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Exhibiting Racism: The Cultural Politics of Lynching Photography Re-Presentations

Molloseau, Erika Damita'jo (2008) Exhibiting Racism: The Cultural Politics of Lynching Photography Re-Presentations. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Using an interdisciplinary approach and the guiding principles of new historicism, this study explores the discursive and visual representational history of lynching to understand how the practice has persisted as part of the fabric of American culture. Focusing on the "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America" exhibition at three United States cultural venues I argue that audiences employ discernible meaning making strategies to interpret these lynching photographs and postcards. This examination also features analysis of distinct institutional characteristics of the Andy Warhol Museum, Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, alongside visual rhetorical analysis of each site's exhibition contents. Through phenomenological categorization and analysis of audience comment books maintained by each institution, I maintain that museum visitors employ various types of cultural knowledge about past and present black-white race relations. Audiences undertake comparative analyses of the distant past with the contemporary historical moment to make sense of lynching imagery and history as simultaneously both a discrete historical epoch and part of a constellation of racist and violent activities characterizing American history which continue to influence race relations today. From analysis of museum audiences' responses to lynching photography exhibitions, this study concludes that an overwhelming portion of "Without Sanctuary" audiences locate racism, discrimination, and prejudice at the individual level of society, not the collective or systemic level, highlighting an important barrier beleaguering the task of racial reconciliation and national healing around the phenomenon and practice of lynching.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Molloseau, Erika Damita', molloseaue@denison.eduERM43
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairZboray, Ronaldzboray@pitt.eduZBORAY
Committee MemberBlake, Cecilcblake@pitt.eduCBLAKE
Committee MemberOlson, Lesterolson@pitt.eduOLSON
Committee MemberKiesling, Scottkiesling@pitt.eduKIESLING
Date: 30 October 2008
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 1 September 2007
Approval Date: 30 October 2008
Submission Date: 4 August 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: lynching; Without Sanctuary; lynching photography; museum audiences
Other ID:, etd-08042008-170316
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:57
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:48


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