Brandon Sward Office: Phone: Email
Doctoral Candidate

Dissertation title: The colonization of media: Indigeneity, visuality, and social science between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries

Committee: Terry Clark; Darby English (Art History), Matthew Jesse Jackson (Art History, Theater and Performance Studies, Visual Arts), W. J. T. Mitchell (English Language and Literature, Art History), Ross Stolzenberg

My work examines the relationship between colonization and the formation of knowledge from the nineteenth century to the present, especially the role of visual media in these developments. My dissertation, “The colonization of media,” focuses on the cases of Pierre Bourdieu, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Franz Boas, who all made photographs among Indigenous peoples early in their careers before going on to deal with other visual mediums. A key concept of this project is what I call the “self-evident image,” or the idea that lens-based mediums can perfectly represent reality and thus communicate meaning without the need for interpretation or analysis. While this assumption is often explained through the technology of the camera, I argue instead that the lens became associated with supposedly simpler Indigenous societies that could be captured at a glance, whereas a more deliberative medium like painting was reserved for contemplation of the European experience. I’m also deeply invested in efforts to decolonize the academy by expanding the boundaries of scholarship to include other ways knowledge has been preserved and transmitted across time and space. My efforts in this area center on my own artistic practice, which explores the legacy of the frontier in US culture.