VISCERAL VISUALITY: MEDIA STUDIES AS A PRACTICE OF REVOLT
EDITED BY HANNAH HOPKINS
In Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (1974), James and Grace Lee Boggs remind us that revolutionary action is always in conversation with revolutionary theory. They call this a ‘flow,’ “from revolutionary theory to revolutionary practice and then back again to enriched theory through the evaluation of systematic practice.” Revolution, then, is something we make together: there is no practice of revolt without that flow, without the exchanges that take place in conversation and community.
The conversations in this particular section engage potentialities for and practices of revolution across disciplines, attuning us to revolutionary action and thought that intervenes at a variety of scales. In her review of Gil Z. Hochberg’s Becoming Palestine: Toward an Archival Imagination of the Future, Haley Eazor highlights the revolutionary potential of the imagination in the archive. Eazor’s review points to how reimagining and recontextualizing Palestinian archives serve as a practice of becoming, creating new political futures, and giving rise to new memory and story-making practices. Neville Hoad’s review of Tyler Fleming’s Opposing Apartheid on Stage: King Kong the Musical engages the complex histories of the apartheid-era production of King Kong in South Africa. Hoad demonstrates that the “dialectic between exploiting and enabling Black excellence under distinctly racist political conditions is a key feature of the production and reception of King Kong” and opens us to further engagement of the revolutionary and exploitative potentialities for creative works today.
Moving from the stage to screen cultures, Da Ye Kim charts a course through Media Crossroads: Intersections of Space and Identity in Screen Cultures, edited by Paula J. Massood, Angel Daniel Matos, and Pamela Robertson Wojcik. Kim’s review highlights the collection’s work to engage spatial power relations in audiovisual texts through Kimberlé Crenshaw’s metaphor of intersectionality and Michel de Certeau’s theory of navigating the city. Kim’s review focuses on the expansive possibilities for the intersectional lens that the contributors introduce, even as the book warns that “surface-level re/presentation of intersectional space and identities can become a reification of conservative and assimilationist politics.” Continuing this section’s focus on the visual is I. B. Hopkins reviews Reconstructing the Landscapes of Slavery: A Visual History of the Plantation in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World by Dale W. Tomich, Rafael de Bivar Marquese, Reinaldo Funes Monzote, and Carlos Venegas Fornias. The authors of this wide-sweeping collection coalesce a conversation around slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley, central Cuba, and center-south Brazil, underscoring how these economies are visualized and have reshaped the landscape of the Americas.
Jackie Pedota reviews Jillian Hernandez’s Aesthetics of Excess: The Art of Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment. Her review foregrounds the transgressive feminist work of Hernandez’s exploration of “Women on the Rise!,” both in its content and form as “an anti-racist, queer, class-disrupting, and feminist creative expression.” Pedota’s review underscores the transgressive and hegemonic potentialities of art, particularly as the book ends with “hope for future possibilities.” My review of Assembly Codes: The Logistics of Media, edited by Matthew Hockenberry, Nicole Starosielski, and Susan Zieger speaks to this section’s ongoing engagement with the logistics of memory and media. Contributors to Assembly Codes approach the practices, promises, and perils of logistical media “across disciplines, geographies, and temporalities,” with attention to the project of listening as a justice-oriented and revolutionary act. Finally, Michael Cordova’s review of La Marr Jurelle Bruce’s How To Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity accounts for the ways that Bruce “reads and seeks agency through the mad.” Cordova charts the place of rage, creativity, care, and madness in the text, demonstrating Bruce’s “(re)engagement with media, and through it, another means of imagining.”
Through art, logistics, music, the archive, performance, and space, these reviewers engage means of revolution through imagining. As we all continue to collaborate in the long project of imagining and building better worlds, these reviews remind us of the revolutionary potential of stories and the revolutionary act of telling them together.