Proposed Panel entitled “Elucidating Portraiture’s Transnational Frames.”
American Studies Association
Oakland, California October 12-15
Visual theorists and art historians have argued that portraiture is conservative, even regressive visual genre, as it is aligned with western individualism, subtly reinforces the visual economies of otherness, and is haunted by the pseudo-science of physiognomy, which deduced moral characteristics from facial features. Alan Sekula argues that in the nineteenth century, portrait photography constructed a social archive that reinforced the importance of possessing and presenting an “honorable” self and was defined against “all embodiments of the unworthy.” However, portraiture was a recurrent subject on various panels at the recent American Studies Association Conference (November 2005), has been the focus of many museum exhibitions in the United States, and is a re-emerging part of contemporary artists’ practice. Therefore, it is important to ask why scholars, artists, and curators are interested in this visual genre now and examine how portraiture assigns particular faces and bodies to spaces of inclusion or exclusion within transnational image repertoires.
This proposed panel for 2006 ASA conference “The United States Inside and Out: Transnational American Studies” (Oakland, California, October 12-15, 2006) seeks to engage with the following questions: what about the contemporary moment inspires this attention to portraiture? What are the theoretical tools and/or bodies of work that can help us elucidate how portraiture functions in transnational imaginaries circulating within and exported from American visual culture? How can the history of portraiture, and perhaps especially the photographic portraiture of the nineteenth-century, become complicated by the histories and theorizations of the transnational and globalization now being written?
250-500 word proposals due by January 20th via email to: Kimberly Lamm email@example.com
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