Martin Berger


Thursday, November 17th

7:00 pm, Timken Lecture Hall

San Francisco Campus

Through analysis of an eclectic assortment of primary evidence ranging from painting, photography, and architecture to film and literature, Martin Berger explores the role played by the visual arts in identity formation, examining how Americans both resist and embrace dominant norms of identity. Concerned that the historical emphasis of scholars on representations of disempowered peoples has inadvertently reinforced the perception that empowered identities are fixed, or even natural, Berger illuminates their constructed and fluid nature. Rather than focusing on how images impact our sense of what it means to be “feminine” or “black,” he explores how they condition our understanding of being “masculine” and “white.”

Bergers’ 2011 book Seeing through Race is a boldly original reinterpretation of the iconic photographs of the black civil rights struggle. In this groundbreaking study, he demonstrates how the very pictures credited with arousing white sympathy, and thereby paving the way for civil rights legislation, actually limited the scope of racial reform in the 1960s. He is also the author of Sight Unseen: Whiteness and American Visual Culture (2005). Berger, a professor at UC Santa Cruz in the department of History of Art and Visual Culture, is currently Director of the Visual Studies Graduate Program. He received his PhD in American Studies from Yale University.