Race as Technology

Coleman, Beth
Camera obscura (Durham, NC)

Coleman asks the reader to consider race as technology. This proposition moves race away from the biological and genetic systems that have historically dominated its definition toward questions of technological agency. "Technological agency" speaks to the ways by which external devices help us navigate the terrain in which we live. Coleman argues that technology's embedded function of self-extension may be exploited to liberate race from an inherited position of abjection toward a greater expression of agency. To make this argument, she engages theories of technology and race from an interdisciplinary cohort that includes historian Michael Adas and the philosopher Bernard Stiegler, as well as the concept of aesthetic judgment from the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Coleman begins by offering a plain definition of race as technology. The examples she gives of race as technology span the rhetorical, the spectacular, and the temporal. She looks at the rhetoric of Barack Obama, the visual power of race in the 1966 film "The Battle of Algiers," and critical theorist James Snead's theory of blackness" as a sign of repetition.