Persona Obscura

This research examines (i) forms of power that are hard to detect, (ii) types of cultural resistance kept illegible, and (iii) how seemingly private things influence public life. Already existing work in this area usually focuses on de Certeauian ‘everyday practices,’ while I am concerned with their global-historical scope.

My current book project, Persona Obscura: Invisibility in the Age of Disclosure, examines invisibility as a resource for black, queer, and other marginal subjects. Against typical theories of media that encourage visibility as a solution to social ills, I argue that invisibility is a better tactic for subjects who have suffered due to surveillance and media exposure – and media studies still has much to learn from those for whom invisibility is already a way of life. For example, my chapter on queer opacity considers how social media that enables gays to more publicly “come out of the closet” can expose them to additional harassment. The book illustrates its arguments through media examples ranging from cinema to clothing – for example, I explore Sarah Minter's film "Nadie es Inocente," which depicts subjects that intentionally live on the margins, as well as the feminist performance art/clothing project Psychological Prosthetics™, which depersonalizes the private life of emotions. My argument offers an important alternative to media theorists who suggest that people on the margins desire greater visibility, and in doing so critiques the glut of “consciousness-raising” media technologies that treat oppression as a problem of ignorance or miscommunication. I have published two articles from this material, in the journals Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies and parallax.

Research related to this project is available in three articles: “The State, Concept not Object: Abstraction, Cinema, Empire,” parallax, 21(4), 2015, “Philosophy, Science, and Virtual Communism,” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 20(1), 2015, and “Giving Shape to Painful Things: An Interview with Claire Fontaine,” with Ricky Crano, Radical Philosophy, 175, September/October 2012, 43-52. Another is currently under final review.