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About the Talk
This talk draws from LaCharles Ward's larger book project, Black Forensis: Evidence, Visuality, and Aesthetics of Black Life, which is a cultural and visual investigation of the concept of evidence as it is brought into relation with anti-blackness, Black death, and Black life. The question that propels the book, and one that broadly guides this talk, is: Why does evidence, when in defense of Black people, always fail to meet the proper evidentiary standards? Ward suggests that one part of an answer to this question can be found in the early legal debates about how to deal with “evidence” that photography allegedly proffer to the trier of fact. These debates not only revealed how the introduction of visual culture in the courtroom, especially photography, challenged a court and legal culture that hinged on the spoken and written word — persuasion through words — it also marked the beginning of an unstable legal discourse on visual evidence that continues to shape our present-day understanding of evidence and, more importantly, how we see and interpret visual evidence, which Ward refers to as totalizing legal ascription of evidence. Ultimately, in this talk, he probes what the limits of this legal discourse on evidence are, visual or otherwise, from a conceptual standpoint. On the other hand, he asks what it would mean to break from this legal conception of evidence that has been historically and contemporarily hostile towards Black people.
About the Speaker
LaCharles Ward is an interdisciplinary scholar of Black visual and cultural studies. He received his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Public Culture from Northwestern University’s School of Communication, where he also had a graduate affiliation in the Department of African American Studies. His research spans the areas of Black visual culture as theory and method, art and aesthetic practices, film and media, history and theories of photography, and law. Ward’s book project, Black Forensis: Evidence, Visuality, and the Aesthetics of Black Life, examines the seemingly fixed but mercurial notion of “evidence” as it is brought into relation with anti-Blackness, Black death, and Black life, arguing that our extant understanding of evidence is not only inadequate to the task of comprehending Blackness as evidence, but also ill-equipped to account for profound ways in which Black people are theorist of evidence.