The “Image complex” lecture series proposes that the history of power in the United States can be told as a history of visual infrastructures: institutions and practices that govern how we perceive, and what we can do.

Lisa Lowe considers the “image complex” of contemporary migration. Whether viewed as foreign threat or abject victim, the state’s visual order produces “the migrant” as the limit of national sovereignty, even it transforms the “migrant” into the “immigrant” through regimes of visibility, legality, and temporality in the political sphere; lays claim to migrant labor in the economic sphere; or subjects what remains to humanist concepts of free will and autonomy. The lecture juxtaposes visual / aural art experiments of refugee and emigré memory that pose alternatives to the visual regimes of national security and humanitarianism that seek to capture “the migrant.”

This lecture took place on 30 October 2020, as part of lecture series “Image Complex: Art, Visuality, and Power in the United States”.


Lisa Lowe

Lisa Lowe is Samuel Knight Professor of American Studies at Yale University. An interdisciplinary scholar whose work is concerned with the analysis of race, immigration, capitalism, and colonialism, she is the author of Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Cornell University Press, 1991), Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Duke University Press, 1996), and The Intimacies of Four Continents (Duke University Press, 2015), and the co-editor of The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (Duke University Press, 1997) and New Questions, New Formations: Asian American Studies, a special issue of positions: east asia cultures critique 5:2 (Fall 1997). Before joining Yale, Lowe taught at the University of California, San Diego and Tufts University.

Image Complex: Art, Visuality and Power in the United States

This series explores the history of the visual infrastructure that governs life in the United States, and the practices that have shaped and contested it. The series will present lectures by four pioneering scholars of art, visuality and power: Jolene Rickard, Lisa Lowe, Jennifer González, and Nicole Fleetwood. Learn more about the series here.

The series is presented by Discipline journal and the Power Institute.