Ordinary Blackness: On the Aesthetics of Medicine for Melancholy
Presenter: Kinohi Nishikawa, Assistant Professor, English
A standard observation in the study of race in American cinema holds that black subjects have been rendered invisible or hypervisible by the white gaze. Based on the perception of embodied racial difference, these seemingly contradictory positions have combined to obscure black filmic subjectivity as a seen-but-not-seen form of representation. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, 2009) challenges the very terms by which the invisibility-hypervisibility paradox has held sway over discussions of race and cinema. Abjuring the need to “correct” past iterations of black filmic subjectivity, or to put on display a “new” version of black identity, Medicine for Melancholy envisions blackness as ordinary—that is, an object whose very banality frustrates efforts to read onto its surface representation. The film achieves this by rendering black sexuality, long a target of the white gaze, as the mere unfolding of sequential images that produce desire.
Kinohi Nishikawa earned his Ph.D. in Literature and Certificate in Feminist Studies from Duke and is Assistant Professor of English and Research Faculty in Gender Studies. His research focuses on modern African American print and visual cultures, with an emphasis on cinema, book design, and popular literature. His book manuscript is titled Reading the Street: Black Pulp Fiction in Post-Civil Rights America.
In order to advance the program’s commitment to inter-disciplinary research and inquiry into the subject of gender, the Gender Studies Program is pleased to announce an upcoming series of research workshops. The events will include presentations by advanced undergraduates majoring in Gender Studies as well as graduate students and faculty members from a variety of departments who work in the area of gender and sexuality. The workshop will begin with the week’s presenter giving a brief lecture on his or her current research in the field, followed by a seminar-style discussion.
Workshops are held on Fridays from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in 339 O’Shaughnessy unless otherwise specified below.