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White Sight: Visual Politics of Whiteness 

Thursday, October 21, 2021, 6:00 pm7:00 pm

White Sight: Visual Politics of Whiteness (from the 2021-2022 Speaker Series, “Experiencing Images: How the Visual Shapes Our World”) 

Thursday October 21, 2021, at 6 p.m. CST via Zoom with Nicholas Mirzoeff. 

Zoom Event Registration Link: https://bit.ly/3kJL61r.

Nicholas Mirzoeff

Nicholas Mirzoeff

To adapt Simone de Beauvoir, “one is not born but becomes white.” This talk engages the persistence and continued force of white ways of seeing and making white space. Combined, these form what Mirzoeff calls “white sight.” To be white has been imagined as the apex of the supposed pyramid of the human. That is a powerful place from which to see, survey, and conduct surveillance, the key practices of white sight. It is a system that has a material infrastructure, connecting ways of seeing and making space and the apparatus of government. Its material forms connect, distribute, enable, and store the set of desires and fantasies that comprise what it is to make whiteness. This talk examines how these systems work and how they might be unbuilt.

This virtual presentation is part of the 2021-2022 virtual speaker series “Experiencing Images: How the Visual Shapes Our World,” which features distinguished speakers who explore individual and collective engagement with photography, a medium that defines visual culture. Through decoding this visual landscape, we become conscious of how we use images to construct identity and meaning. The lectures in this series will address themes including photography exhibitions and civic spectatorship, surveillance, and the construction of race, image production, and representation, and trauma and memory. The series is curated by Holly Filsinger, graduate student in visual culture. The series is hosted by Illinois State University Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts and is supported and co-sponsored by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, University Galleries of Illinois State University, the School of Communication, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. Virtual lectures via Zoom are free and open to the public. Register in advance at https://bit.ly/3kJL61r

If you need a special accommodation to fully participate in this program/event, please contact hefilsi@ilstu.edu. Please allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.

Speaker Bio:

Nicholas Mirzoeff is a writer and professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU. He is a visual activist, working at the intersection of politics, race and global/visual culture. In 2020-21 he is ACLS/Mellon Scholar and Society fellow in residence at the Magnum Foundation, New York.

Among his many publications, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) won the Anne Friedberg Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies in 2013.

How To See The World was published by Pelican in the UK (2015) and by Basic Books in the U.S. (2016). It has been translated into 10 languages and was a New Scientist Top Ten Book of the Year for 2015.

The Appearance of Black Lives Matter was published in 2017 as a free e-book, and in 2018 as a limited edition print book with a graphic essay by Carl Pope and a poem by Karen Pope, both by NAME Publications, Miami.

Since the 2017 events in Charlottesville, he has been active in the movement to take down statues commemorating settler colonialism and/or white supremacy and convened the 2017 collaborative syllabus All The Monuments Must Fall, fully revised after the 2020 events.

He curated “Decolonizing Appearance,” an exhibit at the Center for Art Migration Politics (September 2018-March 2019) and is currently collaborating on a global public art project with artist Carl Pope, poet Karen Pope, and gallerist Lisa Martin, entitled “The Bad Air Smelled of Roses.”

A frequent blogger and writer, especially for the art magazine Hyperallergic, his work has appeared in the Nation, the New York Times, Frieze, the Guardian, Time and The New Republic.