Lisa Cartwright talk: The Figure in the Cybernetic Fold

Department: Film and Media Studies

Date and Time: February 16, 2017 | 3:30 PM-5:30 PM

Event Location: Humanities Gateway 1010

Event Details

The Figure in the Cybernetic Fold: Affect, Avatars, and Apperception in Tomkins and Fanon
Talk by Lisa Cartwright

Where do film and media studies and visual studies stand today in their understanding of identification and the digital body image? When literary studies followed Eve Kosofsy Sedgwick's turn to the mid-century American psychologist Silvan Tomkins, FMS and VS did not go along. Yet Tomkins worked in visual media, generating drawings, photographs and film in the development of his theory of affect as a cybernetic system uniquely discernible in the face and the figure. This talk explores his work with the Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT, an exam co-devised by painter Christiana Morgan in which psychologists showed figurative scenes to patients, prompting them to project narrative fantasies. Widely criticized for its normativity yet adopted globally, the TAT was used as well by Frantz Fanon on Algerian Muslim women in his psychiatric practice during the 1950s. Bridging Heath's "narrative space" and Nakamura's "cybertypes," this paper gestures toward connections between this mid-century archive of figural affect and the emergence of a digital culture that spans racial profiling and the customizing of avatars in political movements.

Lisa Cartwright is Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, where she is also appointed in in Communication and Science Studies and affiliated with Critical Gender Studies. With Marita Sturken, she is co-author of Practices of Looking, an introduction to visual culture forthcoming in its third edition with Oxford this year. She is also the author of Screening the Body (Minnesota 1995) and Moral Spectatorship (Duke 2008). A founding editor of the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, she is a founding member of the board of the International Association of Visual Culture and serves as the digital humanities faculty board member of the UC Press. Her current projects span visual science studies; the media archaeology of cinema, photography and technology; and visuality and affect in the history of psychology.

This event is free and open to the public.