Document/Anti-Document in Asian/American Photography (Special Session proposal, 2011 MLA; 3/2/10)

full name / name of organization: 
Joseph Jonghyun Jeon, U of San Diego; Warren Liu, Scripps College

We seek papers about Asian/American art photography that explore the documentary function, which has all but defined photography from its inception, and interrogate the photograph's long-established function as a document of the "real" in the context of Asian American politics. Accordingly, for artists such as An-My Lê, Dinh Q. Lê, Nikki S. Lee, and Patrick Nagatani, photographic images are more made than found, and photography becomes a dynamic artistic medium rather than an act of recording the object world. In such artists, we are interested in the ways in which photographic aesthetics intersects with Asian American social issues, and in how photography becomes a mode of critical interrogation, beyond the paces of documentary social realism. Our definition of photography is broad to include over overlapping artistic forms, such as literature, performance, film, and theatre so long as photography functions centrally in these other media. Papers might consider some of the following questions: how do photographic images reflect and comment upon the ways in which race is visualized? How do they shape or re-shape racial form? How do the more recent images come into conversation with the documentary tradition of Asian American photographic history (e.g. Japanese interment photography, images of Asian American railroad laborers, picture brides, etc.)? How do these images figure acts of looking and witnessing, what it means to see? How do these images imagine themselves in archival terms? In historical terms?

Please email 250-word abstracts by 2 March 2010 to:
Joseph Jonghyun Jeon ( or Warren Liu (