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Ruin of Empire

The Uganda Railway and Memory Work in Kenya

Norman Aselmeyer

Abstract

This article is concerned with the memory of the Uganda Railway in Kenya. Built during the heyday of British imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century, the colonial railway has been a highly contested infrastructure. Drawing on museum exhibitions, public speeches, and publications, the article argues that the main narrative of the railway line as a tool of oppression began to change when the railway infrastructure gradually deteriorated in the mid-twentieth century. I show how three distinct groups (white expatriates, Kenyan-Asians, and Kenya's political elite) were involved in creating a new public memory that popularized the Uganda Railway as a cornerstone of the postcolonial nation. Their uncoordinated but simultaneous efforts toward a new reading of the past all aimed, albeit for different reasons, at reimagining the nation. The article thus shows mechanisms of coming to terms with the colonial past in a postcolonial nation.

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A “Sense of Presence”

The “me of me” in Black Girlhoods

Claudia Mitchell and Ann Smith

We begin by paying tribute to feminist Black scholar, bell hooks, who died 15 December 2021. As the numerous citations in just this issue alone bear witness, she has had a huge influence on feminist ways of thinking particularly in relation to how race, gender, and capitalism intersect. In her well-known essay, “In Our Glory” on Black girlhood and visual culture (hooks 1994), she offers a memory of losing a photograph of herself as a young girl in the 1950s masquerading, as she called it, in full cowgirl regalia.

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Spatializing Black Girlhood

Rap Music and Strategies of Refusal

Asilia Franklin-Phipps

Abstract

In this article, I begin by taking seriously the cultural contributions that Black women and girls make to hip-hop, thereby shifting the sociocultural and political landscape. Black girls and women do this in a variety of ways, but here I focus on how Black women rappers model and perform multiple embodied refusals that expand the possibilities for Black girls. Inspired by the cultural force of the current moment in hip-hop that is increasingly dominated by young Black women, I reflect on how Black women rappers reconstitute space through performance, music, and performances rooted in practices of refusal.

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Taking on the Light

Ontological Black Girlhood in the Twenty-first Century

Renee Nishawn Scott

Abstract

When society invokes Cashawn Thompson's hashtag phrase, “Black Girl Magic,” we laud the accomplishments of Black women and girls as if those triumphs are innate. In this article, I suggest that Black girls participate in a process that I call light making, or embodying that which is lighthearted, encouraging, and self-preserving. In exploring this particular ontology, I deconstruct Black Girl Magic by focusing on contemporary examples of light making as a way of understanding the critical role that Black girls play in Black cultural formation. By focusing on Black girl joy and play in social media, I stress light making as an ontology located in Black girlhood.

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Triangulation Revisited

Murray Smith

Abstract

What is the relationship between detailed critical analysis and the background assumptions made by a given theory of film spectatorship? In this article, I approach this question by looking at Vittorio Gallese and Michele Guerra's The Empathic Screen in the light of the method of triangulation—the coordination and integration of phenomenological, psychological, and neuroscientific evidence, as set out in my Film, Art, and the Third Culture. In particular, I examine Gallese and Guerra's arguments concerning the role of camera movement in prompting immersive, embodied simulation, as well as critiques of these arguments from David Bordwell and Malcolm Turvey. I focus on the special, irreducible role of critical analysis in these arguments. Detailed analysis of film form and style plays an essential role, I argue, in demonstrating the plausibility (or otherwise) of the thesis advanced by Gallese and Guerra. Such analysis is where the rubber of theoretical assumptions meets the road of the material work.

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Beholding Ourselves

Black Girls as Creators, Subjects, and Witnesses

Erin M. Stephens and Jamaica Gilmer

The bus was full of excited chatter as it pulled up in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (known universally as The Met) on Fifth Avenue on a cold morning in January. Thirteen girls, along with invited loved ones, had traveled for nine-and-a-half hours from Durham, NC, to view their art displayed in the exhibit, “Pens, Lens, and Soul: The Story of The Beautiful Project” (hereafter, “Pens, Lens, and Soul”). First, the girls filed off the bus to take a photograph on the steps of The Met. As their family and friends waited to disembark, they laughed and shivered while posing for numerous photographs and videos on the cold steps. As they stood at the bottom of the steps of the grand prestigious museum, the impressiveness of their accomplishment was just beginning to dawn on many of them. As she walked around the exhibit one of the artists would comment, “I feel surprised because I didn't realize it was this big of a thing and I was here and it's a thing, it's a big thing … we are capable of doing anything.”

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Being Screens, Making Screens

Functions and Technical Objects

Mauro Carbone, Graziano Lingua, and Sarah De Sanctis

Abstract

The present relations between screens and the human body invoke a genealogy that should help us to understand their status. However, we suggest that this historical-genealogical work shall be matched with a more comprehensive anthropology of screen experiences. By mobilizing the notion of “arche-screen,” we identify the transhistorical principle underlying such experiences with the showing/concealing and the exposing/protecting function pairs—the latter exceeding the visual dimension and involving our bodily relations with the environment. These function pairs, which are rooted in our body and make it into our proto-screen, can be enhanced via their externalization as appropriate technical objects. By highlighting the prostheticization of skin in some prehistoric artistic techniques and the role of the veil from the Old Testament to Leon Battista Alberti's treatise On Painting, we stress that the interweaving of the above-mentioned screen functions is a constant feature of human experiences and that its thematic variations are traceable in more recent screen forms.

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Beyond Representation

Technofeminisms and the Promise of Computing for Girls

Amélie Lemieux

Kristine Blair. 2019. Technofeminist Storiographies: Women, Information Technology, and Cultural Representation. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

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Bodies with Objects in Space through Screens

Casual Virtuality and the Self-Mediation of Laura Paolini's Constraining Aesthetics

Jakub Zdebik

Abstract

Constraining aesthetics are central to Laura Paolini's artistic corpus, involving the relationship of her body to everyday objects in confined spaces during the time of the pandemic. Paolini creates a self-reflexive simulacrum of artistic experience of body, objects, and space through the interface of digital screens. This article seeks to elaborate how the elements of body, objects, and space in performance, video, and installation art are part of a screenic embodiment when read through the concepts of habit (Walter Benjamin), proprioception (Brian Massumi), allegory (Craig Owens), mediation (Fredric Jameson), and documentation (Amelia Jones).

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Book Reviews

Steven Willemsen, Mario Slugan, Elke Weissmann, and Lucy Bolton

Marina Grishakova and Maria Poulaki, eds. Narrative Complexity: Cognition, Embodiment, Evolution. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019, 468 pp., $75.00 (hardcover). ISBN: 9780803296862.

Maarten Coëgnarts. Film as Embodied Art: Bodily Meaning in the Cinema of Stanley Kubrick. Brookline: Academic Studies Press, 2019, xxxv +228 pp., $120 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-64469-112-0. [Also available for free under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license with support from Knowledge Unlatched, ISBN: 978-1-64469-113-7].

Marsha F. Cassidy. Television and the Embodied Viewer: Affect and Meaning in the Digital Age. New York: Routledge, 2020, 216 pp., $155.00, ISBN: 9781138240766.

Sarah Cooper. Film and the Imagined Image. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019, 208 pp., $24.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9781474452793.