Vision and Justice

Building off the previous units, especially the core concepts of visual culture, this unit examines the way images reflect, construct, and change our concept of race.  If there is the myth of photographic truth, what does that mean as we deconstruct images that represent African Americans, Asian Americans, and under-represented peoples?  If our ideologies inform the way we see images, then can images ever affect social change? Can we ever move beyond what our own ideologies see? What is the tension between the ability of an image to liberate us from one way of seeing  and/or limiting our seeing?

Essential Questions

  • How do images reflect, construct, and change our concept of belonging and citizenship?
  • How do images simultaneously liberate and limit?
  • Can the circulation and distribution of images bring about social change?
  • Do our ideologies promote, prevent and/or limit the ways of looking at an image in a variety of ways?
  • If there is the myth of photographic truth, what does that mean as we deconstruct images?
  • How can we promote civil and democratic discourse about sensitive and controversial topics?

Final Assignment

Create an assemblage/multi-modal piece of writing that makes an arguable claim about one or more of the essential questions by assembling a combination of visual and textual evidence to explore and support claim.  You will draw on the resources (films, texts, images) used in this unit in addition to your own independent research.  In this piece of composition, you will demonstrate an understanding of how the history of visual representation impacts our contemporary cultural ideas about race and individual ideologies.

Class 1 &2

Gallery walk of Visual Culture Projects

Intro to V& J

Reading and annotating “Vision & Justice”

Class 3
Gone with the Wind viewing

Gates “Frederick Douglass’s Camera Obscura”

What was Douglass’s project with photography?

  • Take out readings
    • Identify writer’s thesis.  What is their project they discuss in the piece?
    • In “Vision & Justice” what connections does Sarah Lewis suggest between images and citizenship?
    • In “Frederick Douglass’s Camera Obscura” what does Henry Louis Gates Jr. identify as significant to understanding photography as Douglass used it?
  • Visual culture of the time period
  • Reading images
    • Who created this image?
    • What techniques are used to attract my attention?
    • How might different people see this image differently from me?
    • What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
    • Why was this message sent?

Classes 4-9
Introduction to Do the Right Thing and viewing

  • How does Spike Lee’s images reflect, construct, and change our concept of belonging and citizenship?
  • How does he use images that simultaneously liberate and limit?
  • How is this film in dialogue with films and representations that came before this film?
  • What is the ‘right thing’?


HW: Preparing for the Socratic Seminar by creating 6 discussion questions about the film and responding to 3 of the viewing questions.  Your questions should not only address the film but also consider the essential questions of this unit and the readings and other texts we have examined as part of this unit.

Classes 10-14
Selections from 13th and intro to Blackkklansman

Regarding the language: Blackkklansman is a film made in 2018 and set in the 1970s.  I sometimes argue that films say more about the period in which they are made than the period they’re set.  What might Lee be suggesting about our own time?

Regarding the representations of racist people:  Is one’s racism always blatant?  What are the ways in which seemingly good people might be racist in the film?

DuBois double consciousness

HW:  finish reading The Atlantic DuBois piece


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