Modality of diasporic motion held in suspension in

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modality of diasporic motion held in suspension, in ways that hover be- tween stillness and movement. It juxtaposes two additional archives of vernacular photography of blacks in diaspora: late nineteenth-century ethnographic photos of rural Africans in the Eastern Cape and early twentieth-century studio portraits of African Christians in South African urban centers. Focusing on the sonic frequency and creative reappropria- tion of these portraits by the South African photographer Santu Mofo- keng in his acclaimed work, The Black Photo Album/Look at Me: 1890–1950 , the essay explores the continuities and disruptions between vernacular por- traiture and compulsory photography. Viewed together, these images blur the line between “postured performances” and “compelled poses,” and, in the process, they redefine what it means to “strike a pose.” Chapter 3, “Haptic Temporalities: The Quiet Frequency of Touch,” stages an embodied encounter with an archive of quiet photography in- tended to regulate and literally “arrest” the movement of a class of indi- viduals deemed criminal by the state: convict photos. The chapter juxta- poses two archives of incarcerated black subjects: convict photographs taken between 1893 and 1904 of inmates at Breakwater Prison in Cape Town, South Africa, and mid-twentieth-century mug shots of African American Freedom Riders in the US South. It uses these images to ex- plore the possibilities of what we apprehend—and what we apprehend differently—when we engage criminal identification photos through their physical, affective, and archival touches. The through-line that connects each of the chapters is a critique of the limits of contemporary discourses of resistance and a rigorous engage- ment with the discourse of fugitivity in African Diaspora studies and black feminist theory. I theorize the practice of refusal as an extension of the range of creative responses black communities have marshaled in the face of racialized dispossession. In this context, refusal is not a response to a state of exception or extreme violence. I theorize it instead as practices honed in response to sustained, everyday encounters with exigency and duress that rupture a predictable trajectory of flight. Toward this end, the
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Listening to Images 11 final chapter of the book is written as a coda that grapples with the gram- mar of black futurity as it confronts us in the contemporary moment. It assesses the frequency of a very different set of criminal identification photos and their reappropriation by urban African American youth strug- gling to develop their own practices of refusing the statistical probability of premature black death in the twenty-first century. Listening to Images reclaims the photographic archive of precarious and dispossessed black subjects in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries by attending to the quiet but resonant frequencies of images that have been historically dismissed and disregarded. Refocusing our at-
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  • Fall '11
  • black futurity, Gulu Real Art, Real Art Studio

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