Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Global Contemporary Art, Colgate University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Art History/Architecture, Northwestern University
By Way of Vietnam: Racial Critique and Social Collapse in Transnational Protest Art, 1965-75

During the height of the American led wars in Southeast Asia, roughly 1965-75, a global anti-war movement largely informed by the visual strategies of the countercultures of the United States produced hundreds of posters, short films, illustrated print publications, and other quickly reproducible and widely distributable objects of protest art. While eclectic in format and diverse in national provenance, these works comprised what I assert constitutes a specific art historical genre, formed around a shared strategy of linking local politics with the issue of Vietnamese solidarity. Artists working in this genre demonstrated political subjectivity to be a function of visual and conceptual comparison with Vietnam. And while the works they produced imagined radical proximity between disparate identities in order to upend racial categorizations and collapse social hierarchies, my dissertation argues that this particular Vietnam-centric iconography relied on the over-determination of visual differences between people, thereby reinforcing the same social institutions they were staged to critique. My methodology enlists a core theoretical concern bridging modern critical histories of art and race; namely, the power of the visual to calcify social construction as social fact by reifying sameness or difference. Since the race-based critique was most routinely and effectively vocalized during the war by activists drawing significant parallels between government-sanctioned military imperialism abroad and racist policies at home, my theoretical interjection here is to reframe a concurrent episode in global art historical production as constituting an adamantly and equally transnational, if ultimately problematic, radical politics. The objects central to my study are taken from archives in Vietnam, the U.S., Australia, and Jordan, and evidence the vast material and institutional range of this transnational genre of protest art and its historiographic afterlives.