The Obscure: Photographing

Karen Strassler
Queens College

Marianne Hirsch
Columbia University

April 15, 2:30 - 5:00 PM
Room 56-114
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Emily Zeamer

Sandy Alexandre

Michael Fischer
Jim Howe
Christine Walley

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Karen Strassler

Karen Strassler — The Aura of Power: Ratu Kidul's Photographic Appearances

Queen of the Javanese spirit world, commander of an invisible avenging army, sexual predator, and lover of Central Java's traditional rulers, Ratu Kidul is a potent figure in Javanese mythology who also has an active presence in Indonesia's modern media and political culture. Neither eluding nor haunting the technological apparatus, Ratu Kidul instead claims photography as her privileged medium; her photographic appearances reveal the persistence of an ideology of power's obscurity in an era dominated by dreams of transparency.

Karen Strassler is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Queens College of the City University of New York. Her book, Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java (Duke UP 2010), examines how everyday photographic practices have shaped the ways people in urban Java come to see themselves as Indonesians. Her current research focuses on media and political communication in the post-Suharto era, tracing the uncertain nature of evidence and authority in the aftermath of authoritarianism and the age of digital reproduction.

Marianne Hirsch

Marianne Hirsch — "You donít see me": The Subject of Class Photos

This paper will reflect on the unseen through a genre of vernacular photography that has received little, if any, critical attention — the school photo. As group images taken by commercial photographers with few if any artistic aspirations and little desire to deviate from formulaic representations, class pictures can nevertheless expose some fundamental aspects of photography: the relationship between photographer and photographed subject that they stage, their temporalities and ideologies, their framings and re-framings, their social and emotional lives and afterlives, their multiple, sometimes contradictory, meanings. †The paper will look both at archival school photos and at the work of several artists who reframe and comment on school pictures in their work.

Marianne Hirsch is William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Co- Director of the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference. Most recently, together with Leo Spitzer, she published Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory. Among other recent publications are Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory, The Familial Gaze, a special issue of Signs on "Gender and Cultural Memory," and Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust. Her book of essays "The Generation of Postmemory: Gender and Visuality After the Holocaust" is forthcoming.

This session of the Sensing the Unseen seminar is complete. A podcast of this session can be found here, or download MP3 files of this session from the links below: