The Centre for the Study of the United States is welcoming Dr. Rebecca Wanzo from the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis for a conversation with Dr. Lauren McLeod Cramer from the Cinema Studies Institute.
Definitively addressing the problem with debates about “good” and “bad” black representation, The Content of Our Caricature: African American Comic Art and Political Belonging (New York University Press, 2020) explains what happens when Black cartoonists revisit and reanimate the archive of the racial grotesque. Black comics and cartoons that appeared in black newspapers at the beginning of the twentieth century, underground comix independently produced and distributed in the 1970s and today’s big-budget film adaptations of superhero comics share complex imaginings of the political potential and limitations of caricature. Wanzo’s book reads the work of a rarely acknowledged lineage of Black cartoonists alongside comic and cartoon figures of American citizenship—images of the romantic revolutionary, the soldier and the child. Black comics recall the ways blackness is rendered incommensurable with American citizenship when it shares the frame with these idealized tropes and, instead of abandoning this history of representation, they leverage its elasticity. As a result, using horror and humor, Black cartoonists visualize critiques of American visual culture that are not bound by time, space, or medium.