Series, Black Visual Frequency: A Glossary
Black Visual Frequency: A Glossary

Until the end of July 2018, Tina Campt’s blog posts on “Black Visual Frequency: A Glossary” will seek to define a series of keywords that Campt finds crucial to thinking with, through, and alongside contemporary articulations of black visuality.

glossary: an alphabetical list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with the definitions for those terms.

“After 20+ years of teaching, I’ve abandoned the obligatory final paper in favor of what I am convinced is a much more generative culminating assignment: a glossary. As a feminist theorist of black visuality, I’m deeply invested in teaching students to define their terms with rigor and precision. It is a commitment that manifests itself in the form of a pedagogical refrain I utter at least once (though often repeatedly) in each and every class. By the end of the semester, my students often zealously parrot it back to me with a welcome combination of conviction and humor: ‘define your terms!’ In keeping with this thoroughly ingrained idiom, my own writing has become characteristically peppered with definitions that epigraphically map the meandering rhythm of my thoughts.

Paying tribute to a particularly inspired group of students I had the pleasure of teaching this semester, this blog joins them in a similarly glossarial undertaking. The posts that follow over the next eight weeks seek to define a series of keywords that I find crucial to thinking with, through, and alongside contemporary articulations of black visuality. They are terms that refuse traditional distinctions among the different sensory registers often assumed to structure the modalities of expression typically assigned to sight, sound, touch, smell or taste. Rather, this glossary ruminates on the frequencies of black visuality and how black visuality registers sonically, haptically, and affectively. My goal is to articulate a vocabulary that enables a more robust dialogue around black visuality – a dialogue that does not reduce this concept to a collection of objects or artists, but engages it as a complex practice of entanglement, implication and aspiration.”

Tina Campt is Claire Tow and Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Africana and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College-Columbia University. She is the author of three books: Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (University of Michigan Press, 2004), Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (Duke University Press, 2012), and Listening to Images (Duke University Press, 2017).