicey persuades Pinky to stay on and nurse her. Pinky temporarily agrees but decides to leave as soon as possible after a series of humiliating encounters with Southern racism. When Miss Em finally dies, however, she leaves her house and all her property to Pinky. The will is then contested in court by Miss Em’s relatives, led by Mrs. Wooley (Evelyn Varden), Miss Em’s cousin. Pinky wins the case and stays, despite the appeals of Tom. She turns the house into a clinic and nursery school for the poor and oppressed black community, ultimately identifying with this community herself…

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“The Ineffaceable Curse of Cain”: Racial Marking and Embodiment in Pinky

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2009-11-03 00:28Z by Steven

“The Ineffaceable Curse of Cain”: Racial Marking and Embodiment in Pinky

Camera Obscura
43 (Volume 15, Number 1),
2000
pp. 94-121

Elspeth Kydd

Look at my fingers, are not the nails of a bluish tinge . . . that is the ineffaceable curse of Cain . . .
Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon, or Life in Louisiana

The 1949 film Pinky presents a central mulatto character as a method for focusing attention on issues of race and racism.  As one of a series of liberal films released shortly after the Second World War, Pinky approaches issues of race and racism as “social problems.” Yet this film, as do others of this movement, demonstrates more ambiguities around racial categorizations than it offers solutions for dealing with postwar racial tensions.  Made during the Hays Code‘s ban on the representation of miscegenation, Pinky confronts the issue of interracial relations more overtly than many other films of its time by focusing its narrative on the difficulties experienced by a mixed-race woman. The character of Pinky faces crises over passing, as she is torn between her “birthright” and the “mess of pottage”  that she would gain by identifying as white.

Pinky uses the mulatto character to gain audience sympathies, exploring the effects of Southern racism by subjecting the almost-white main character to racially motivated degradations.  Significantly, the film embodies the mulatto through a white actress, producing an ambiguous interplay of audience identifications.  The film engages multiple deployments of the mulatto character: Through the actress, through the social context of the Hays Code, through the visual conventions it deploys, and through its narrative, which draws on…

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The Face and the Public: Race, Secrecy, and Digital Art Practice

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science on 2009-07-06 20:28Z by Steven

The Face and the Public: Race, Secrecy, and Digital Art Practice

Camera Obscura
Volume 24, Number 1, 70 (2009)
pages 37-65
DOI: 10.1215/02705346-2008-014

Jennifer González, Associate Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture Contemporary Art, Race and Representation
Harvard University

Contemporary digital artists have been exploring the function of the face and its relation to public space for several decades. This essay offers a close reading of artworks by Keith Piper, Nancy Burson, Keith Obadike, and the collective Mongrel that address the relation between race discourse and the visual representation (or elision) of the face. As the most reproduced visual sign on the Internet, the face continues to operate as a threshold to public space. Facebook, the largest social networking site with more than 80 million registered members, has uploaded more than 4 billion images in the past four years alone. The writings of media theorist Mark Hansen offer a provocative starting point to explore how a desire for racial neutrality can lead to the unintentional repression of important forms of cultural difference. Two models of ethics, grounded in the writings of Giorgio Agamben and Emannuel LĂ©vinas, respectively, are posed as alternatives in the quest for understanding the importance of “the face.” Finally, the essay asks what role secrecy might play in the production and subversion of the public sphere, as well as in the fantasy constructions of race and racial difference.

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