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First-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar: Race and Photography

Semester and Year FA 2016
Course Number FIRST-UG97
Section 001
Instructor Lauren Walsh
Days MW
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Units 4
Level U
Foundation Requirement  


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


This course allows us an opportunity to think about the ways race is framed through the lens of a camera. Our interest in race and photography is primarily American in context, dating from the early twentieth century through the present day, and principally photojournalistic and documentary in form. We explore key moments in American history, as well as seminal photos, as we consider the politics and ethics of representation. Through sociological, historical, and journalistic prisms, we examine, for instance, slave and lynching imagery, documentation of immigrant populations, and coverage of the Civil Rights Movement. Ultimately, we progress right to the contemporary moment, with discussion of race and the photographic image in the age of social media. We also consider American coverage of peoples abroad, typically in war-based settings, as we extend our political and social discussions both geographically and conceptually. Throughout we ask, how have photographers reinforced or contested prevailing views of racial identity through the photographic form? And how are viewers influenced by these portrayals of race? Readings include theory and critical essays, as well as literary, journalistic, and historical accounts, and we will be looking at--and learning to read closely--a lot of photography. Authors may include: Frederick Douglass, Marita Sturken, Martin Berger, and Susan Sontag. Students write response papers and longer essays, will take trips to galleries and photo institutes, and can produce a visual project of their own. Guest speakers may include award-winning photographers who have covered the US-Mexico border as well as recent events in Baltimore and Ferguson.

Course Type

First-Year Program: Interdisciplinary Seminars (FIRST-UG)