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American Pietàs

American Pietàs: Visions of Race, Death, and the Maternal

Ruby C. Tapia
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    American Pietàs
    Book Description:

    In American Pietàs, Ruby C. Tapia reveals how visual representations of racialized motherhood shape and reflect national citizenship. By means of a sustained engagement with Roland Barthes’s suturing of race, death, and the maternal in Camera Lucida, Tapia contends that the contradictory essence of the photograph is both as a signifier of death and a guarantor of resurrection.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7659-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION: Race, Death, and the Maternal in American Visual Culture
    (pp. 1-28)

    On september 11, 2001, Roman Catholic priest and New York Fire Department chaplain Mychal Judge emerged from the World Trade Center’s Ground Zero as the first recorded victim of the terror attacks. Reuters photographer Shannon Stapleton was on site to capture the vision that began immediately circulating the world as an “AmericanPietà.”¹ Startling for its simultaneous denotations of action and stillness, muscled response and grief, the picture asked for an interpretation, a reconciling frame stable enough to carry an assuaging meaning into a groundshattered national context. The pietà was that frame. True to its longstanding historical role of archetypal...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Maternal Visions, Racial Seeing: Theories of the Photographic in Barthes’s Camera Lucida
    (pp. 29-42)

    Since its publication in 1980, Roland Barthes’sCamera Lucidahas been somewhere present in almost every critical treatment of photography. His raw, personal reflections on how certain photographs have no profound effect on him at the same time that others touch him deeply offer us an indispensable way to understand the radically contextualized meanings and effects of photographs. Despite its first-person voice and its emphasis on the individualized work of photographs,Camera Lucidaoffers a theory of photographic visuality that applies far beyond the realm of the personal and far beyond photographs.

    For all the authority thatCamera Lucidalends...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Commemorating Whiteness: The Ghost of Diana in the U.S. Popular Press
    (pp. 43-66)

    Immediately following the automobile accident that caused the death of both Diana Spencer and Dodi Al-Fayed on August 31, 1997, newspaper headlines around the globe began announcing a “World in Grief” over the loss of “The People’s Princess.” Television, radio, and print media everywhere crowned her the “Queen of Our Hearts,” while Internet pathways saw “Tears Flow Across Nations,”¹ symbolizing a universal human connection inspired by our “Guardian Angel” and her “Legend of Love.”² The media event of her funeral attracted an estimated 1 billion viewers worldwide, not including the thousands who actually gathered to watch the procession.³ As part...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Beloved Therapies: Oprah and the Hollywood Production of Maternal Horror
    (pp. 67-90)

    With the 1998 release of the motion pictureBeloved,the monsters of Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel were vividly translated into filmic images, and the “disremembered and unaccounted for” nature of modern racism’s ever-present materiality was, yet again, confirmed.¹ As the reviews in newspapers like theNew York Timesand theWashington Postnoted, the film’s failure at the box office indicated the persistence of Hollywood audiences’ unwelcoming posture toward movies with “serious black themes.”² But low ticket sales are an insufficient marker of the nature and ideological implications of bothBeloved’s failures and its successes.³ Rather than focusing...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Prodigal (Non) Citizens: Teen Pregnancy and Public Health at the Border
    (pp. 91-108)

    Many cultural theorists have established that the “epidemic” of teen pregnancy in the United States is a socially constructed phenomenon, one that arose with the national economic and cultural anxieties of the 1970s. Until the “Adolescent and Family Life Act” was introduced in 1978, the status of teenagers as a special population that merited special legislative attention and government resources did not fully exist.¹ At this point legislative officials finally responded to the long-standing demands of women’s rights advocates to extend the right of women to control their fertility to teenage women.² These advocates leveraged their case by putting forth...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Breeding Patriotism: The Widows of 9/11 and the Prime-time Wombs of National Memory
    (pp. 109-130)

    In the weeks following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Oprah Winfrey’s television talk show featured pregnant survivors who had lost their spouses. In February 2002, thirty new mothers—all widowed in the attacks of 9/11—graced the cover ofPeople Weeklymagazine, each one cradling an infant. Six months later, ABC’sPrimetimegathered sixty-one such widows and the children born to them in the months after the attacks for a photo session at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. On the second, and then again on the fifth, anniversary of the attacks,Primetimefollowed up with...

  9. CONCLUSION: Vivid Defacements
    (pp. 131-152)

    In toni morrison’s novelbeloved,a fleshed-out girl ghost poses a desperate question:How can I say things that are pictures?¹ The agony of history and the haunting of the real have produced too many unspeakable things unspoken. Only image-memories testify. To animate these with understanding is the purpose of Beloved’s physicality, the charge of what appeared to herin the water and what is down there.²Down there,dark and womb-wet, where the trade of human flesh bore her mother a slave and made love out of her murder. Beloved was bred from the horrific, material collision of race,...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 153-154)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 155-192)
  12. Index
    (pp. 193-203)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 204-204)