Identity in Contemporary Photography

Summer Course3

ARTH 287M  -  2017 Summer Course, Binghamton University

Provided here: course description, weekly themes, selected list of readings and source materials

Course Description

This course will examine strategies that photographers have used to explore notions of cultural identity in postwar and contemporary society. We will consider the work of women photographers; of black, Asian, and Native American photographers; and of white photographers who have worked in communities other than their own. Looking closely at photographs by Cindy Sherman, LaToya Ruby Frazier, and James Luna, among others, we will consider such questions as: how do artists use specific techniques and visual qualities to represent aspects of cultural identity? What do photographs suggest about the formation of cultural identity amid shifting social demographics, religious conflict, and political turmoil?


5-week online course divided into 5 topics that built on one another over the course of the summer session:

  1. Introduction to Identity and Photo Theory and Looking at Photographs
  2. Gender and Women
  3. Issues of Race/Ethnicity
  4. Class/Region/Religion and “White Minority”
  5. Orientation and Sexuality

Sample list of readings & source materials

Resources are listed in the order in which students were suggested to engage with them.
*Sources particularly important for art/photographs indicated by asterisk

Week III: Issues of Race/Ethnicity

  • Live Science Staff. “What is the Difference Between Race and Ethnicity?” Live Science. Culture. Life’s Little Mysteries. May 9, 2012.
  • Hames-Garcia, Michael. “How Real is Race?” Material Feminisms, 308-339. Edited by Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2008.
  • “Inuit terms for snow and ice.” Table 1.1 in Chapter 1, Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, 23.  Edited by Stuart Hall. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003.
  • Postlewait, Mariah. “Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: An Introduction to Issues of Race and Gender,” Department of Art History, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY, 2017.
  • *Cox, Renee. Hot-en-Tot, 1994, Gelatin silver print, 48 x 60 inches, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art,ée-cox-jamaican-american-b-1960.
  • * Williams, Carla. Untitled from How to Read Character, 1990-1991, photograph, 5×4 feet, photocopy transfer 22×30 inches, gilt frames, gelatin silver prints, photocopy transfer, and push-pins, artist’s collection. Willis, “Women’s Stories/Women’s Photobiographies,” 179-180.
  • *Williams, Carla. Venus, 1994, 16 x 20 inches, toned gelatin silver print, artist’s collection.
  • *Verna, Mara Verna, Plastered in Paris, 2002,
  • de Beer, Este. “Spicing South Africa: Exploring the Role of Food and Spices in Berni Searle’s Conceptual Art,” JLS/TLW 28, no. 1 (March 2012): 40-50.
  • *Luna, James A. “I’ve Always Wanted to Be an American Indian.”  Art Journal 51, no. 3, Recent Native American Art (Autumn 1992): 18-27.
  • Caldwell, Ellen C. “How Luiseno Indian Artist James Luna Resists Cultural Appropriation.” JSTOR Daily. December 25, 2015.
  • Keene, Adrienne. “The one stop for all your ‘Indian costumes are racist’ needs!” Native Appropriations (blog). October 1, 2013.
  • Rawling, Ashley. “Remote Repercussions: Wafaa Bilal,” ArtAsiaPacific, no. 72. Features. (March/April 2011).
  • *CYJO. “2004-2009. KYOPO: An individual of Korean ethnic descent and living outside of Korea.” Accessed April 17, 2017.
  • *Otsuka, Chino. Imagine Finding Me. In “Woman Photoshops Present-Day Self into Childhood Photos.” By Pinar. My Modern Met (blog). January 10, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2017.

Week IV: Class/Region/Religion and “White Minority”