Contact me at Brittneyfrantece@gmail.com
My practice is primarily interested in examining the works of contemporary Black writers and artists as they build upon and repurpose the conceptual and political categories, as well as the aesthetic practices, of their literary and visual predecessors. I began my academic career at an HBCU, Tennessee State University; this institution allowed me to gain insight and access to revolutionary Black literature that I had a hard time receiving at a PWI. As an undergraduate I was taught to critically engage with works that challenge the all-too-common, white-imagined narratives regarding Black identity and self-consciousness. My time at TSU allowed me to sharpen my scholarly methods and objectives: to analyze cultural texts through the lens of critical theories that counter white hegemonic discourses representing Black subjectivity. My training in the English program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa was heavily grounded in anti/de-colonial theories and methodologies, which allowed me to draw upon critical race studies and indigenous scholarships. What became clear to me is the importance of understanding the injustices towards marginalized people in a relational and intersectional fashion. Therefore, exposing and refuting white-imagined racial and gender stereotypes through literary and visual analyses makes up the bulk of scholarship. I seek to enhance this area of focus in the English department at University of Washington, where I am now a doctoral student and rhetorical composition instructor.
Recently, I have become increasingly concerned with visual analyses that touch on a time-space continuum. In particular, I’d like to look at temporality as it relates to a space/ place dynamic. My start into this endeavor began with my essay, “You Cannot See Me,” which I presented at the 2017 CCCC. In this piece I analyze two contemporary photographs: Sierra Faye’s “Comfort in the Undiscovered,” 2011 and Xaviera Simmons’ One Day and Back Then (Seated), 2007. I argue that the visual cues—the black substance on their skin; the allusion to the Newton’s Minister of Defense, 1966; and the returning gaze— convey the continued subjection of Black Femmes. This essay provided the foundation of my MA project entitled, “My Black Body Under the White Gaze,” in which I use Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye to enunciate the theoretical concerns of hyper-visibility demonstrated in the aforementioned photographs. I developed the argument to one that suggests the photographs expose and challenge the many elaborated, highlighted misconceptions of Black Femme’s bodies by connecting the visual cues to a long racial history of being mis-seen by the (white) public. Through further engagement with historical photographs from American slavery and the Black Power Movement, as well as colonial discourse, I show how deeply these photographs convey the phenomenon of hyper-visibility, as a branch of invisibility, of Black Femme’s bodies.
Moving forward I hope to spend more time with and complicate these concerns by examining how Black creatives demonstrate the process by which their Black bodies become manipulated, coded, hyper-visible, and invisible (among other phenomena) under the white-imperial gaze. I aim to investigate the power contained within the gaze (and other exercises of power). I attended a talk by Claire Tancons in 2018 brought on by The Black Embodiment Studios, and her lecture still has me captured by the articulation of a third space as an “aporia” of Black visual culture. Lately I have been thinking about how contemporary Black artists conceptualize this third space and power-seeking whiteness. Perhaps I can turn to Jordan Peele’s Get Out, 2017, to begin to articulate what I see as the temporal process by which Black consciousness is continually casted into the “sunken place” — which I see is an alternative space of invisibility— through the use of desire and power. The white gazes in this film see Black bodies and force the bodies to be vacant so that they can take ownership of it, and use it for their own success. I’m also thinking about Alison Saar’s Crepuscular Blue, which I visited at Pacific Northwest College of Art. I believe this series relates to this time-space temporality. The pieces and the strategic placement of them convey a twilight feeling regarding Black experiences of embodiments and, in line with Get Out, disembodiment. Saar’s series speaks to a certain anti-Black construction of Black public bodies and the result of such destruction. In many of the prints, the bodies do not have eyes, which makes me think of a body void of existence. I am particular drawn to her sculpture, “Cotton Easter,” 2013 which shows a severed Black Femme’s head with wide eye sockets and a mouth ajar with cotton spilling out. This sculpture was positioned in front of a colored print of a Black Femme standing in a field of a cotton eating the cotton with a swollen stomach. Saar’s curation of the series made me think Rankine's "When you lay your body into the body/ Enter as if skin and bones were public places" because their bodies are like masks use for anti-black capitalist (I know, oxymoron) consumption.
Ultimately, I would like to investigate this more and have a deeper understanding of such concepts through dialogue with others who have similar curiosities. Because I am concerned with the particularities of Black subjectivity and identity as presented in literary and visual texts, I believe my scholarship will thrive in spaces the also investigate these concerns. I am eager to learn from scholars (not just within academia) who also produce compelling works at these crossroads. Such activities can yield a comprehensive lists for my areas that allow me to critically engage with a wide range of texts across genres, historical periods, and theoretical concepts that are within and outside my specific area of concentration. I will integrate seemingly disparate aspects of my research so that I can have an intersectional and interdisciplinary command of Black studies and critical race scholarship as a whole.
With this work, I will continue to expose others, within academia and the public, to the rich body of Black American cultural texts and connect it to a wide range of discourses, such as Black feminism (or womanism), Black existentialism, Afrofuturism and other Black critical theories. I am open to many opportunities that have tools to help develop my pedagogical practices and scholarship in order to be a successful scholar and professor.