DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 3/2/18: State of Exposure: "Post-Truth" and the Politics of Looking

deadline for submissions: 
March 2, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Wayne State University Visual Culture Spring Symposium
contact email: 

From the Civil Rights Movement to #BlackLives Matter, images of racially motivated violence have spurred nationwide protest. Despite overwhelming photographic evidence, juries – in the case of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and countless others – nonetheless failed to find the perpetrators guilty. A picture of a toddler lying face down on a beach brought worldwide attention to the Syrian refugee crisis. The initial outrage caused by the photograph quickly dissipated, and today, this ongoing global crisis has largely disappeared from the public view.

Digital mages proliferate, exposing atrocities and injustices, and exposing us to their realities, often ad nauseam. In their inescapability, images both re-sensitize and de-sensitize us to different forms of violence. Our saturation with images appears to decrease our capacity for affective investment in the injustices we are increasingly made aware of.

The seventh annual Wayne State University Visual Culture Graduate Symposium seeks to explore the current “state of exposure” in all its ambivalence: not only in the ways in which contemporary visual culture exposes us to previously unavailable aspects of reality, but also in the ways in which we are exposed to the fleeting concerns of the moment. Questions of exposure take on particular urgency in relation to issues of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, class, and able-bodiedness.

Despite the inevitably compromised power of exposure, #BLM and the Syrian refugee crisis demonstrate our continued belief that exposure in and of itself has political value. And even though we know that images are easily and endlessly manipulatable, we remain reluctant to abandon our faith in the veracity of the visual. We depend on the image to index the realities we fail to acknowledge, yet simultaneously lose interest in the image as digital media expand and complicate our field of vision.

This symposium seeks to put pressure on this paradox. We invite presenters to interrogate the ethics of exposure, to theorize the political utility of the image in a “post-truth” environment, and to evaluate the continued significance of bell hooks’s claim that “there is power in looking.” We welcome critical investigations in any form, discipline, and period.
Please submit abstracts (250 – 300 words) for scholarly papers, artist talks, or film/visual media presentations by Friday, March 2, 2018, to wsucontext@gmail.com. The symposium will take place at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan on Friday, March 30, 2018.