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date: 25 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

The photographs of twentieth-century photographer Roy DeCarava are a rich case study for mapping the visual theater of race and religion in twentieth-century America. Despite visual similarities in his photographs to contemporary documentary photographers, DeCarava contended that claims to document race in fact worked to invest power in the “madness” of “skin color.” Such a statement echoes the teachings of prophets of black urban religion who incorporated critiques of racial classification into their theological visions. Such visual regimes of race and religion were not limited to persons of African descent. Lewis Hine’s photographs of European immigrants arriving on Ellis Island and Dorothea Lange’s photographs of Japanese American internees were also part of the visual politics of race and religion. By structuring the twentieth century’s ascendant visual regimes around DeCarava, this chapter explores how the technologies, aesthetics, and politics of photography shaped the moral theater of race and religion.

Keywords: documentary photography and visual politics, Christianity, Japanese internment, Harlem, Frederick Douglass, Dorothea Lange, Roy DeCarava, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ansel Adams, Langston Hughes

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